The New York Times 2024-04-25 01:19:33

Middle East Crisis: Hamas Releases Video of Injured Israeli American Hostage

Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an Israeli American hostage, is seen in a Hamas video.

Hamas released a video on Wednesday apparently showing Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an Israeli American dual citizen who has been held hostage since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel. It appeared to be the first time that Mr. Goldberg-Polin, who was grievously injured in the attack, has been shown to be alive since his captivity began.

It is not clear when the video was filmed, but in it Mr. Goldberg-Polin, who was 23 when he was abducted, says he has been held hostage for nearly 200 days, suggesting the video was made recently. He also wishes his parents a happy holiday, which may be a reference to the weeklong Passover holiday currently being celebrated.

Mr. Goldberg-Polin’s parents later released a videotaped statement saying they were relieved to see their son alive but worried about his health, along with the health of the scores of other hostages still believed to be held in Gaza.

“We are here today with a plea to all of the leaders of the parties who have been negotiating to date — this includes Qatar, Egypt, the United States, Hamas and Israel — be brave, lean in, seize this moment and get a deal done to reunite all of us with our loved ones and end the suffering in this region,” his father, Jonathan Polin, said. His mother, Rachel Goldberg-Polin, urged her son to “stay strong, survive.”

In a video message, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the spokesman for Israel’s military, told Mr. Goldberg-Polin’s family that Israel would do all it could to “bring your son Hersh and all our hostages back home.”

“This is an urgent call for action. We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to find our hostages,” he said.

Mr. Goldberg-Polin was attending the Tribe of Nova music festival in Re’im, Israel, when Hamas gunmen attacked, killing hundreds. He lost part of his arm while defending an emergency shelter alongside his friend Aner Shapira, who was killed, according to survivors of the attack.

Rights groups and international law experts say that a hostage video is, by definition, made under duress, and the statements in it are usually coerced. Israeli officials have called the videos a form of “psychological warfare,” and experts say their production can constitute a war crime.

The circumstances of how the video was filmed were unclear, and the footage appears to have been edited. It was released on Hamas’s social media channels at about 5 p.m. in Israel.

Mr. Goldberg-Polin refers several times to his need for medical attention and shows his injured arm to the camera. The October attack left him “struggling to survive with serious injuries all over my body,” he says in the video, adding that during his captivity he has been “without water, food or sun and without treatment I have needed for so long.”

He also criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and members of his government. “At a time when you are holding holiday meals with your families, think of us, the hostages who are still here in hell, under the ground,” he says.

The Hostages Families Forum said in a statement that “the hostages must be the top priority.”

“This distressing video serves as an urgent call to take swift and decisive action to resolve this horrific humanitarian crisis and ensure the safe return of our loved ones,” the group said.

Mr. Goldberg-Polin, a dual citizen of Israel and the United States, was born in Berkeley, Calif., and was in elementary school when the family moved to Israel from Richmond, Va. He was taken captive into Gaza after part of his arm was blown off during an assault on a roadside bomb shelter.

Members of his family pieced together at least some of what happened to him through other families and survivors of the attack, and by reviewing texts and phone conversations. They have said they believed he was in desperate need of medical attention because of the injuries to his arm, which are believed to have been caused by a grenade.

In a guest essay written for The New York Times’ opinion section shortly after his abduction, his mother described her son as a gentle and kind person who swam laps to raise money for a charity in Africa.

“I don’t know if he is dead or alive or if I will ever see him again,” she wrote.

His mother told reporters that her family would mark Passover this week with a Seder and “they have been very clear that if 15 minutes in we just can’t do it, and we need to cry, then we will cry.”

Mr. Goldberg-Polin ends the video by directly addressing his parents.

“I love you so much and miss you,” he told them. “It won’t be a happy holiday for me, but I wish you one.”

Malachy Browne, Johnatan Reiss and Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.

Biden signs aid bill, reaffirming his commitment to Israel.

President Biden on Wednesday signed a sweeping foreign aid package that includes billions in unconditional military aid to Israel, hailing the bill as a demonstration of his commitment to Israel while urging the country to help ensure additional money allocated for humanitarian assistance to Gaza reaches Palestinian civilians “without delay.”

“My commitment to Israel — I want to make clear again — is ironclad,” Mr. Biden said at the White House after signing the bill on Wednesday. “The security of Israel is critical, and we’ll always make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against Iran and the terrorists it supports.”

At the same time, Mr. Biden said the bill allows for a “surge” in humanitarian aid, including food, medical supplies and clean water for “the innocent people of Gaza,” who he said were “suffering badly” from the “consequences of this war that Hamas started.”

“Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay,” Mr. Biden said.

The United States is by far the largest supplier of military aid to Israel, whose crushing offensive in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 people, including over 14,000 children, since Oct. 7, according to local health officials and the U.N.

The near-complete siege on Gaza has also displaced nearly 1.7 million people and left hundreds of thousands starving as Israel continues to destroy civilian infrastructure and restrict the entry and distribution of humanitarian aid, according to the U.N.

The scale of the devastation being inflicted on Palestinians in the enclave has led to fierce public backlash against the Biden administration over its support for Israel.

The bill includes at least $13 billion in military aid for Israel, including more than $5 billion for its air defense systems. It also includes $9 billion for humanitarian aid to crisis spots around the world, including an unspecified amount for Gaza.

President Biden said in his remarks on Wednesday that the amount allocated for Gaza was $1 billion. The bill explicitly bars any of the funding from going to UNRWA, the largest aid group on the ground.

The bill’s inclusion of billions of dollars of military aid with no further limitations on how Israel can use it faced strong opposition from several left-leaning Democrats in Congress. Human rights and foreign policy experts have warned that Israel is violating international humanitarian law, which the State Department has denied, and that the U.S. could be violating its own laws by continuing to send no-strings-attached funding.

In December, Mr. Biden said that Israel was losing international support over its “indiscriminate” bombing of Gaza. And in April, after the Israeli military killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen, he said Israel had “not done enough to protect civilians” and suggested that future U.S. aid could be dependent on Israel taking concrete steps to do so.

Speaking from the White House after signing the bill on Wednesday, Mr. Biden stressed that the funding was providing “vital support” to bolster Israel’s air defenses against attacks like the retaliatory barrage of drones and missiles that Iran fired earlier this month.

He did not elaborate on what action, if any, the United States would take if Israel continues to obstruct the delivery of aid, which the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered it to stop doing last month.



White House says it won’t interfere in decision over Israeli battalion accused of abuse.

The national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, declined to say on Wednesday whether the Biden administration will sever U.S. aid to an Israeli military unit accused of human rights abuses, saying the matter was for the State Department to decide and that the White House would not intervene.

The State Department is weighing action against the Israeli military battalion, Netzah Yehuda, under a U.S. law that bars American equipment, funds and training from going to foreign military units found to have committed gross human rights violations. “The State Department will make these judgments,” Mr. Sullivan said at a White House news conference.

State Department officials declined to comment on the matter.

The unit has been investigated in Israel for crimes in the West Bank predating the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks against Israel. Following reports that the State Department might recommend it be denied U.S. military aid, Israeli officials have pressed the U.S. government not to cut off aid to the battalion in what would be the first action of its kind by the Biden administration.

Netzah Yehuda was established for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men whose strict religious observance demands that men and women be separated. The battalion has attracted other Orthodox soldiers as well, including hard-line nationalists from the West Bank settler movement.

Asked about the matter by reporters on Monday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken declined to address specifics but said, “I think you’ll see in the days ahead that we will have more to say, so please stay tuned on that.”

A recent flurry of reports about the Biden administration’s plans, which strike one of the most sensitive nerves of the U.S.-Israel relationship, was further complicated earlier on Wednesday by the House Republican speaker, Mike Johnson.

In an interview with the conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, Mr. Johnson said that Mr. Sullivan had recently sent him a written commitment that none of the billions of dollars in emergency aid for Israel, just passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden, would be denied to the unit.

Mr. Johnson even seemed to suggest that Netzah Yehuda may suffer no American consequences at all, even though Israeli officials have indicated that they expect imminent U.S. action against the battalion.

On Saturday, as the House was voting to approve a $26 billion aid package for Israel’s military and humanitarian aid for Gaza, Mr. Johnson, who is a strong supporter of Israel’s conservative government, said that he called Mr. Sullivan to insist that none of the money would be denied to Netzah Yehuda.

“No one knows this, but I called the White House immediately and talked with Jake Sullivan, and Tony Blinken was overseas at the moment,” Mr. Johnson said, according to a transcript of the interview on Mr. Hewitt’s website. “But I made him send me an email where he committed to me in writing that it would not affect any of the funding that we were working on to assist Israel in this critical time, and that they would be very judicious in that.”

Mr. Johnson also warned that he would challenge any punitive U.S. measure.

Mr. Sullivan “indicated to me that that won’t happen, that there were some allegations of some event many years ago,” Mr. Johnson said. “It seems to have been resolved, and I am very hopeful that they won’t try to proceed on that. If they do, we’ll intervene.”

Netzah Yehuda has been accused of human rights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank over several years, including the January 2022 death of a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man in its custody.

The Israeli military investigated the incident and disciplined three Netzah Yehuda commanders, but brought no criminal charges against its soldiers.

Netanyahu calls student protests antisemitic and says they must be stopped.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Wednesday that protests at U.S. universities against Israel’s war in Gaza were “horrific” and should be stopped, using his first public comments on the subject to castigate the student demonstrators and portray them as antisemitic.

Mr. Netanyahu’s comments could harden division over the demonstrations. They could also give ammunition to Republican leaders who have criticized the protesters and accused university administrators and Democrats of failing to protect Jewish students from attack.

“What’s happening in America’s college campuses is horrific,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities. They call for the annihilation of Israel. They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty.”

It was not immediately possible to solicit a response from the students, who are not organized into a single group.

A relatively small number of students have staged protests for months at universities in different parts of the country to protest Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza, which began after Hamas led an attack on Israel Oct. 7 in which around 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 others were taken hostage. Since then, the authorities in Gaza say, more than 34,000 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and fighting, the majority of them women and children.

The protesters’ main policy demand is that the U.S. government stop sending military aid to Israel. Some students have also called on universities to stop investing in weapons manufacturers and to sell, or divest, holdings in funds and businesses they say profit from Israel’s invasion of Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian lands.

Organizers of many of the campus groups leading protests around the country have said that they denounce violence and antisemitism. But some demonstrators have used anti-Jewish and anti-Israel slurs and other threatening language, and some Jewish students have said they feel unsafe. Some protesters have also expressed sympathy for Hamas, which controlled Gaza before the war and has vowed to destroy Israel.

The protests swelled in recent days at some of the most prominent academic institutions in the country, including Columbia, Yale, Cornell and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The police have responded, in some cases by making hundreds of arrests.

One impact has been to force university leaders to grapple with how far to permit protests, which are broadly protected as free speech, given that some protesters have used antisemitic language. Some Jewish students and leaders also say they see the demonstrations themselves as antisemitic or as fostering antisemitism.

In portraying the antiwar protesters as antisemites, Mr. Netanyahu is aligning himself with some Republican leaders, who have sharply criticized university leaders and the Biden administration for doing too little to crack down on the protests.

Last month, Mr. Netanyahu spoke to Senate Republicans via a video link during a closed lunch meeting and criticized the Democratic majority leader, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Mr. Schumer, who is a Jew, had said in a speech on the Senate floor that Mr. Netanyahu was an impediment to peace in the Middle East and called for a new election to replace him.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, a conservative Republican, visited Columbia University in New York, the site of one of the most prominent of the student protests. Mr. Johnson said that President Biden should take action, including potentially sending in the National Guard, to quell the protests at Columbia, which he asserted had grown violent and antisemitic.

The demonstrations are becoming a political headache for President Biden, because the student protesters, and other left-leaning Democrats who sympathize with them, are important constituencies in his hopes for re-election in November.

By portraying the protests in such stark moral terms, the Israeli leader could reinforce Mr. Biden’s political bind.

Mr. Netanyahu appeared to equate protests against his government’s prosecution of the war Gaza with hatred of Jews. He said the protests on American campuses were “reminiscent of what happened in German universities in the 1930s,” an apparent reference to ideologically militant pro-Nazi student groups that, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, worked with the security forces to carry through Hitler’s agenda.

“It’s unconscionable,” he said. “It has to be stopped.”

Soon after coming to power in 1933, the Nazis passed a law that led to the dismissal of many Jewish university teachers and emboldened student groups to deploy violence and intimidation against Jewish faculty members and students.



Israel’s foreign minister thanks the Senate for passing a hard-fought aid bill.

Israel on Wednesday welcomed approval by the U.S. Senate of an aid package that includes $26.4 billion for Israel and for civilians in conflict zones, including Gaza, a vote that came as strains in the allies’ relationship have intensified over Israel’s tactics in its war with Hamas.

Israel Katz, Israel’s foreign minister, said in a statement that the bill’s passage was “a clear testament to the strength of our alliance” that “sends a strong message to our enemies.”

The aid is part of a long-stalled $95.3 billion package that had faced vehement opposition from some Republicans over support for Ukraine, which is also part of the legislation. The Senate’s action on Tuesday, on a vote of 79 to 18, was a victory for President Biden, who was expected to sign the bill into law as soon as Wednesday.

The relationship between the United States and Israel has grown increasingly tense over Israel’s unrelenting military offensive in Gaza, with the death toll there surpassing 34,000, according to the health authorities there.

Israel has stood by plans to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced people are sheltering, even as the Biden administration has warned that such a move would pose severe risks to civilians.

The United States is by far the biggest supplier of weapons to Israel, and even though the Biden administration has faced growing calls to restrict or stop the arms shipments, it has largely maintained its military support.

The package approved Tuesday would send roughly $15 billion in military aid to Israel and prioritizes defensive capabilities, including more than $5 billion to replenish the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Iron Beam defense systems. An additional $2.4 billion is directed to U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

Another $9 billion would go to “worldwide humanitarian aid,” including for civilians in Gaza. The package bars any of the funding from going to UNRWA, the main United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza. The United States suspended its contributions to the agency this year over Israeli allegations that a dozen of its employees had participated in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel or their aftermath.

But the package does not put any conditions on military aid, a sticking point for some left-wing Democrats who have become more vocal in calling for the Israeli military to modify its tactics to better protect civilians.

Democratic lawmakers who have led the push against U.S. aid to Israel, particularly in the House, have condemned the Oct. 7 attacks and said they strongly support Israel and its right to self-defense, but oppose supplying it with more offensive weapons.

The aid that is getting into Gaza is falling far short of the needs of its desperate population. Countries including the United States have tried to find air and sea routes to get more relief supplies in. Experts say land deliveries are the most efficient method, but aid groups say those face immense hurdles in part because of Israeli security checkpoints and bombardment.

Catie Edmondson and Robert Jimison contributed reporting.

Famine could begin in Gaza within weeks if more aid doesn’t get in, the W.F.P. warns.

The World Food Program warned on Wednesday that a famine could begin in Gaza within six weeks unless there is a major scale-up in food deliveries, underscoring the lack of aid in the territory even as the Biden administration says that the amount getting in has “increased dramatically.”

“We are getting closer by the day to a famine situation,” Gian Carlo Cirri, the director of the Geneva office of the World Food Program, a U.N. agency, told reporters. “Malnutrition among children is spreading.”

Nearly a month after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to allow unimpeded access for food aid to Gaza, international organizations say deliveries still fall short of the level needed to stop the spread of starvation. Last month, a global initiative that tracks and classifies famine said that one was “imminent” in northern Gaza, the part of the territory most cut off from aid, and U.S. officials have echoed that assessment in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, David Satterfield, President Biden’s special envoy for humanitarian issues in Gaza, said that “the risk of famine throughout Gaza is very high, especially in the north.” But he said “Israel has taken significant steps” over the past few weeks toward opening more crossings for aid to enter Gaza, including directly from Israel into the north.

“The volume of assistance entering into and, most importantly, distributed within Gaza has increased significantly. But we know much more aid is needed,” he said, and that it must “reach the most vulnerable in Gaza, especially in the north.”

According to United Nations data, the number of aid trucks entering Gaza has risen, but only slightly. In the two weeks ending Monday, the most recent day for which figures were available, an average of 195 trucks had entered Gaza each day through the two main crossings in the south of the territory. That was slightly higher than the average of 185 trucks daily in the two weeks before that — but still far short of the 300 trucks of food that the World Food Program estimates are needed daily to begin to meet people’s basic food needs.

Israel has disputed the United Nations’ figures of aid trucks, saying that they are an undercount.

According to Mr. Cirri of the World Food Program, 30 percent of children under the age of 2 in Gaza are severely malnourished and in northern Gaza 70 percent of the population is facing catastrophic levels of hunger. That meant they had exhausted all means of coping and were eating animal feed or selling off their belongings to buy food, he said.

“Most of them are destitute and clearly some of them are dying of hunger,” he added.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, an initiative of U.N. bodies and major relief agencies that tracks famine globally, defines a famine as at least 20 percent of households facing an extreme lack of food, at least 30 percent of children suffering from acute malnutrition, and at least two adults or four children for every 10,000 people dying each day from starvation or disease linked to malnutrition.

Mr. Cirri said there was reasonable evidence that all three thresholds would be met in the next six weeks.

The U.N. said on Tuesday that aid agencies continue to contend with major obstacles to delivering relief in Gaza, including active hostilities, impassable roads, unexploded ordnance, fuel shortages, delays at Israeli checkpoints and other restrictions.

Israel has denied restricting aid, blaming U.N. agencies for bureaucratic delays. Since a deadly Israeli strike on April 1 killed seven workers from the World Central Kitchen food charity, Israel has allowed some aid trucks to enter directly into northern Gaza, although it has not said how many, and has pledged to open the port of Ashdod to accept aid shipments, without providing a time frame.

Mr. Cirri said that a cease-fire is essential to ensure the free movement of humanitarian aid deliveries and consistent access to the Gazan population.

“Under the prevailing conditions, I’m afraid the situation will further deteriorate,” he said.



With temperatures soaring, many Gazans swelter in makeshift tents.

When Maryam Arafat, her husband and their three young children fled their home in Gaza City under Israeli bombardment, it was the dead of winter. Forced to shelter in a ramshackle tent in Deir al Balah, the family shivered during the bitterly cold nights, as there was no fuel to heat up and not enough clothes to stay warm.

Since then, the weather has turned hot and humid in the coastal Gaza Strip, and that same tent has become unbearable and suffocating.

“The tent feels like it’s on fire,” Ms. Arafat, 23, said. “It’s so hot you can’t bear it, especially with young children.” In her lap, Yahya, who is a year old, screamed in discomfort.

Nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza were forced to flee their homes under Israeli bombardment and military evacuation orders when the weather was cold, and the makeshift tents many found themselves living in provided little protection from the low temperatures. Faced with no heating fuel, Gazans chopped down many of the trees to burn for heating and for cooking.

Now, with a blazing sun overhead, there are few trees to provide shade as temperatures soar, reaching a high of 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) on Wednesday.

Scott Anderson, the deputy director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, said on Sunday that the rising temperatures made combating the spread of disease as much of a priority as delivering food.

The heat is exacerbating already dire problems from Israel’s war in Gaza. People are relying on water to keep cool when it is already in short supply and not easy to get, and the warm weather is bringing insects that help spread disease.

“Everything has become difficult in this world,” Ms. Arafat said. “There is no water.”

Ms. Arafat uses a piece of cardboard to fan her children and dampens their heads and limbs with what little water they have.

Along with warmer temperatures have come mosquitoes, ants and other bugs. At night, Ms. Arafat and her husband stay up and keep watch over their three children, worried that they will be bitten. Their tent is in an encampment in an open field and she fears even more dangerous threats like snakes.

Fadwa Abu Waqfa, a 37-year-old mother of three living in a tent in Rafah, remembers how even during peacetime, when her family was living with air conditioning, a fridge and cold water, they struggled to stand the Gazan heat.

She said the situation now is beyond words.

“We can’t sit outside and we can’t sit inside the tent,” she said. “It is so hard. It’s a heat that I can’t describe.”

She and her family spend much of their days now walking to and from the pump where they fill up two gallons of water during each trip.

Her 3-year-old son, Osama, wakes up in the night from the heat, and all she can do is give him water to drink. She knows that this is just the beginning and the temperatures will get even worse in the coming months.

“We are just praying for the mercy of God,” she said.

Germany commits to more aid for UNRWA after a U.N. report.

Germany said on Wednesday that it would resume funding for the main U.N. agency aiding Palestinians in Gaza, known as UNRWA, after an independent review found that Israel had not provided evidence of an allegation that led many donor nations to withdraw support for the agency.

The announcement was likely to cause further strain in Germany’s longstanding close ties with Israel, which have deteriorated because of differences over the war in Gaza.

Germany, which gave more than $200 million to UNRWA in 2023, is the agency’s second largest donor after the United States, which has also withdrawn its funding and has yet to say whether it will restore it.

“The German government has looked closely at the allegations made by Israel against UNRWA and has been in close contact with the Israeli government, the United Nations and other international donors,” read a statement issued by Germany’s foreign and development ministries on Wednesday.

The statement said that Germany expected the agency to take on the recommendations from the independent review led by a former French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, to protect its neutrality.

The review was commissioned by the United Nations in January, just before Israel alleged that a dozen of the agency’s 13,000 employees in Gaza had participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led terrorist attacks or their aftermath, and that many were members of Hamas or its allies. In findings released on Monday, the review did not address whether some employees had taken part in the attack but said Israel had provided no evidence that many UNRWA workers belonged to militant groups.

Israel harshly criticized the report and repeated its claim that UNRWA should be disbanded.

After Israel’s claims in January, Germany joined more than a dozen countries, in pausing new funding for the agency, though it noted no new funds were scheduled. Several countries, including Australia, Canada and Sweden, have since resumed funding for UNRWA. The United States and Britain, among several others, have not done so, with the State Department saying this week that it was reviewing the report on UNRWA.

Germany’s support for Israel is considered central to the modern German state, part of its national effort to atone for the Holocaust. Chancellor Olaf Scholz was one of the first Western leaders to arrive in Tel Aviv following the Oct. 7 attacks.

But that support has come under strain over the worsening conditions for civilians in Gaza under Israeli bombardment. Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said in February that “words can hardly describe the situation of the people in Gaza,” and she has repeatedly warned against an Israeli invasion of Rafah, the southernmost Gaza city where more than a million civilians have sought shelter from the war.

Last week, when Ms. Baerbock made her seventh trip to Israel since the war began, her meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned tense, Israel’s Channel 13 News reported. Mr. Netanyahu showed Ms. Baerbock pictures of full market stands and people bathing on the beach in Gaza, the channel reported, an apparent effort to show that conditions in Gaza were not that bad.



Israel says it is deploying two more brigades to Gaza.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that it had mobilized two reserve brigades for “defensive and tactical missions in the Gaza Strip.”

A military statement announcing the deployment did not specify where in Gaza the brigades would be deployed. The military declined a request for comment.

Its statement said that the reserve units, which it identified as the 2nd Reserve Brigade of the 146th Division and the 679th Reserve Brigade of the 210th Division, normally operate on Israel’s northern border, where cross-border strikes with Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militia have raged for more than six months.

The military said the reservists had already conducted training exercises to prepare for operations in Gaza.

The deployment comes ahead of a widely expected Israeli ground assault on Rafah, the southern Gazan city that has swelled in recent months with more than a million displaced people.

Active fighting has slowed in southern Gaza since earlier this month, when the Israeli military said that its 98th Division had left the city of Khan Younis in order “to recuperate and prepare for future operations.” That left no Israeli troops operating in southern Gaza.

Brigades vary in size, up to roughly 4,000 troops, and the Israeli military does not disclose how many troops it has deployed in Gaza.

Signs Suggest That Invasion of Rafah Is All but Inevitable

After weeks of delays, negotiations and distractions, Israel appeared to hint this week that its assault of Rafah — a city teeming with displaced persons above ground and riddled with Hamas tunnels below — was all but inevitable.

In what some analysts and residents of the city saw as a sign of preparations for an invasion, an Israeli military official on Tuesday gave some details that include relocating civilians to a safe zone a few miles away along the Mediterranean coast. Just a day earlier, Israeli warplanes bombed Rafah, increasing fears among some of the civilians sheltering there that a ground assault would soon follow.

Such indicators that Israel may be preparing an invasion, said Marwan Shaath, a 57-year-old resident of Rafah, “are terrifying and mean they may really be close to starting an operation.” Mr. Shaath, who lives in Gaza but is employed by Hamas’s Palestinian rivals in the occupied West Bank, added, “Our bags have been packed for months now for the time of the evacuation.”

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Enduring Mayhem: Images From Year 3 of the War in Ukraine

‘Kharkiv Is Unbreakable’: A Battered City Carries On

Marc Santora and Tyler Hicks reported from Kharkiv, Ukraine, last week.

The espresso machine was warming up and Liliia Korneva was counting cash at the coffee shop in Kharkiv where she works when a powerful Russian bomb detonated nearby, sending up a deafening explosion and knocking her to the floor.

“I can’t describe in words how it felt, it was terrifying,” said Ms. Korneva, 20. She was not hurt, though the courtyard where the bomb fell was destroyed and a man riding a bicycle nearby was killed, according to city officials.

Just a day later, the cafe was open again. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, is open for business, too, despite a sustained bombing campaign that is among the most devastating of the entire war and growing fears that Russia might launch a renewed offensive aimed at taking the city.

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Spain’s Leader Says He’s Considering Resigning as Wife Faces Investigation

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said late Wednesday that he was considering resigning after a judge opened an investigation into whether Mr. Sánchez’s wife had abused her position to help friends win public contracts.

The development stunned Spain and threw the political future of perhaps Europe’s most prominent progressive leader into doubt only months after he defied widespread expectations by putting together a fractious coalition and securing a second term in power.

“I need to stop and think,” Mr. Sánchez wrote in a long letter published on his X social media account on Wednesday evening. He canceled all political engagements until Monday to decide, he said, whether he “should continue to lead the government or renounce this honor.”

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Australian Journalist Says She Was Pushed Out of India

A senior journalist with Australia’s national broadcaster says she was effectively pushed out of India after her reporting on Sikh separatism angered the Indian government, accusing the authorities of hindering her from going to events, seeking to have her reporting taken down and refusing for weeks to renew her visa.

Avani Dias, the South Asia correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said on social media that Indian officials told her last month that her application for a resident journalist visa extension would not be approved because a television segment she had produced on accusations that India was responsible for the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada had “crossed the line.”

She was eventually granted a temporary visa extension at the last minute after lobbying by the Australian government, less than a day before she was scheduled to leave the country, Ms. Dias said in her podcast, “Looking for Modi.” But she said that she ultimately decided to leave because “it felt too difficult to do my job in India.”

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Aid to Ukraine Is on the Way. Here’s How It Might Help.

Aid to Ukraine Is on the Way. Here’s How It Might Help.

Weapons from the support package, considered “a lifeline” for Ukraine’s military, could be arriving on the battlefield within days.

Lara Jakes writes about weapons and military aid for Ukraine.

Now that the Senate has approved a nearly $61 billion aid package to Ukraine, and President Biden has signed it, desperately needed American weapons could be arriving on the battlefield within days.

The weapons package — which has been delayed over political wrangling by House Republicans since last fall — is “a lifeline” for Kyiv’s military, said Yehor Cherniev, the deputy chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s national security committee. Shortly after approving the funding on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said that the weapons shipments would begin in “a few hours.”

But it will not include everything that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has asked for as his military struggles to hold firm after two years of war against invading Russian forces.

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Athens Turns Orange Under a Saharan Dust Cloud

Reporting from Athens

The skies above Athens turned orange on Tuesday as clouds of dust from the Sahara blew north, casting an eerie glow over the Greek capital’s landmarks.

The phenomenon isn’t new — sandstorms from North Africa have shrouded Britain, Greece and Spain in the past — but the event led to remarkable scenes around the Acropolis and in other parts of Athens.

That’s because the dust cloud was more concentrated than those that have hit Greece in previous episodes, according to Kostas Lagouvardos, research director at the National Observatory of Athens.

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Myanmar’s Junta Recaptures Town That Was a Significant Gain for Rebels

The Myanmar junta has recaptured the town of Myawaddy, an important trading hub on the border with Thailand, reversing a key victory for resistance soldiers who seized it nearly two weeks ago then were forced to withdraw, a spokesman for the rebel Karen National Union said on Wednesday.

The seizure of Myawaddy by junta troops followed the defection of a well-armed local militia known as the Border Guard Force, which had briefly switched sides and joined ethnic Karen rebels and allied pro-democracy forces in taking the town on April 11.

After rejoining forces with the junta, the militia on Tuesday helped to free trapped regime soldiers and retake their battalion’s base on the edge of town, where they raised Myanmar’s national flag, said Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the spokesman for the Karen National Union, a political leadership body.

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Horses Run Loose Through Central London in Surreal Spectacle

Several runaway military horses galloped through the streets of London on Wednesday morning, alarming pedestrians, sideswiping cars and buses, and turning an ordinary rush hour into a frightening, almost surreal spectacle.

Four people were treated for injuries, including a soldier who was thrown from one of the horses, according to the London Ambulance Service. The horses, which belong to the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, a unit that parades in royal pageants, are normally well-trained symbols of London’s regal past.

On Wednesday, however, they broke into a panicked stampede that had more in common with the Wild West. Galloping past some of London’s most famous sites — from Buckingham Palace to Tower Bridge — they left a trail of damaged vehicles and shocked pedestrians, some of whom had to dart out of their way.

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Blinken Goes to China With Potential Trouble on Horizon

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken arrived in China on Wednesday to try to preserve the recent and delicate stabilization of ties between the United States and China, as tensions over trade, territorial disputes and national security threaten to derail relations again.

Even before Mr. Blinken’s plane approached Shanghai, the challenges ahead were apparent. He landed just hours after the U.S. Senate passed a bill, which President Biden is expected to quickly sign into law, that provides $8 billion to Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region, and could also lead to a nationwide ban on the Chinese-owned app TikTok.

The political season in the United States also looms as a complication. With the presidential election nearing, Democrats and Republicans are vying to appear tougher on China. And if former President Donald Trump is re-elected, he could reverse Beijing’s and Washington’s efforts to steady the relationship.

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This Town Had a Reputation Problem. Premier League Soccer Changed Things.

As the announcement trilled out over Kenilworth Road, the jumble of rusted metal and peeling paint that Luton Town F.C. calls home, the tone started to shift. At the start of the sentence, it was little more than the traditional polite welcome to the stadium for that evening’s visiting team, Manchester City.

By the end, though, the voice of the announcer seemed overcome by what sounded a little like awe. Luton, the fans in the stands and the players on the field were reminded, was about to face “the champions of the F.A. Cup, the champions of England and the champions of Europe.” Luton seems to be having a hard time believing the company it now keeps.

There is a reason for that. Fifteen years ago, Luton Town had been relegated to the fifth tier of English soccer, a world away from the power and the prestige of the Premier League. There was, for a time, a genuine risk that the club, founded in 1885, several years before the invention of the zipper, might fold altogether. For years afterward, money remained tight, ambitions modest.

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The Only Girls’ Team in a Boys’ Soccer League Has Gone Undefeated

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With about four games left in the season, it became mathematically clear to the players and coaches of the Queens Park Ladies, an under-12 girls’ soccer team in Bournemouth, England, that they would win their league.

But rather than resting on their laurels and enjoying their guaranteed victory, they decided to take it a step further: What if they not only won their league, but also did so without losing a match?

If that wasn’t enough, they would be pulling it off as the only girls’ team in a boys’ league.

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A Gen Z Resistance, Cut Off From Data Plans

In the night, the mountain air not quite chill enough to still the insects, young people gathered around a glow. The light attracting them was not a phone screen, that electric lure for people almost everywhere, but a bonfire.

From around the blaze, music radiated. Fingers strummed a guitar. Voices layered lyrics about love, democracy and, most of all, revolution. Moths courted the flame, sparking when they veered too close, then swooning to their deaths.

For months now, these hills of Karenni State in eastern Myanmar have been severed from modern communications. The military junta that seized power in a coup three years ago, plunging the country into civil war, has cut off the populations most opposed to its brutal rule. In these resistance strongholds, where people from around the nation have congregated, there is almost no internet, cell service or even electricity.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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Top Biden Official Calls for Inquiry Into Chinese Doping Case

The Biden administration’s top drug official called on Monday for an independent investigation into how Chinese and global antidoping authorities decided to clear 23 elite Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a banned drug months before the Summer Olympics in 2021.

The official, Rahul Gupta, who is the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said that he planned to bring up the handling of the positive tests during a two-day meeting of sports ministers in Washington. Top members of the World Anti-Doping Agency are scheduled to attend the event, which starts Thursday.

“The United States stands by its commitment to ensure that every American athlete and those across the globe are provided a level playing field and a fair shot in international athletic competitions,” Dr. Gupta said in response to questions from The New York Times. “There must be rigorous, independent investigations to look into any incident of potential wrongdoing.”

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A Soccer Team Stopped Charging for Tickets. Should Others Do the Same?

Neither Paris F.C. nor St.-Étienne will have much reason to remember the game fondly. There was, really, precious little to remember at all: no goals, few shots, little drama — a drab, rain-sodden stalemate between the French capital’s third-most successful soccer team and the country’s sleepiest giant.

That was on the field. Off it, the 17,000 or so fans in attendance can consider themselves part of a philosophical exercise that might play a role in shaping the future of the world’s most popular sport.

Last November, Paris F.C. became home to an unlikely revolution by announcing that it was doing away with ticket prices for the rest of the season. There were a couple of exceptions: a nominal fee for fans supporting the visiting team, and market rates for those using hospitality suites.

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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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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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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

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

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

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

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Lo que sabemos del ataque de Israel a Irán

Israel atacó Irán a primera hora del viernes, según funcionarios de ambos países, en lo que pareció ser su primera respuesta militar al ataque iraní contra Israel del pasado fin de semana.

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

El ataque fue el más reciente de un ciclo de represalias entre los dos enemigos que ha alarmado a los líderes mundiales, quienes temen que los ataques de ida y vuelta puedan desembocar en una guerra más amplia.

He aquí lo que sabemos sobre el ataque y sus implicaciones.

Funcionarios iraníes dijeron el viernes que un ataque israelí alcanzó una base aérea militar cerca de Isfahán, una ciudad en el centro de Irán. La magnitud y el método del ataque no estaban claros.

Funcionarios iraníes dijeron que otro ataque israelí fue frustrado en Tabriz, una región a unos 800 kilómetros al norte de Isfahán. Las agencias de noticias iraníes dijeron que se oyeron explosiones cerca de ambas ciudades.

Los medios de comunicación estatales de Siria, un importante aliado de Irán que limita con Israel, dijeron también que misiles israelíes habían alcanzado posiciones de defensa aérea en el sur de Siria el viernes.

El ejército israelí declinó hacer comentarios.

Israel atacó Irán en represalia por un gran ataque iraní en territorio israelí el fin de semana pasado, que incluyó más de 300 misiles y aviones no tripulados.

Ese ataque asustó a los israelíes pero causó pocos daños y pocos heridos porque casi todas las armas de Irán fueron interceptadas por Israel y sus aliados, incluidos Estados Unidos, el Reino Unido y Jordania.

Ese ataque iraní se lanzó en respuesta a un ataque israelí contra un complejo diplomático iraní en Siria el 1 de abril, en el que murieron siete funcionarios iraníes. Las autoridades israelíes no advirtieron a Estados Unidos del ataque de Damasco y algunos han reconocido en privado que se trató de un grave error de cálculo.

No estaba claro si Irán tomaría represalias, pero la reacción inicial en Israel e Irán, donde algunos funcionarios y medios de comunicación estatales trataron de restar importancia a la gravedad del ataque, dio a entender que la respuesta podría ser moderada.

La televisión estatal iraní emitió imágenes de Isfahán con aspecto pacífico e informó que las instalaciones militares y nucleares no habían sufrido daños. Un locutor dijo a los telespectadores que el ataque “no era para tanto”.

Funcionarios israelíes dijeron que el ataque había sido diseñado para evitar una escalada de las tensiones.

Isfahán es una de las ciudades más famosas e históricas de Irán, conocida por sus hermosas mezquitas de azulejos turquesa y púrpura, sus pintorescos puentes arqueados y su Gran Bazar.

La zona alberga también cuatro pequeñas instalaciones de investigación nuclear y es un centro de producción de armamento iraní. Allí se ensamblan muchos de los misiles de medio alcance Shahab, capaces de alcanzar Israel y otros países.

En la provincia de Isfahán también se encuentra la planta de enriquecimiento de uranio de Natanz, así como una base aérea que alberga una flota de cazas F-14 Tomcats de fabricación estadounidense. Según The Associated Press, fueron adquiridos por el gobierno iraní respaldado por EE. UU. antes de la revolución islámica de 1979.

Durante la última semana, el presidente Joe Biden y otros líderes mundiales han instado a Israel a no responder al ataque con misiles iraní del pasado fin de semana. Han dicho que temen que una respuesta israelí pueda desembocar en una guerra total.

Los líderes mundiales han aconsejado a Israel que considere la interceptación de casi todos los misiles y drones iraníes como una victoria estratégica. Esto es especialmente cierto, han dicho, porque fue lograda por una coalición internacional que incluye a países árabes, que históricamente no han sido proclives a salir en defensa de Israel.

Israel también ha estado luchando contra aliados de Irán en otros dos frentes —Hamás en Gaza y Hizbulá en Líbano— durante los últimos seis meses. La dirección de la guerra en Gaza, donde han muerto más de 33.000 personas y ha empezado a cundir la hambruna, ha dejado a Israel cada vez más aislado diplomáticamente.

Liam Stack es un reportero del Times que cubre la guerra entre Israel y Hamás desde Jerusalén. Más de Liam Stack

Atraco histórico en Canadá: 14,5 millones de dólares en oro, armas de contrabando, y nueve detenidos

Fue un atraco descarado: miles de lingotes de oro y millones de dólares en billetes fueron robados hace un año en el aeropuerto internacional de Toronto.

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El miércoles, las autoridades canadienses anunciaron la detención de nueve personas, entre ellas un empleado de la aerolínea Air Canada, en relación con el robo de más de 20 millones de dólares canadienses, unos 14,5 millones de dólares, en lingotes de oro y también de 2,5 millones de dólares canadienses, o alrededor de 1,8 millones de dólares, en papel moneda que desaparecieron de un almacén del aeropuerto Pearson de Toronto en abril de 2023.

También se han emitido órdenes de detención contra otras tres personas, entre ellas un directivo de la aerolínea.

“Esta historia es sensacional”, dijo Nishan Duraiappah, jefe de la policía regional de Peel, durante una conferencia de prensa el miércoles, frente a un camión que, afirmó, se utilizó en el atraco. Una historia “que decimos en broma que pertenece a una serie de Netflix”. La policía de Peel es responsable de la aplicación de la ley en el aeropuerto de Toronto.

El oro, dijo Duraiappah, se utilizó en parte para comprar armas con destino a Canadá. El hombre que conducía el camión utilizado en el robo del oro fue detenido en Pensilvania en septiembre, después de que un agente de policía parara el vehículo de alquiler por una infracción de tráfico y encontró 65 armas, dos de ellas rifles totalmente automáticos. El hombre ha sido acusado de conspiración para traficar ilegalmente armas de fuego a Canadá.

No está claro si esa detención y una investigación separada de la Agencia de Alcohol, Tabaco, Armas de Fuego y Explosivos de Estados Unidos (ATF, por su sigla en inglés) sobre el contrabando de armas de fuego fueron las que revelaron la trama del robo en general. Eric DeGree, agente especial de la ATF presente en la rueda de prensa, declaró que la agencia se puso en contacto con la policía de Peel tras encontrar el nombre del hombre en una base de datos de información policial.

El robo del oro, que según Duraiappah es el mayor que ha sucedido en Canadá, parece ser extraordinariamente sencillo. El oro y el dinero en efectivo llegaron al aeropuerto de Toronto en un contenedor especial a bordo de un vuelo de Air Canada procedente de Suiza el 17 de abril de 2023, y fueron trasladados a uno de los almacenes de la aerolínea.

El contenedor incluía 6600 lingotes de oro destinados a un banco de Toronto y billetes con destino a una casa de cambio.

Unas dos horas más tarde, un camión conducido por el hombre detenido en Pensilvania se detuvo en el almacén. Según la policía, el hombre llevaba una hoja de ruta (un documento que suele expedir el transportista con información detallada sobre un envío) que le daba acceso al almacén.

En realidad era un duplicado de una hoja de ruta, producida en una impresora de Air Canada, para un envío de mariscos que había sido recogido un día antes.

El contenedor con los lingotes de oro y los billetes se cargó en el camión.

“Necesitaban gente dentro de Air Canada para facilitar este robo”, dijo en la rueda de prensa Mike Mavity, sargento detective de la policía de Peel.

Las grabaciones mostraban al camión circulando por la autopista más transitada de Canadá antes de desaparecer en una zona rural al oeste de la ciudad.

Los agentes de la policía de Peel fueron alertados a primera hora de la mañana siguiente, después de que llegara un camión blindado de Brink’s con la hoja de ruta real para el cargamento de oro y los billetes.

La policía dijo el miércoles que cree que los lingotes de oro, que tenían números de serie, estaban todos fundidos y que se habían incautado unas ollas de fundición. El único oro recuperado, según la policía, fueron seis brazaletes hechos con oro puro que tienen un valor de unos 89.000 dólares canadienses. Entre las personas detenidas se encontraba el propietario de una joyería de Toronto.

Durante la rueda de prensa, la policía mostró dos listas escritas a mano en las que, según dijo, detallaban los pagos a las personas implicadas en el robo.

“Esta es una historia de alquimia inversa”, dijo Nando Iannicca, presidente del gobierno regional. “Se trata de cómo el oro se convierte en armas”.

Ian Austen informa sobre Canadá para el Times, radicado en Ottawa. Cubre la política, la cultura y la gente de Canadá y lleva dos décadas cubriendo el país. Puedes ponerte en contacto con él en Más de Ian Austen

Un memorable y accidentado viaje por Yucatán con el Tren Maya

Salí al andén de la nueva y reluciente estación de tren de Maxcanú, con muchas ganas de ver la magnífica zona arqueológica maya de Uxmal. Solo tenía que tomar un taxi que me llevara hasta allá, en un viaje de unos 48 kilómetros.

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

No hay taxis, dijo el encargado de las instalaciones, mientras esperábamos en los pisos de piedra caliza pulida de la estación con techo alto, que estaba fresca y recibía viento a pesar del fuerte sol mañanero. Yo era la tercera persona que, en las últimas dos semanas, se bajaba en Maxcanú con la intención de llegar a Uxmal, dijo.

Estaba a mitad de un viaje de cinco días para explorar el nuevo Tren Maya y varios de sus destinos en la península de Yucatán en México. Diseñado para recorrer 1554 kilómetros alrededor de un circuito de 34 estaciones cuando esté listo, el tren trasladará cómodamente a los pasajeros que deseen visitar ciudades coloniales, zonas arqueológicas, ostentosos centros turísticos y bosques tropicales.

Pero me había quedado perpleja. Tomar un taxi nunca ha sido un problema en México. Sin embargo, los conductores reunidos en la plaza principal de Maxcanú solo ofrecían furgonetas destartaladas que recorren pequeños pueblos en los que podría o no conseguir un taxi que me llevara a Uxmal. La siguiente camioneta salía en 45 minutos.

Durante mucho tiempo, las capas de la historia de Yucatán me han fascinado. En viajes anteriores en carro, trepé templos y palacios mayas desiertos, entré en las frescas naves de enormes iglesias del siglo XVI y visité haciendas restauradas, testamentos de la ostentación —y el sufrimiento— de la economía de plantación del siglo XIX de la península. Viajar en tren, pensé, me permitiría sumergirme más en esa historia.

Pero, como bien descubrí en Maxcanú, el tren no te llevará necesariamente adonde quieres ir.

Durante mi viaje de febrero, viajé en la única ruta que estaba disponible en ese momento, un segmento en dirección este-oeste que se inauguró en diciembre y que va de Cancún a Mérida, y que luego va al sur a través de la ciudad portuaria de Campeche hacia la zona arqueológica maya de Palenque (el mes pasado se inauguró una ruta corta entre Cancún y Playa del Carmen, con tres trenes diarios). Me encontré con fallas en la programación, estaciones incompletas y escasez de trenes: solo dos operaban a diario en cada dirección entre Cancún y Campeche, y solo uno hacia Palenque. Trenes nocturnos con camas así como vagones especiales con restaurantes parecen estar a años de distancia de ser una realidad.

El presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador considera al Tren Maya como su proyecto de desarrollo más importante y quiere inaugurar el resto de la ruta antes de dejar la presidencia el 1 de octubre. Basándome en mi experiencia, ese objetivo parece difícil de alcanzar.

Comencé mi viaje en Cancún, donde la estación flotaba como una nave espacial resplandeciente en la oscuridad previa al amanecer. Un funcionario escaneó el boleto que había comprado en línea y media decena más me señalaron el camino hacia mi vagón de clase turista, que estaba lleno en un 25 por ciento. Mi plan era ir a Campeche, a unos 482 kilómetros, haciendo una parada diaria. A 120 kilómetros por hora, el tren completa la ruta en unas 6 horas, al igual que un auto. (Cuando la construcción termine, la velocidad del tren debería aumentar a 160 kilómetros por hora).

Las amplias ventanillas del vagón daban hacia una pared de selva baja. Los asientos azul verdoso eran cómodos y había mucho espacio entre las filas. Me compré un capuchino muy bueno en la cafetería, pero ignoré los sándwiches envueltos en plástico. El resto de la mercancía disponible eran vasos de frutas, cajas de leche y comida chatarra.

Al final, el tren costará mucho más que los 29.000 millones de dólares presupuestados hasta ahora, y no es la primera vez que planificadores ambiciosos se han posado en la región. Cancún solía ser un pequeño pueblo pesquero, y hace medio siglo fue seleccionado para ser un centro turístico. El año pasado, 10 millones de turistas internacionales llegaron a su aeropuerto, una cantidad mayor que los aeropuertos de Ciudad de México, Los Cabos y Puerto Vallarta combinados.

Pero el crecimiento descontrolado ha ejercido presión sobre el frágil medioambiente de la costa caribeña. El Tren Maya, advierten los científicos, fomentará esos problemas desde el sur, amenazando el suministro de agua de la región, su sistema único de cuevas subterráneas de roca caliza y sus vastas reservas naturales.

López Obrador pisó el acelerador, entregándole el tren al ejército, y alegando que propagará la riqueza de Cancún y atraerá nuevos visitantes. México recibió más de 42 millones de turistas extranjeros el año pasado, los cuales gastaron casi 31.000 millones de dólares.

Los gobiernos locales ven una oportunidad. “El tren permitirá a las personas dispersarse por toda la península”, afirmó Michelle Fridman, la secretaria de Turismo del estado de Yucatán, el cual promueve decenas de atracciones más allá de destinos conocidos como Mérida y Chichén Itzá.

Ahora que el tren está operativo, las compañías de transporte comenzarán a conectar estaciones con sitios menos conocidos cercanos, afirmó Fridman.

Es justo preguntarse si el tren es la forma más efectiva de desarrollar el turismo de la península. Las empresas de viajes ya organizan viajes a muchos lugares desde las principales ciudades, las cuales están bien comunicadas por autobuses. Conducir un coche de alquiler por la mayor parte de la zona se considera seguro, según las directrices de viaje del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU.

Me tomó dos horas (y un cambio de huso horario) llegar a Valladolid, una ciudad colonial de hermosas calles y viejas iglesias, donde compré el resto de mis boletos en la estación. Un boleto de clase turista desde Cancún a Valladolid cuesta 472 pesos (alrededor de 28 dólares) a extranjeros y 355 pesos (cerca de 21 dólares) a mexicanos. La clase premier, que tiene asientos más anchos, cuesta respectivamente 755.50 pesos y 566.50 pesos, y hay descuentos disponibles para viajeros mayores y residentes de los cinco estados de la ruta del tren. (Un autobús de primera clase desde el centro de Cancún a Valladolid cuesta entre 222 y 344 pesos, dependiendo de la hora del día, y tarda media hora más).

Fue imposible hacer circular las nuevas vías del Tren Maya por los densos centros urbanos y la estación de Valladolid, como el resto, estaba fuera del núcleo urbano. Un autobús en espera llevaba a los pasajeros que desembarcaban al centro, un viaje de 15 minutos por 35 pesos.

Ese día recorrí Ek Balam, la zona arqueológica de un reino maya del siglo IX en el cual se erige un palacio de 30 metros que se distingue por una fachada de tallados que muestran guerreros alados, rasgos animales estilizados y patrones geométricos bordeados por colmillos gigantes. La entrada al sitio incluye el acceso al cenote X’Canché, una de las miles de sumideros de roca caliza que eran sagradas para los mayas.

Esa misma tarde, deambulaba por el Museo de Ropa Étnica, una colección privada de vestidos, adornos y sombreros tradicionales, cuando recibí un mensaje de WhatsApp de la oficina de boletería. Mi tren programado para el día siguiente había sido cancelado.

Decidí lidiar con el problema por la mañana y disfrutar de la ciudad. Mientras paseaba por las tiendas de antigüedades y los hoteles boutique de la elegante Calzada de los Frailes, me quedó claro que el turismo de Valladolid y la infraestructura para gestionarlo, estaban bien establecidos. El Tren Maya es simplemente una forma alternativa de llegar a una ciudad que los turistas descubrieron hace años.

Por la mañana, descubrí que mi tren no había sido cancelado, sino que la estación para la que tenía boleto, Tixkokob, estaba cerrada. En su lugar me bajé una parada antes en Izamal, conocida por sus calles ocres y el gigantesco convento franciscano de San Antonio de Padua, construido sobre las ruinas de una pirámide.

Durante el recorrido de 90 minutos, percibí un entusiasmo generalizado entre mis compañeros de viaje, quienes expresaron su voluntad de darle tiempo al tren para resolver los problemas. “Ahorita somos experimento”, afirmó Oliva Escobedo Ochoa, de 64 años, quien estaba de vacaciones desde su casa en el centro de México.

Leticia Iliassich, mexicana de 57 años, viajaba con su esposo croata junto con familiares de México y Croacia. Inicialmente estaban programados en un tren anterior a Mérida que había sido cancelado. “Sabíamos que era un proyecto nuevo”, dijo. “No nos molesta”.

El grupo ya había mandado un video a varios amigos en el que afirmaban: “¡Estamos en el Tren Maya!”.

En la estación de Izamal, un hombre que me había pedido que le tomara una foto junto a su padre frente al tren, me dio un aventón de 15 minutos hacia el centro del pueblo. Allí, negocié un taxi a la Hacienda San Lorenzo de Aké, una hacienda en funcionamiento que convierte la fibra de una planta de agave llamada henequén en rollos de cuerda. La demanda mundial de henequén, conocido como el “oro verde” de Yucatán, trajo una riqueza fantástica a la región a mediados del siglo XIX, salpicando la península con más de 1000 haciendas. (Muchas son actualmente hoteles lujosos).

Fue durante mi tercer día que me quedé varada en Maxcanú, tras un recorrido en tren de 90 minutos desde Izamal. El encargado de la estación, un capitán del ejército, me ofreció llevarme a Uxmal, tal como lo había hecho antes con varios turistas varados.

Sabiendo que a las 4:00 p. m. cerraban la venta de boletos para Uxmal, acepté.

Mi situación dejaba en claro cuán lejanas están las promesas del Tren Maya para los turistas que buscan explorar más zonas de Yucatán. Con el tiempo eso cambiará, dijo Fridman, la secretaria de Turismo del estado. “La idea es tener más hoteles a lo largo de la línea del tren”, afirmó. “Eso sucederá poco a poco”.

Pero Uxmal, una de las zonas arqueológicas mayas más impresionantes, compensó el inconveniente. Sus grandes edificaciones tienen máscaras decorativas intrincadas y frisos en los que se fusionan la geometría, la naturaleza y lo divino. Placas nuevas en cada estructura ofrecen información detallada en inglés y español, y forman parte de la inversión gubernamental para mejorar las exhibiciones en las zonas arqueológicas mayas para el proyecto del tren.

La mayoría de los turistas realizan excursiones de un día por coche o autobus desde Mérida o se hospedan en uno de los tres hoteles cercanos. Mientras terminaba de cenar en mi hotel, el comedor comenzó a llenarse: habían llegado 47 turistas polacos.

Mi plan para el día era llegar en taxi a Bécal, una ciudad donde se tejen sombreros panameños en cuevas de roca caliza para mantener las fibras suaves, y luego tomar el tren de la tarde en la cercana Calkiní hacia la ciudad portuaria de Campeche.

Pero pasé demasiado tiempo viendo la demostración de fabricación de sombreros y luego probándome mi nuevo sombrero y comprando regalos que salimos de allí con poco tiempo para llegar a la estación. Para mi desgracia, perdí el tren, el último del día.

En la plaza central de Calkiní, encontré una furgoneta que estaba saliendo rumbo a Campeche. ¿El costo? 65 pesos. ¿Duración del viaje? Alrededor de 1 hora y 20 minutos, muy similar a lo que habría durado en el tren. Por supuesto, estuve atrapada en un asiento estrecho y tuve que escuchar las baladas sentimentales elegidas por el conductor, pero me dejaron en el centro de Campeche, cerca de mi hotel.

Al día siguiente, recorrí el Museo de Arqueología Maya, una colección expertamente curada que incluye inquietantes máscaras funerarias de jade, glifos y delicadas figuras de cerámica.

José Madrigal, un ingeniero de 45 años de Fremont, California, intentaba lograr que sus hijos gemelos se interesaran por la cerámica maya. Los chicos acababan de cumplir 5 años y su regalo de cumpleaños había sido un viaje en el Tren Maya. “Aman los trenes”, dijo Madrigal. Acto seguido, la familia siguió su recorrido, manteniendo un ritmo rápido por el museo. Tenían otro tren que tomar.

Sí, si viajas entre las estaciones más grandes. El tren también ofrece una manera de llegar a Palenque, que es más difícil de acceder y tiene carreteras con problemas de seguridad. Los viajeros pueden guardar bicicletas a bordo.

Para ver los horarios de los trenes, revisa los destinos en la página web. No puedes comprar boletos en línea con más de una semana de antelación. Pero cuando finalmente abordas, el viaje es tranquilo y el café es excelente.

Sigue a New York Times Travel en Instagram y suscríbete a nuestro boletín semanal Travel Dispatch para obtener consejos de expertos sobre cómo viajar de manera más inteligente e inspiración para tus próximas vacaciones. ¿Sueñas con una futura escapada o simplemente quieres viajar desde tu sillón? Consulta nuestros 52 lugares a los que ir en 2024.

¿Fue misoginia? Australia se cuestiona tras el ataque masivo

Mary Aravanopoulos estaba abrazada a su hija, acurrucada para ponerse a salvo con otras 15 mujeres en la tienda de vestidos de organza etéreos. Habían visto pasar a un hombre por el pasillo del centro comercial, sin prisa, balanceando en la mano un gran cuchillo.

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

Pronto oyeron que apuñalaban a una mujer y luego a otra.

En medio de la confusión de aquellos momentos de pánico, Aravanopoulos dijo que pensó inmediatamente: “Dios mío, es contra las mujeres”.

El lunes, muchos otros australianos habían llegado a la misma conclusión sobre el espeluznante ataque con arma blanca del fin de semana en un centro comercial de Sídney, en el que murieron seis personas, cinco de ellas mujeres. De la decena de personas que resultaron heridas por lo que al parecer fue un acto aleatorio de violencia masiva —uno de los más mortíferos ocurridos en el país en las últimas décadas—, todas menos dos eran mujeres, entre ellas una bebé de apenas 9 meses.

Es posible que nunca se aclaren los motivos del agresor, del que se sabía que padecía una enfermedad mental y que fue abatido a tiros por una inspectora de policía, Amy Scott.

Pero para muchas personas, fue un recordatorio más de la misoginia y las amenazas de violencia que pueden sufrir las mujeres en la sociedad australiana. Menos de 24 horas antes de los apuñalamientos, cientos de personas habían salido a la calle para protestar por la reciente cadena de asesinatos de tres mujeres. Y el lunes, la sentencia de un caso civil parecía dar validez a una denuncia de violación que se remontaba a años atrás y que obligaba a replantearse cómo la clase dirigente australiana, dominada por hombres, había victimizado a las mujeres durante décadas.

“La ideología del agresor estaba muy clara: odio a las mujeres”, escribió el lunes Josh Burns, miembro del Parlamento, en la red social X. “Debemos denunciarlo por lo que es”.

Para Maria Lewis, escritora y guionista, las acciones del agresor, por inexplicables que fueran, tenían ecos de una idea australiana de lo que significa ser hombre.

“La cultura de ‘hermanos que apoyan a hermanos’ está tan profunda e intrínsecamente ligada a la idea australiana de masculinidad”, afirma. “Esa idea cargada de testosterona de lo que representa la masculinidad se refuerza constantemente en la cultura pop”.

El lunes fue un día de luto nacional en Australia, con las banderas ondeando a media asta en todo el país. El atacante fue identificado por las autoridades como Joel Cauchi, de 40 años, un hombre conocido por las autoridades que nunca había sido detenido.

“El desglose por sexos es, por supuesto, preocupante”, dijo el primer ministro Anthony Albanese en una entrevista radiofónica el lunes por la mañana, afirmando que la policía estaba investigando si el atacante había atacado deliberadamente a mujeres.

Cauchi se había mudado recientemente miles de kilómetros desde Queensland, en el noreste del país, a la zona de Sídney.

En Toowoomba, Queensland, los periodistas congregados frente a su casa le preguntaron al padre de Cauchi, Andrew Cauchi, por qué su hijo, que no había estado en contacto regular con su familia, podía haber atacado a mujeres.

Cauchi padre dijo que podía deberse a la frustración que le producía su incapacidad para salir con mujeres.

“Quería una novia, no tenía habilidades sociales y se sentía frustrado hasta el tuétano”, declaró Cauchi a los medios de comunicación locales.

Tessa Boyd-Caine, directora ejecutiva de la Organización Nacional de Investigación para la Seguridad de las Mujeres de Australia, dijo que era comprensible que la gente buscara una explicación basada en el género inmediatamente después del ataque. Al mismo tiempo, advirtió que la inmensa mayoría de los casos de violencia contra las mujeres se producen en el hogar y a manos de personas conocidas, y no de forma indiscriminada, como en el ataque del sábado.

“¿Cómo entender un acto aleatorio de violencia tan brutal y mortal, perpetrado por un hombre que la policía considera que podría haber atacado a mujeres?”, dijo. “Es una fase tan temprana de la investigación, pero la gente va a querer respuestas a preguntas difíciles”.

El lunes ya habían sido identificadas las seis víctimas mortales de los apuñalamientos del sábado. Las mujeres eran Ashlee Good, de 38 años y madre primeriza; Jade Young, de 47 años y madre de dos hijas; Dawn Singleton, de 25 años y empleada del sector de la moda; Pikria Darchia, de 55 años, artista y diseñadora; y Yixuan Cheng, de nacionalidad china y estudiante en Sídney. El único hombre era Faraz Tahir, de 30 años, guardia de seguridad y recién llegado de Pakistán.

Las autoridades policiales declararon el lunes que habían concluido la investigación de la extensa escena del crimen y devuelto el control del complejo comercial a sus operadores.

Frente al lugar, que permanecía cerrado, un flujo constante de dolientes seguía dejando flores el lunes, que se sumaban a una gran pila que había crecido hasta extenderse por varios escaparates. Muchos de los visitantes eran grupos de mujeres: madres e hijas cogidas de la mano, amigas que se secaban las lágrimas unas a otras, mujeres que parecían aferrarse un poco más a sus hijas.

Aravanopoulos y su hija, Alexia Costa, estaban entre los que dejaban flores. Habían vuelto para recuperar su automóvil, que desde el sábado había quedado inaccesible en el centro comercial acordonado.

Aravanopoulos, de 55 años, dijo que se sentía especialmente culpable por el roce con el peligro del sábado, porque había insistido en ir de compras esa tarde a fin de elegir un vestido para el próximo cumpleaños, 21 años, de su hija. Como mujer que trabaja en el sector de la construcción, dominado por los hombres, ha educado a sus hijas para que nunca se echen atrás y siempre se defiendan.

“Creen que las mujeres no nos vamos a defender”, dijo.

Al creer que el atacante estaba escogiendo a mujeres, dijo que le estremecía pensar qué habría pasado si las jóvenes encargadas de la tienda no hubieran actuado con rapidez y bajado la puerta enrrollable.

“Era una tienda llena de mujeres, y las encargadas fueron las heroínas para nosotras”, relató.

Simone Scoppa, de 42 años, que también estuvo en el lugar de homenaje el lunes, dijo que la oleada de apuñalamientos era solo el más reciente incidente dirigido contra mujeres que le hace mirar por encima del hombro mientras pasea a su perro por la noche, incluso en su barrio de las afueras, y llevar las llaves en la mano como arma defensiva, por si acaso.

El hecho de que el lugar del atentado sea un centro comercial también hace que las mujeres se sientan vulnerables.

“¿Dónde van a estar muchas mujeres un sábado por la tarde?”, dijo Scoppa. “Ves a los padres y a los maridos en los asientos cuidando las bolsas, y a las madres amamantando”.

Yan Zhuang colaboró con reportería.

Victoria Kim es corresponsal en Seúl, y se centra en la cobertura de noticias en directo. Más de Victoria Kim

La ofensiva iraní dejó en evidencia un error de cálculo de Israel

Los ataques sin precedentes de Irán contra Israel del fin de semana pasado han sacudido las suposiciones de Israel sobre su enemigo, afectando sus estimaciones de que la mejor forma de disuadir a Irán era con una mayor agresión israelí.

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Durante años, los funcionarios israelíes han alegado, tanto en público como en privado, que cuanto más fuerte sea el golpe contra Irán, más cauteloso será su gobierno a la hora de contratacar. El bombardeo iraní realizado con más de 300 aviones no tripulados y misiles el sábado —el primer ataque directo de Irán contra Israel— ha revocado esa lógica.

La ofensiva fue una respuesta al ataque de Israel realizado este mes en Siria que mató a siete oficiales militares iraníes. Los analistas afirmaron que la respuesta demostraba que los líderes de Teherán ya no se conforman con luchar contra Israel a través de sus diversas fuerzas aliadas, como Hizbulá en el Líbano o los hutíes en Yemen, sino que están preparados para enfrentarse a Israel de forma directa.

“Creo que calculamos mal”, dijo Sima Shine, exjefa de investigación del Mosad, la agencia de inteligencia exterior de Israel.

“La experiencia acumulada de Israel es que Irán no tiene buenos medios para tomar represalias”, añadió Shine. “Había una fuerte percepción de que no querían involucrarse en la guerra”.

En cambio, Irán ha creado “un paradigma completamente nuevo”, afirmó Shine.

Al final, la respuesta de Irán causó pocos daños en Israel, en gran parte porque Irán había telegrafiado sus intenciones con mucha antelación, dando a Israel y a sus aliados varios días para preparar una defensa fuerte. Irán también emitió una declaración, incluso antes de que terminara la ofensiva, de que no tenía más planes de atacar a Israel.

Sin embargo, los ataques de Irán han convertido una guerra que durante años se había librado en la sombra entre Israel e Irán en una confrontación directa, aunque aún podría contenerse, dependiendo de cómo responda Israel. Irán ha demostrado que tiene una capacidad armamentística considerable que solo puede contrarrestarse con un apoyo intensivo de los aliados de Israel, incluido Estados Unidos, lo que subraya cuánto daño podría infligir sin esa protección.

Irán e Israel solían tener una relación más ambigua, e Israel incluso le vendió armas a Irán durante la guerra entre Irán e Irak en la década de 1980. Pero sus vínculos se desgastaron después de que terminó la guerra. Los líderes iraníes se volvieron cada vez más críticos del enfoque de Israel hacia los palestinos e Israel se volvió cauteloso ante los esfuerzos de Irán por construir un programa nuclear y su mayor apoyo a Hizbulá.

Durante más de una década, ambos países han atacado de manera silenciosa los intereses del otro en toda la región, pero rara vez anunciaron alguna acción individual.

Irán ha apoyado a Hamás, además de financiar y armar a otras milicias regionales hostiles a Israel, varias de las cuales han estado involucradas en un conflicto de bajo nivel con Israel desde los ataques mortales que Hamás ejecutó el 7 de octubre. De manera similar, Israel ha atacado regularmente a esas fuerzas aliadas, así como a funcionarios iraníes a los cuales ha neutralizado, incluso en suelo iraní, asesinatos por los que ha evitado asumir responsabilidad formal.

Ambos países han atacado buques mercantes vinculados a sus oponentes y también han llevado a cabo ataques cibernéticos entre sí. Además, Israel ha saboteado repetidas veces el programa nuclear de Irán.

Ahora, esa guerra se está librando abiertamente. Y, en gran parte, se debe a lo que algunos analistas ven como un error de cálculo israelí del 1 de abril, cuando los ataques israelíes destruyeron parte del complejo de la embajada iraní en Damasco, Siria, uno de los aliados y representantes más cercanos de Irán, y mataron a los siete oficiales militares iraníes, incluidos tres altos comandantes.

El ataque se realizó tras repetidas insinuaciones de los líderes israelíes de que una mayor presión sobre Irán forzaría a Teherán a reducir sus ambiciones en todo Medio Oriente. “Un aumento de la presión ejercida sobre Irán es fundamental”, dijo en enero Yoav Galant, ministro de Defensa de Israel, “y podría evitar una escalada regional en ámbitos adicionales”.

En cambio, el ataque a Damasco desencadenó el primer ataque iraní contra territorio soberano israelí. Es posible que Israel haya malinterpretado la posición de Irán debido a la falta de respuesta iraní a anteriores asesinatos de altos funcionarios iraníes perpetrados por Israel, según dijeron los analistas.

Aunque durante mucho tiempo los líderes israelíes han temido que algún día Irán construya y dispare misiles nucleares contra Israel, se habían acostumbrado a atacar a funcionarios iraníes sin obtener represalias directas de Teherán.

En uno de los ataques más descarados, Israel asesinó al principal científico nuclear de Irán, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, en 2020, en suelo iraní. Incluso hace poco, en diciembre, Israel fue acusado de asesinar a un alto general iraní, Sayyed Razi Mousavi, en un ataque en Siria, donde funcionarios militares iraníes asesoran y apoyan al gobierno sirio. Esos y varios otros asesinatos no provocaron ataques iraníes de represalia contra Israel.

La decisión de Irán de responder esta vez fue motivada en parte por la indignación en algunos círculos de la sociedad iraní por la pasividad previa de Irán, según Ali Vaez, un analista sobre Irán.

“Nunca antes había visto el grado de presión que recibió el régimen desde la base en los últimos 10 días”, dijo Vaez, analista del International Crisis Group, un grupo de investigación con sede en Bruselas.

Irán también necesitaba demostrarles a sus fuerzas aliadas como Hizbulá que podía defenderse por sí mismo, añadió Vaez. “Demostrar que Irán tiene demasiado miedo para tomar represalias contra un ataque tan descarado a sus propias instalaciones diplomáticas en Damasco habría sido muy perjudicial para las relaciones de Irán y la credibilidad de los iraníes ante los ojos de sus socios regionales”, explicó.

Para algunos analistas, el ataque de Israel contra Damasco todavía podría resultar ser un error de cálculo menor de lo que parecía en un principio. El ataque aéreo de Irán ha distraído la atención de la tambaleante guerra de Israel contra Hamás y ha reafirmado los vínculos de Israel con los aliados occidentales y árabes que se habían vuelto cada vez más críticos de la conducta de Israel en la Franja de Gaza.

El hecho de que Irán le haya dado a Israel tanto tiempo para prepararse para el ataque podría indicar que Teherán sigue relativamente disuadido y que solo buscaba proyectar la imagen de una respuesta importante y, al mismo tiempo, evitar una escalada significativa, afirmó Michael Koplow, analista de Israel en Israel Policy Forum, un grupo de investigación con sede en Nueva York.

“Creo que todavía no hay certeza”, dijo Koplow.

Gabby Sobelman colaboró con este reportaje.

Patrick Kingsley es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Jerusalén, y lidera la cobertura de Israel, Gaza y Cisjordania. Más de Patrick Kingsley