The New York Times 2024-04-26 01:20:44

Middle East Crisis: U.S. and 17 Other Nations Call on Hamas to Release Hostages

Biden and 17 other world leaders turn up the heat on Hamas to free hostages.

President Biden and the leaders of 17 other nations called on Hamas on Thursday to release all of the hostages seized during its Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, an effort to raise international pressure on the group’s leader in Gaza to agree to a U.S.-brokered deal.

“The fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, who are protected under international law, is of international concern,” the leaders said in a joint statement organized and released by the White House, noting that the more than 130 hostages remaining in Gaza include citizens of their countries.

The statement was released a day after Mr. Biden met at the White House with Avigail Idan, a 4-year-old dual citizen of Israel and the United States whose parents were killed in the Oct. 7 attack and who was held captive in Gaza for several weeks before being released in an early hostage deal. The president spent an hour with her family as Avigail, whose name has also been spelled Abigail Edan in some American media, played in the Oval Office, crawling through the Resolute Desk in the same way that John F. Kennedy Jr. famously did as a toddler.

It also came a day after Hamas publicly released a video showing Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an Israeli American hostage who was grievously injured during the Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,200 people. It was the first time he had been shown alive since being taken captive. The White House received a copy of the video on Monday and Hamas posted it online on Wednesday.

It remains unknown how many of the hostages are still alive. A senior Hamas official said earlier this month that Hamas did not have 40 living hostages in Gaza who met the criteria for an exchange under a proposed cease-fire agreement.

The United States has proposed a deal through Egyptian and Qatari intermediaries in which Hamas would release 40 of the most vulnerable hostages in exchange for a six-week cease-fire in Gaza and the release of hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. A senior administration official who briefed reporters on Thursday on condition of anonymity under official ground rules put the blame solely on Hamas for blocking the deal.

The official said that while Israel had signaled it would go along with the deal, the response that came back from Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader hiding underground in Gaza, was “totally nonconstructive.” Since then, the official said, Hamas has sent signals that it does not mean to completely reject the deal and is willing to sit down again. The official said the United States and its partners would test that proposition in coming days.

The joint statement seemed meant to counter the perception that the world is entirely against Israel and to send the message that Hamas is the impediment to ending the war in Gaza.

“We strongly support the ongoing mediation efforts in order to bring our people home,” the statement said. “We reiterate our call on Hamas to release the hostages, and let us end this crisis so that collectively we can focus our efforts on bringing peace and stability to the region.”

In addition to the United States, the countries that signed on included Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain and Thailand.

The U.S. Army has begun work on a floating pier to move aid from ships into Gaza, the Pentagon says.

Army engineers on Thursday began construction of a floating pier and causeway for humanitarian aid off the coast of Gaza, which, when completed, could help relief workers deliver as many as two million meals a day for the enclave’s residents, Defense Department officials said.

The construction on the “initial stages of the temporary pier and causeway at sea” means that the project’s timing is in line with what Pentagon officials had predicted, Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Defense Department’s press secretary, said. The construction is meant to allow humanitarian aid to bypass Israeli restrictions on land convoys into the besieged strip.

General Ryder said that defense officials expected the project, ordered up by President Biden early last month, to be completed early next month. The facility is meant to include an offshore platform to transfer aid from ships, and a floating pier to bring the aid to shore.

Aid organizations have welcomed the plan, which will be an addition to the airdrops of humanitarian supplies that the U.S. military has been conducting over Gaza. But aid workers say, and defense officials have acknowledged, that the maritime project is not an adequate substitute for land convoys. Such aid convoys fell sharply when the war began more than six months ago and have only partly recovered.

Some U.S. military officials have also privately expressed security concerns about the project, and General Ryder said that the military was looking into a mortar attack on Wednesday that caused minimal damage in the area where some pier work is supposed to be done. However, he said, U.S. forces had not started moving anything into the area at the time of the mortar attacks.

The floating pier is being built alongside an Army ship off the Gaza coast. Army ships are large, lumbering vessels, so they have armed escorts, particularly as they get within range of Gaza’s coast, defense officials have said.

The United Nations says famine is likely to set in within Gaza by the end of May.

Aid workers have described bottlenecks for aid at border crossings because of lengthy inspections of trucks, limited crossing hours and protests by Israelis, and they have highlighted the difficulty of distributing aid inside Gaza. Israeli officials have denied that they are hampering the flow of aid, saying the United Nations and aid groups are responsible for any backlogs.

Senior Biden administration and military officials detailed a complex plan in a Pentagon call with reporters on Thursday afternoon, explaining how the pier and causeway are being put together, and how it is supposed to work. Army engineers are constructing the facility aboard Navy ships in the eastern Mediterranean. One official said that the “at-sea assembly of key pieces” of the pier began on Thursday.

Biden officials are insistent that the Pentagon can carry out aid deliveries through the floating pier without putting American boots on the ground in Gaza. Officials described a complicated shuttle system, through which aid would be loaded onto Navy ships in Cyprus and transported to a causeway — a floating platform — at sea.

The Pentagon’s military acronym for the project is J-Lots, for Joint Logistics Over the Shore.

The causeway at sea is different from the floating pier where the aid will be offloaded into Gaza. An engineering unit with the Israeli military will anchor the floating pier to the Gaza shore, a senior military official told reporters in the Pentagon call.

Shuttle boats run by aid organizations, the United Nations or other countries are then expected to transport the aid to the floating pier, where it is to be loaded onto trucks driven by “a third party,” the official said. He declined to identify the third party.

The official said that Israel was dedicating a brigade to provide security for the American troops and aid workers working on the pier.

The operation is expected to bring in enough aid for around 90 trucks a day, a number that will increase to 150 trucks a day when the system reaches full operating capacity, the official said.

Israel’s claim of killing ‘half’ of Hezbollah commanders in southern Lebanon draws skepticism.

Israel’s defense minister has said that the country’s military has eliminated half of Hezbollah’s commanders in southern Lebanon. But analysts doubt whether Israel’s increasing use of targeted killings would weaken the militant group.

Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon and is Iran’s most powerful regional proxy, has had intense cross-border clashes with Israeli forces ever since the Hamas-led attacks in Israel on Oct. 7. With little sign of the conflict abating and with diplomatic talks yet to result in a cease-fire, Israel has in recent months begun killing Hezbollah fighters in targeted strikes, reflecting an apparent shift in military strategy.

“Half of the Hezbollah commanders in southern Lebanon have been eliminated,” Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said during a visit on Wednesday to Israeli troops along the northern border with Lebanon. “The other half are in hiding,” he added, without providing a specific number or evidence of his claim.

A Hezbollah official and a senior Lebanese intelligence official, both of whom spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive subject, denied Mr. Gallant’s numbers on Thursday.

Some experts expressed skepticism about whether Israel’s targeted killings could achieve its goal of pushing Hezbollah north of the Litani River in Lebanon, thereby preventing cross-border attacks and allowing the tens of thousands Israeli civilians displaced by the fighting to return.

“It is psychological warfare,” said Kassem Kassir, a Lebanese political analyst and expert on Hezbollah who is close to the group. He added that Mr. Gallant’s statement was a means “to convince the Israeli audience that the army is achieving its goals.”

In reality, Mr. Kassir said, out of 100,000 Hezbollah fighters, no more than 20 of the roughly 270 members that the group has acknowledged have been killed were commanders.

Mr. Gallant’s comments, analysts said, reflected a growing unanimity among Israeli officials that Hezbollah poses the clearest threat on its borders. On Sunday, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s emergency war cabinet, declared that Israel’s border with Lebanon constituted its “greatest and most urgent challenge.”

Publicly, the Israeli military has named nine Hezbollah fighters whom it has eliminated and described as “commanders” on the Telegram messaging app since Oct. 7. Some were described as senior figures in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit, and others were said to have been involved in the group’s drone operations. The claims could not be independently verified.

“They need this veneer of success, and so are highly publicizing these assassinations,” said Amal Saad, a lecturer in politics and international relations at Cardiff University in Wales who researches Hezbollah. “It is compensation for lack of any military achievement,” she added.

Hezbollah seldom releases details about the ranks of its slain fighters, often denying the Israeli military’s claims about their roles. Analysts say, however, that the group’s responses to targeted strikes are often indicative of the significance of the fighters killed.

Rym Momtaz, a Paris-based research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies who specializes in the Middle East, said: “Israel has killed a few of their commanders in their south. That is not something they have denied, and of course this is an issue, but Gallant is overstating and exaggerating here.”

Another analyst noted that wartime estimates of battlefield tolls could be suspect. “All parties probably have a vested interest in showing that they’re doing great and minimizing their losses,” said Matthew Levitt, director of the counterterrorism program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a research organization.

Hezbollah has lost a significant number of fighters and commanders during the war with Israel, Mr. Levitt said. But “the reality is that Hezbollah has a deep bench,” he said.

Elias Hanna, a military analyst and former brigadier general in the Lebanese Army, said that regardless of how many of Hezbollah’s commanders have been killed, Israel’s pivot to targeted assassinations “would not affect” Hezbollah’s “modus operandi.” He added, “It’s a war of attrition and positional warfare.”

After airstrikes killed what Israel described as two Hezbollah commanders, the militant group claimed responsibility for a drone and missile attack in northern Israel last week that killed one soldier and wounded 16 other soldiers and two civilians. It was one of Hezbollah’s most damaging attacks in Israel in recent months.

Johnatan Reiss and Anushka Patil contributed reporting.

A U.N. aid chief says ‘every day counts’ in the efforts to relieve the suffering in Gaza.

The U.N.’s top coordinator for humanitarian aid for Gaza has said that Israel has taken steps to improve the delivery of relief supplies to the enclave but warned that much more must be done to meet the vast need there.

Israel has announced efforts to increase the flow of aid into Gaza, including by opening an additional border crossing and by accepting shipments at a nearby port. But the United Nations has warned with increasing urgency that a famine is looming and that deliveries still fall short of the level needed to stop the spread of starvation.

The aid coordinator, Sigrid Kaag, said in a briefing at the Security Council on Wednesday that, while Israel had made efforts to increase the entry and distribution of aid, “further definitive and urgent steps are needed to set the course for a sustained flow of humanitarian and commercial goods into Gaza in terms of volume, need and reach.”

“Given the scale and scope of destruction and the extent of human suffering, every day counts,” she added.

According to U.N. 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 per day to begin to meet people’s basic needs.

Ms. Kaag, a Dutch former finance minister and deputy prime minister, was appointed by the United Nations in December to improve efforts to get aid into Gaza. The role was laid out in a Security Council resolution that aimed to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has been under intense Israeli bombardment since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks.

Countries including the United States have tried to find air and sea routes into Gaza, but aid groups say delivery by truck would be far more efficient. They have described deep the challenges in navigating Israeli security checkpoints and in traveling through a war zone, including impassable roads, unexploded ordnance and fuel shortages. Israel has denied restricting aid, blaming U.N. agencies for bureaucratic delays.

Ms. Kaag said that the United Nations was in contact with the Israeli government on urgent measures needed to improve the flow of aid, including easing procedures at Israeli checkpoints, repairing roads and allowing humanitarian convoys to move as scheduled.

Ms. Kaag’s comments echoed those of President Biden’s special envoy for humanitarian issues in Gaza, David Satterfield, who said on Tuesday that the volume of aid into Gaza had increased but that “much more aid is needed.”

Problems with the I.D.F.’s deconfliction system existed before the strike on the W.C.K. convoy.

Using visual evidence and internal communications, The Times looked at six aid groups whose operations or shelters came under Israeli fire despite using the Israel Defense Forces’ deconfliction system to notify the military of their locations.

These humanitarian organizations have a direct line to the I.D.F. and come from Western countries, including Israel’s strongest allies. Some of the locations struck had been clearly marked or located in a special humanitarian zone that Israel said was safe for civilians.

The pattern indicates that in Israel’s battle against Hamas, not even the places with every available avenue of protection are safe from I.D.F. strikes.

José Andrés, founder of the World Central Kitchen, eulogizes 7 aid workers killed in Gaza.

A stone pulpit in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., is no place the chef José Andrés expected to be when he created the food charity World Central Kitchen nearly 15 years ago.

But on Thursday there he stood, eulogizing seven of the organization’s workers who were killed in the Gaza Strip while trying to carry out a singular mission: bringing food into a region of 2.2 million people facing a growing humanitarian crisis.

“They risked everything to feed people they did not know and will never meet,” Mr. Andrés said. “They were the best of humanity.”

The seven workers were killed on April 1 after they helped unload a barge of food aid in northern Gaza and were heading to Rafah, a city in the south. Their well-marked convoy of vehicles was hit by armed Israeli drones. Israeli military officials said the attack was a serious mistake that should not have happened. They cited a series of failures, including a breakdown in communication and violations of the military’s own rules of engagement.

Mr. Andrés, unusually subdued and occasionally tearful, said he was consumed with regret, sorrow and anger over the deaths. “I know there are also many questions about why World Central Kitchen was in Gaza,” he said. “We ask ourselves the same questions day and night.”

But the workers took the risk, he said, because they believed that showing up and feeding people in their darkest hours would let them know they were not alone.

“Food is a universal human right,” Mr. Andrés said. “Feeding each other, cooking and eating together is what makes us human. The dishes we cook and deliver are not just ingredients, or calories. A plate of food is a plate of hope.”

A U.S. aid package includes billions in military support for 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.

The White House says it won’t interfere in a decision over an 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.

The Gaza authorities say that many more bodies have been found at a mass grave at a hospital.

Palestinian officials in Gaza on Thursday increased the tally of bodies discovered in a mass grave on the grounds of a hospital to 392 from 283, amid conflicting accounts between Israel and the Gazan authorities over how and when some of the bodies were buried.

“This is the biggest mass grave since the beginning of the war,” Mahmoud Basal, spokesman for Gaza’s Civil Defense, a search and rescue department within the Hamas-controlled territory, said Thursday before calling for an international investigation.

A New York Times analysis of social media videos and satellite imagery found that Palestinians had dug at least two of the three burial sites weeks before Israeli troops raided the complex.

Gazan authorities say that mass graves had been dug on the hospital grounds before an Israeli raid there in February but accuse Israel of later opening the site to add bodies.

It was not clear how those who were buried at the Nasser Medical Complex, in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, had died or exactly when.

While The Times could not determine the cause of death for individual people, the initial burials took place in January and February amid a weekslong Israeli offensive in the city.

Israel on Thursday denied accusations that it was responsible for digging the graves at the complex, but previously said it had opened them in the search for the bodies of hostages abducted to Gaza.

“Misinformation is circulating regarding a mass grave that was discovered at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis,” said Maj. Nadav Shoshani, an Israeli military spokesman, in a statement. “The grave in question was dug — by Gazans — a few months ago. This fact is corroborated by social media documentation. Any attempt to blame Israel for burying civilians in mass graves is categorically false and a mere example of a disinformation campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel.”

In the chaos of the six-month war, it has become common for Gazans to bury the dead on hospital grounds, in backyards and elsewhere, often hurriedly and without ceremony. But the rising tally of bodies pointed both to the human toll of the war and to how hospitals have become flash points.

The medical centers have often been the first places people displaced by Israel’s bombardment have taken refuge, and their grounds have hosted thousands in makeshift tents. Israeli officials say that medical centers have been the focus of raids because Hamas fighters embed themselves within and under the facilities, and that it is the only way to root out the armed group. Hamas and medical workers have denied this accusation. Aid groups, researchers and international bodies have increasingly been calling Israel’s dismantling of Gaza’s medical capacity “systematic.”

Videos shared on social media and verified by The New York Times show that two sites with multiple mass graves were dug at Nasser and bodies were buried starting in January.

Satellite imagery shows that the large mass grave first dug by Gazans underneath the palm trees in the southern part of the complex was disturbed by Israeli forces, including with a bulldozer, lending credence to the Israeli claim that they exhumed and reburied bodies.

There is no clear sign that Israeli troops dug new graves or added bodies to existing ones.

On April 21, videos were shared on social media that showed a third gravesite on the other side of a brick pathway that runs next to the initial mass grave. This new gravesite was created either during or after the Israeli occupation of the hospital grounds, but it is unclear who dug it. Signs written in Arabic at several of the graves read “Unknown martyr.”

The discovery of the graves last weekend has led to international calls for an independent investigation.

Joining the European Union and the United Nations, President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, urged the Israeli government to “thoroughly and transparently” investigate the “deeply disturbing” reports of mass graves.

“We have been in touch at multiple levels with the Israeli government,” he said at a briefing on Wednesday. “We want answers,” he added.

The discovery of the mass grave at Nasser Hospital came two weeks after a similar mass grave was found at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

In a statement this week, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, cited reports that some bodies had been found with their hands “tied and stripped of their clothes.”

Those reports, which came from the Gazan authorities, could not be independently verified, and the group did not provide evidence for its claim.

At least one of the bodies exhumed since Sunday was seen wearing blue medical scrubs in a video posted to social media by a photographer, Haseeb Alwazeer. The person’s hands appeared to be bound together. This body was lying next to others exhumed from the mass grave in the palm grove.

Doctors at the hospital and the Gazan Health Ministry had said that some people who tried to flee the Nasser compound during the Israeli raid were shot at by Israeli soldiers, with some being killed or wounded.

While that claim could not be independently verified, multiple videos verified by The Times show gunshot victims lying on the ground just outside the north gate; others show people using a rope to drag bottles of water from across the street into the hospital complex to avoid a road where victims had been shot.

At the time, the Israeli military said that it had “opened a secure route” to evacuate the civilians in the area but did not respond to questions about reports that it had shot at Palestinians trying to leave the hospital.

Amnesty International’s senior director of research and advocacy, Erika Guevara Rosas, said human rights investigators and forensic experts needed immediate access to Gaza to ensure that evidence of the graves would be preserved in order to ensure accountability for any violations of international law.

“Without proper investigations to determine how these deaths took place or what violations may have been committed, we may never find out the truth of the horrors behind these mass graves,” she said in a statement.

Israel’s military left Nasser hospital in late February and continued to operate in Khan Younis before withdrawing from southern Gaza earlier this month. The withdrawal allowed Palestinian emergency services — and family members — to begin searching for the missing.

Jihad al-Bayouk, 26, said that he had buried his older brother on the grounds of Nasser on Jan. 24 after he was killed in what he said was an Israeli drone strike on their home in Khan Younis. “I made sure to remember the place so I could come back later and give him a proper burial in a real cemetery,” Mr. al-Bayouk, 26, said by phone on Wednesday.

He said that when he came back after Israeli forces had withdrawn from the area, he could not find his brother’s body or the palm trees he used to mark where it was. So he began digging every day, along with a crowd of others looking for the bodies of their loved ones.

“The digging went on for days” before he found his brother’s body on Monday in a different spot from where he had buried him, Mr. al-Bayouk said. He said that two of the three layers of plastic he had wrapped him with were gone, and the third was torn off but held together with plastic clips.

A correction was made on 

April 25, 2024

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the timing of the initial burials. They began in January, not mid-February.

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

Deadly Rains and Floods Sweep Cities Across East Africa

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At least 200 people were killed and dozens more were injured across East Africa in recent days, officials and aid groups said, as torrential rains, floods and landslides pummeled towns and cities in a region already grappling with the devastating effects of the climate change crisis and dilapidated infrastructure in poor areas.

The extreme rains unleashed a wave of destruction across Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi, flooding homes, demolishing businesses and leaving many people stranded on rooftops.

The downpours exposed yet again the bad roads and poor drainage systems in some of the region’s biggest cities, which residents have persistently complained about. They also revealed how poor people, who live in sprawling shantytowns without access to proper roads, water or power, bear the biggest brunt of destructive floods.

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‘We’re Aware of the Location’: Aid Groups in Gaza Coordinated With I.D.F. but Still Came Under Fire

Far-Right Greek Party Is Banned From E.U. Parliament Elections

A small far-right party that unexpectedly entered the Greek Parliament last year will not be allowed to field candidates for the European Parliament this summer after Greece’s Supreme Court found that it was essentially a reincarnation of the banned neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.

In its decision about which parties can run in the European Parliament elections, issued on Wednesday, the court found that the party, Spartans, “offered their party as a cloak for the new political party of Ilias Kasidiaris,” the former spokesman of Golden Dawn who is currently in prison.

Mr. Kasidiaris, the court said, is the true leader of Spartans, which “substitutes” for Golden Dawn, serving as a front that allowed him to circumvent eligibility restrictions.

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To the Sound of Gunshots, Haiti Installs a New Ruling Council

The prime minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, formally signed his resignation letter on Wednesday, paving the way for a new government and bringing a measure of political stability to a nation mired in gang violence and an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

With the sound of gunshots as a backdrop, the nine members of a transitional council took the oath of office early on Thursday in the National Palace.

“We have served the nation in difficult times,” wrote Mr. Henry, whose resignation letter bore a Los Angeles address. “I sympathize with the losses and suffering endured by our compatriots during this period.”

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A Puzzling Move by a Political Survivor Grips Spain

A wave of political turmoil crashed over Spain on Thursday as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez publicly weighed resigning his post after a judge agreed to investigate his wife over allegations that he and other officials decried as a politically driven smear campaign.

The judge’s decision to take up the case — which was brought by a self-described anti-graft group on the basis of online news reports about alleged influence peddling — prompted Mr. Sánchez’s supporters to coalesce behind him and public prosecutors to move quickly on Thursday to try to get the case dismissed.

Mr. Sánchez, whose political survival skills have for years astonished his supporters and detractors alike, wrote in a public letter Wednesday that the accusations against his wife, Begoña Gómez, were false and amounted to harassment. One of the most prominent leftist leaders in Europe, Mr. Sánchez has canceled his public schedule while he reflects on his next move. He plans to address the nation on Monday.

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Welcome to Venice. That’ll Be 5 Euros, Please.

Pulling into the Santa Lucia train station in Venice on Thursday morning, passengers were told via an overhead announcement that they might have to pay a 5-euro fee to enter the city’s historic center. Failure to pay could result in a fine from 50 to 300 euros, the announcement said.

Outside the station, police officers in riot gear lingered, while a flock of assistants in colorful safety vests stopped arriving travelers to ensure that they had a QR code indicating that they had registered to visit on a city website. Those who hadn’t were directed to a booth where they could. After registering, overnight visitors were sent on their way without having to pay, but people planning to stay just for the day were charged (though there were other exemptions).

It was a new welcome to Venice, the first city in the world to charge day visitors a nominal entrance fee, a measure city officials hope will help counter overtourism.

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U.S. to Withdraw Troops From Chad, Dealing Another Blow to Africa Policy

The Pentagon will withdraw dozens of Special Operations forces from Chad in the next few days, the second major blow in a week to American security and counterterrorism policy in a volatile swath of West and Central Africa, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The decision to pull out about 75 Army Special Forces personnel working in Ndjamena, Chad’s capital, comes days after the Biden administration said it would withdraw more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel from Niger in the coming months.

The Pentagon is being forced to draw down troops in response to the African governments’ demands to renegotiate the rules and conditions under which U.S. military personnel can operate. Both countries want terms that better favor their interests, analysts say. The decision to withdraw from Niger is final, but U.S. officials said they hoped to resume talks on security cooperation after elections in Chad on May 6.

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Macron, Battling the Far Right at Home, Pushes for a Stronger Europe

Challenged by the extreme right and perhaps more vulnerable than at any time in his presidency, Emmanuel Macron of France sought renewed momentum on Thursday through a sweeping speech on the need for a more assertive Europe, a theme that he has pressed with urgency since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The nearly two-hour speech reflected Mr. Macron’s conviction that only a reinforced and “sovereign” European Union — a “Europe power,” as he puts it — can save the continent from irrelevancy in an unstable world that is dominated by the United States and China and confronting wars in Europe and the Middle East.

“We must be lucid about the fact that our Europe is mortal,” Mr. Macron declared before an audience of government ministers, European ambassadors and other dignitaries. “It can die. It can die and whether it does depends entirely on our choices.”

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Ukraine Could Use New Weapons to Hit Russian Targets in Crimea, Pentagon Says

Ukrainian forces will be able to use a newly delivered, coveted long-range missile system to more effectively target Russian forces in occupied Crimea, senior Pentagon officials said on Thursday.

After months of requests, Ukraine received a longer-range version of the Army Tactical Missile Systems, known as ATACMS, which can travel 190 miles. Before the delivery this month, the United States had supplied Ukraine with a version of the system that has a 100-mile range and is armed with wide-spreading cluster munitions.

Much of the long-delayed weapons deliveries would need to initially focus on shoring up Ukraine’s defenses, U.S. national security officials said. The new system can reach deeper into Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine and target supply nodes for Russian forces in the southeast.

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Blinken Tours China to Promote Some Ties, While the U.S. Severs Others

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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken cheered on the sidelines at a basketball game in Shanghai on Wednesday night, and spent Thursday chatting with students at New York University’s Shanghai campus and meeting American business owners. It all went to emphasize the kind of economic, educational and cultural ties that the United States is pointedly holding up as beneficial for both countries.

But hanging over those pleasantries during his visit to China this week are several steps the U.S. is taking to sever economic ties in areas where the Biden administration says they threaten American interests. And those will be the focus of greater attention from Chinese officials, as well.

Even as the Biden administration tries to stabilize the relationship with China, it is advancing several economic measures that would curb China’s access to the U.S. economy and technology. It is poised to raise tariffs on Chinese steel, solar panels and other crucial products to try to protect American factories from cheap imports. It is weighing further restrictions on China’s access to advanced semiconductors to try to keep Beijing from developing sophisticated artificial intelligence that could be used on the battlefield.

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These Issues Are Testing the U.S.-China Thaw

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is meeting officials in China this week as disputes over wars, trade, technology and security are testing the two countries’ efforts to stabilize the relationship.

The United States is heading into an election year in which President Biden will face intense pressure to confront China’s authoritarian government and offer new protections for American businesses and workers from low-priced Chinese imports.

China is courting foreign investment to help its sluggish economy. At the same time, its leader, Xi Jinping, has been bolstering national security and expanding China’s military footprint around Taiwan and the South China Sea in ways that have alarmed its neighbors.

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Court in Iran Sentences Prominent Rapper to Death, His Lawyer Says

A dissident rapper has been sentenced to death in Iran after releasing music in support of antigovernment demonstrations that rocked the country in 2022, according to his lawyer, in a case that has prompted global condemnation.

The rapper, Toomaj Salehi, 33, was one of the most prominent voices among those arrested over nationwide protests against Iran’s clerical rulers after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22. Human rights organizations have been calling for Mr. Salehi’s release, saying that he has been tortured in prison and warning that he could face execution.

Amir Raesian, Mr. Salehi’s lawyer, told the Iranian reformist newspaper Shargh in an article published on Wednesday that a court in the central city of Isfahan had sentenced Mr. Salehi to death and that his client planned to appeal.

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WADA Appoints Special Prosecutor in Chinese Doping Case

The World Anti-Doping Agency on Thursday appointed a special prosecutor to review how 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a banned drug were allowed to avoid public scrutiny and compete at the 2021 Olympics, where they won gold medals and set records.

The decision to appoint the special prosecutor, Eric Cottier of Switzerland, came amid an outcry from top government officials, antidoping experts and authorities, and athletes over the way Chinese antidoping officials and the global regulator, known as WADA, handled the positives.

WADA cast the move as one it had to make in response to “the damaging and baseless allegations that are being leveled” against the agency since The New York Times on Saturday revealed how the Chinese antidoping agency, known as Chinada, and WADA declined to discipline or identify the 23 swimmers.

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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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Forbidden to Watch Films as a Child, He Now Directs Somalia’s Top Shows

At the shout of “action,” two actors, costumed in black blazers and sunglasses, erupted into a spirited shouting match, gesticulating wildly as one demanded that the other convince his daughter to marry him.

A cameraman and a boom operator, sweaty under a scorching sun, moved in to capture the altercation in close-up.

Then the director, Abshir Rageh, seated in a foldable chair, removed his headphones and called: “Cut.”

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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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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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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