The New York Times 2024-05-07 01:11:29


Israel Orders Partial Evacuation of Rafah, Fueling Fears of New Offensive

Israeli warplanes pounded targets in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Monday as the military told about 110,000 people sheltering there to evacuate. Many people began to leave, fearing that Israel was moving ahead with its long-planned invasion of Rafah, despite stiff international pressure.

The Israeli military began dropping leaflets in eastern Rafah telling people to move to what it called a humanitarian zone to the north, and said it would also notify people by text messages, phone calls and broadcasts in Arabic, and on Monday night, the Israeli military carried out another round of what it called “targeted strikes” in Rafah against Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement late on Monday that the war cabinet had decided unanimously to “continue with its action in Rafah in order to exert military pressure on Hamas,” though it was not clear if that meant the latest airstrikes or something broader. A military spokesman would not say when troops might enter the crowded city, but described the evacuation as part of Israel’s plans to dismantle Hamas and to free hostages taken on Oct. 7.

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Xi Bristles at Criticism of China Over the War in Ukraine

President Xi Jinping of China, on a two-day visit to France, spoke out firmly against criticism of his country for its close relationship with Russia during the war in Ukraine, saying that “we oppose the crisis being used to cast responsibility on a third country, sully its image and incite a new cold war.”

Flanked by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, with whom he held several rounds of talk on Monday, Mr. Xi stiffened as he defended China’s role, recalling it was “not at the origin of this crisis, nor a party to it, nor a participant.”

The bristling remark appeared aimed principally at the United States, which believes that China, aside from buying enormous amounts of Russia oil and gas, continues to aid Moscow’s war in Ukraine by providing satellite imagery to Russian forces along with jet fighter parts, microchips and other dual-use equipment.

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Russia to Hold Drills on Tactical Nuclear Weapons in New Tensions With West

Russia said on Monday that it would hold military exercises with troops based near Ukraine to practice for the possible use of battlefield nuclear weapons, a provocative warning aimed at discouraging the West from deepening its support for Ukraine.

These weapons, often referred to as “tactical,” are designed for battlefield use and have smaller warheads than the “strategic” nuclear weapons meant to target cities. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that President Vladimir V. Putin had ordered an exercise for missile, aviation and naval personnel to “increase the readiness of nonstrategic nuclear forces to carry out combat missions.”

The announcement of the exercise was Russia’s most explicit warning in its more than two-year invasion of Ukraine that it could use tactical nuclear weapons there. The Kremlin said it came in response to comments by two European leaders that raised the prospect of more direct Western intervention in the war.

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With Schools in Ruins, Education in Gaza Will Be Hobbled for Years

Amjad Abu Daqqa was among the top students at his school in Khan Younis, excelling in math and English, and he was applying for a scholarship to study in the United States when war erupted in the Gaza Strip last October.

Teachers used to reward his good grades with trips to local historical sites or to the pier, where they would watch boats and take pictures of the sunset. He dreamed of going into medicine like his big sister, Nagham, who studied dentistry in Gaza City.

But his old life and old dreams now feel far away. His school was bombed, many of his friends and teachers are dead, and his family fled their home to seek safety in Rafah, along with more than one million others.

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Middle East Crisis: Israel Steps Up Attacks on Rafah as Hamas Shifts Position on Cease-fire

Israel says it will send a delegation to talks on the proposal.

Israel stepped up attacks on Monday in the southern city of Rafah hours after Hamas said there was a cease-fire proposal, drawn from one put forth by Egyptian and Qatari mediators, whose terms Hamas’s leaders would accept.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said that while the new proposal failed to meet Israel’s demands, the country would still send a working-level delegation to talks in hopes of reaching an acceptable deal. Qatar also said that it would send a delegation for the talks, in Cairo.

As Israeli forces carried out strikes in eastern Rafah, the prime minister’s office said that the war cabinet had decided unanimously that Israel would continue with its military actions in the city to exert pressure on Hamas. The decision, the office said, sought to advance all of Israel’s war aims, including freeing hostages.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that the proposal Hamas was willing to accept included three phases, of 42 days each, and stressed that its main goal was a permanent cease-fire.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s political wing, first described Hamas’s new position in a post on the group’s Telegram channel at 7:36 p.m. in Israel. His statement came hours after Israel had ordered people in part of Rafah, the southernmost city in Rafah, to evacuate before a promised offensive there, and a day after Hamas fired rockets near the Kerem Shalom crossing in the border region between Israel and southern Gaza, killing four soldiers.

Mr. Haniyeh said he had told the Qatari prime minister and the chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service that Hamas had accepted “their proposal.” There was no immediate comment from Egypt.

Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesman, confirmed that Hamas had “issued a response” and that the United States was reviewing it with partners in the region.

Hamas negotiators had left Cairo on Sunday after talks hit an impasse and they failed to reach an agreement with mediators on Israel’s most recent offer.

The main stumbling block in the indirect negotiations mediated by Qatar and Egypt has been the length of the cease-fire. Hamas has demanded a permanent cease-fire, which would in effect end the seven-month war, while Israel wants a temporary halt in fighting that would allow for the exchange of hostages held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners.

Mr. al-Hayya, who has been leading Hamas delegations at in-person talks in Cairo, said the new offer also included a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the return of displaced people to their homes and a “real and serious” swap of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

In its most recent proposal, Israel made some concessions, including agreeing to the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza and reducing the number of hostages it would accept being freed in the initial phase of an agreement.

The Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said at a news briefing on Monday evening: “We examine each response and reply in a very serious matter, and maximize every opportunity in the negotiations to secure the release of the hostages as a core mission.” But he said that at the same time, Israeli forces would “continue operating” in Gaza.

The Israeli military ordered the evacuation of over 100,000 Palestinians from parts of Rafah on Monday morning. Israeli leaders have vowed for months to invade the city in order to root out Hamas forces there, prompting international concern for the safety of the 1.4 million people sheltering there.

Michael Crowley and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

Here is a timeline of the recent twists and turns in the cease-fire talks.

Within the course of mere days, hopes for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip have been raised, dashed and raised again, with no clear explanation.

The confusion was perhaps never more evident than on Monday, when Hamas claimed to have accepted the terms of a truce deal even as Israel — a week after making concessions in the hope of an agreement — was ordering civilians in the southern Gazan city of Rafah to evacuate and escalating its airstrikes there.

Here is a look at the recent dizzying turn of events.

Monday, April 29

Israeli officials, offering a hint of hope for a deal, said that their negotiators had reduced the number of hostages they wanted Hamas to release during the first phase of a truce.

Thursday, May 2

A Hamas leader said that the group would soon send a delegation to Cairo to “complete ongoing discussions” on a cease-fire deal.

Saturday, May 4

With talks underway, a senior Hamas official said in a text message that the group’s representatives had arrived in Cairo for the talks, “with great positivity” toward the latest proposal.

Sunday, May 5

The talks — which are held indirectly, through mediators — hit an impasse, and Hamas said its delegation had left Cairo. An Israeli official described the negotiations as in “crisis.”

Late in the day, Hamas launched rockets at a border crossing between Gaza and Israel, killing four Israeli soldiers. Israel stepped up its attacks in Gaza.

Monday, May 6

Hamas said it accepted the terms of a cease-fire — not as laid out in Israel’s proposal, but drawn from one put forth by Egypt and Qatar.

The timing appeared noteworthy. The announcement was made after Israel had ordered people to evacuate from some areas in Rafah, a sign that Israeli forces might be close to launching a long-anticipated invasion of the refugee-packed city. Late in the day, the Israeli military said it was carrying out “targeted strikes” on in eastern Rafah.

The strikes may prove to be an attempt to turn up the pressure on Hamas negotiators. Late in the day, in keeping with a week of contradictory signals, the Israeli prime minister’s office said that Hamas’s latest cease-fire proposal was unsatisfactory.

Then it said would send a working-level delegation back to the talks in Cairo anyway.

The Israeli military orders civilians to evacuate eastern Rafah as airstrikes escalate.

Israeli warplanes pounded targets in the southern Gaza city of Rafah on Monday as its military told about 110,000 people sheltering there to leave, heightening fears among Palestinians that Israel was inching closer to invading the city in defiance of international pressure.

On Monday night, the Israeli military said it was “conducting targeted strikes against Hamas terror targets in eastern Rafah.”

Earlier in the day, the military had dropped leaflets in eastern Rafah ordering people to evacuate temporarily to what it described as a humanitarian zone, and said it would also notify people by text messages, phone calls and broadcasts in Arabic.

An Israeli military spokesman would not say if or when troops would enter the city, but described the evacuation as “part of plans to dismantle Hamas” and to bring back hostages taken on Oct. 7.

Thousands of people were leaving the city, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, which said on Monday that there had been “escalating Israeli airstrikes” in areas east of Rafah. The extent of any casualties was not immediately clear.

Israel’s closest allies, including the United States, have been urging it not to mount a large ground operation in Rafah, saying it would take a heavy toll on civilians, more than a million of whom have crammed into the city to escape fighting elsewhere. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected those calls, saying Israel needs to defend itself and eliminate Hamas, which attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

Hours after the evacuation order, President Biden spoke by phone with Mr. Netanyahu and “reiterated his clear position on Rafah,” according to a White House statement.


The order came a day after officials said that months of talks over a cease-fire and the release of hostages had hit an impasse, with Israel and Hamas still sharply at odds over the duration of any truce. Hamas wants a permanent cease-fire while Mr. Netanyahu has expressed openness to only a temporary halt in the fighting and has said Israel would invade Rafah with or without an agreement.

Salama Marouf, the head of the Hamas-run Gaza government media office, said in a statement on Monday that the evacuation order showed that Israel “went into truce negotiations deceptively without abandoning the idea of ​​a broad aggression against Rafah.” He said the announcement was “a real test of the seriousness” of the countries that had warned against an invasion of the city.

On Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu repeated his promises to destroy Hamas, vowing in English, in a speech marking Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, that Israel “will defeat our genocidal enemies.”

The Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Nadav Shoshani, said that a rocket attack on Sunday by the armed wing of Hamas, which killed four Israeli soldiers near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, was a “violent reminder” of the group’s presence in Rafah. The attack came from an area near the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt and prompted Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s far-right national security minister, to post on social media: “Netanyahu, go to Rafah now!”

About two weeks ago, the Israeli authorities said that before they moved on Rafah, they would expand a humanitarian zone in nearby Al-Mawasi where civilians could shelter. On Monday, the Israeli military said that it had done so, and that the zone had field hospitals, tents and larger supplies of food, water and medicines.

The military is not calling for a “wide-scale evacuation of Rafah,” Lt. Col. Shoshani told reporters on Monday. “This is a very specific scoped operation at the moment to move people out of harm’s way.”

Israel has told civilians in many parts of Gaza to evacuate from their homes since the start of the war, but many of the places Israel said would be safe for Gazans were also hit by airstrikes. And previous Israeli evacuation orders offer no clear clues about when a ground operation in Rafah might start.

Israel began instructing civilians to leave northern Gaza and move south for their own safety around two weeks before its invasion began on Oct. 27. Then, in December, Israel urged civilians in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, to move just days before launching an invasion of that city.

In both cases, civilians reported that obeying the orders was fraught with peril, leaving them with agonizing decisions and often no safe options. Northern Gaza was under heavy bombardment in the weeks before the invasion, while people in Khan Younis said that the evacuation orders were inadequately communicated and sometimes left them with just hours to escape.

UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees, said on Monday that it would not evacuate its staff from Rafah and would continue to provide humanitarian aid to those who have taken refuge there.

“An Israeli military offensive will lead to an additional layer of an already unbearable tragedy for the people in Gaza,” Philippe Lazzarini, the agency’s commissioner general, said on social media.

Isabel Kershner, Myra Noveck and Liam Stack contributed reporting.

With talks uncertain and a Rafah attack looming, Netanyahu tilts at an elusive victory.

With negotiations for a hostage release and cease-fire facing new uncertainty, and Israel’s military calling on Monday for tens of thousands of Palestinians to evacuate part of Rafah, Hamas’s last bastion in southern Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has made a risky gambit. He seems to have opted for an invasion of the city, ignoring the urgings of international allies, in what many Israelis view as a bid for his political survival.

To move into Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have taken refuge in recent months, would be to defy warnings of the inevitable suffering it would cause the civilian population. The Biden administration has urged restraint.

But analysts say it would also be a necessary step toward the total victory over Hamas that Mr. Netanyahu has pledged — however elusive that may prove — and would mollify the hard-liners in the government coalition that keeps him in power.

Critics had accused Mr. Netanyahu of scuttling the latest round of hostage talks, which appeared to have stalled over the weekend. The two sides were mainly stuck over Hamas’s demand that Israel commit to a permanent cease-fire as part of any deal, according to Israeli and Hamas officials, and over Mr. Netanyahu’s insistence on a Rafah invasion and willingness to commit to only a temporary pause in the seven-month war.

Negotiators were hoping to make some progress by allowing for a degree of ambiguity, at least in the early stages of a phased deal. But Mr. Netanyahu made it patently clear over the weekend, in a series of statements, that he was not willing to give up on Rafah or commit to an end to the war, and on Monday, when Hamas said it would agree to a plan set out by Egypt and Qatar, Israeli forces stepped up their strikes on the city.

One Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on Sunday that Mr. Netanyahu’s statements about Rafah and the continuation of the war had compelled Hamas to harden its demands. At the same time, a Hamas rocket attack launched from near the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Sunday, which killed four soldiers in Israel, showed that Hamas was still capable of mounting damaging attacks from its last redoubt.

Pushing back against the accusations, Mr. Netanyahu’s office issued a statement on Monday calling the claims that he, and not Hamas, had torpedoed the deal “an absolute lie and willful deception of the public.”

On the contrary, the statement said, Hamas had not “moved a millimeter from its extreme demands, which no Israeli government could accept.”

By Monday evening, when Hamas announced that there was a truce plan it could agree to, Israeli analysts were crediting the military’s moves in Rafah with having pressured Hamas into seeking a deal.

But the meaning of going into Rafah is also open to interpretation. The Israeli military portrayed Monday’s call for a “temporary” evacuation of eastern Rafah as “limited in scope,” suggesting that it is not a precursor to an imminent invasion of the whole city.

That raised questions about Israel’s ability to destroy the last four Hamas battalions that it says are in Rafah and must be defeated.

Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul-general in New York, said of Mr. Netanyahu after seven months of war: “He’s out of options.”

“We are not going to see Hamas raise a white flag,” Mr. Pinkas said. Yet Mr. Netanyahu, he added, “has turned Rafah into some kind of Stalingrad.”

Adam Rasgon contributed reporting.

Hamas’s announcement adds to the uncertainty of the cease-fire talks

The announcement by Hamas on Monday that it had accepted terms of a cease-fire added to the uncertainty that began over the weekend, when officials said that the armed group and Israel had reached an impasse after months of talks.

As if to underscore that the fighting would continue, Hamas militants on Sunday launched rockets from Rafah, their last stronghold in Gaza, killing four Israeli soldiers.

The following morning, Israel ordered people to evacuate from some areas in Rafah, a clear sign the military intended to soon begin a long-anticipated invasion of the crowded city. On Monday night, the Israeli military said it was carrying out “targeted strikes” on what it called “terror targets in eastern Rafah.”

Hours later, Hamas suddenly announced that its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, had accepted a cease-fire proposal based on a plan proffered by Egypt and Qatar, which have been mediating the negotiations with Israel. The terms Hamas had agreed to were not immediately clear, but a senior Israeli official quickly said that the terms were not those that Israel had agreed to.

While Israel and its main ally, the United States, said they were reviewing the proposal Hamas had agreed to, the public statements by the two sides in the war suggest that they remain far apart on key issues needed to reach a truce. Here is a look at those differences.

Hamas wants a permanent cease-fire. Israel wants a temporary truce.

The two sides are stuck on a fundamental question: will this cease-fire be a temporary pause to allow an exchange of hostages for prisoners or a long-term end to the fighting that would leave Hamas in power?

Israel insists on a temporary cease-fire, saying it will keep fighting afterward with the eventual aim of toppling Hamas’s rule in Gaza. Hamas demands a permanent cease-fire and vows to remain in power there.

In November, the two sides agreed to a weeklong truce during which 105 hostages were exchanged for 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. But Hamas has conditioned the release of any more hostages on an Israeli commitment to ending the war. (There are about 100 hostages believed to still be alive, and Hamas is also holding the remains of another 30 or so who have died, using their return for burial as another bargaining chip.)

To solve this problem, mediators have come up with a three-stage cease-fire. During the first phase, up to 33 of the remaining hostages would be freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. More would be released during the second phase, during which Israel would release more prisoners and commit to a sustained end to the fighting, officials familiar with the talks said.

But Israeli leaders have also vowed to conduct a major military operation in Rafah against Hamas’s forces they believe to be fortified there. Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel will invade Rafah with or without a cease-fire deal.

Hamas wants Israel to withdraw all its forces, but Israel says it must maintain control of security in Gaza.

Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza after previous conflicts with Hamas in 2014 and 2009, but this time, Israeli leaders say it’s not so simple.

During the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, Palestinian gunmen overwhelmed communities and military bases near Gaza, killing an estimated 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

Israeli leaders have pledged to do whatever it takes to ensure such an assault can never happen again, and they say that means maintaining the Israeli military’s freedom to operate in Gaza.

Israeli forces have also demolished many buildings inside Gaza’s border area to create a buffer zone with Israel, prompting international criticism.

In public, at least, Hamas has rejected a long-term Israeli military presence in the Palestinian enclave, including a buffer zone. In March, a senior Hamas official, Ghazi Hamad, said the group was willing to accept a phased Israeli retreat as part of a prospective cease-fire deal, as long as Israel committed to ultimately withdrawing entirely from the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Netanyahu’s political calculations complicate his government’s ability to reach an agreement.

Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly said he is committed to bringing home the hostages held in Gaza, but his political survival depends on far-right allies in his governing coalition who oppose the current proposed deal.

Two of those allies — the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, and the national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir — have denounced the proposed agreement, saying it amounts to a Hamas victory. They have called for Israeli forces to immediately begin a ground operation in Rafah.

Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition holds 64 seats out of 120 in Israel’s parliament, meaning any defections could endanger his premiership and pave the way for elections.

Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s parliamentary opposition, has said he would back Mr. Netanyahu in order to pass a deal that brings hostages home to Israel. But that would leave Mr. Netanyahu totally dependent on some of his harshest critics in the opposition — a political alliance unlikely to last long.

Fears, and prices, soar in Rafah after Israel’s evacuation order.

A sense of panic coursed through Rafah, in southern Gaza, on Monday after Israel issued an evacuation order for parts of the city, which has become home to more than a million Palestinians seeking refuge from seven months of war.

People dismantled their tents in the pouring rain. Prices for fuel and food skyrocketed. And some weighed the potential risk of staying against the dangers of travel through a war zone.

“If we have to leave, we will be entering the unknown,” said Nidal Kuhail, 29, a resident of Gaza City who has been sheltering in Rafah with his family. “Are we going to have a place to go? Are we going to be able to find a place to set up the tent?”

His tent is in a part of Rafah that is not covered by the evacuation order, but his family was still overcome with anxiety and divided over what to do next.

“Some are saying, ‘Let’s get out of here early,’ and others are saying, ‘Let’s wait a bit,’” said Mr. Kuhail, who worked as a manager at a Thai restaurant in Gaza City before the war.

Field workers for UNRWA, the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees, estimated on Monday that around 200 people an hour were fleeing the evacuation zone through the main exit routes, said Sam Rose, the aid agency’s director of planning, who has spent the past two weeks in Gaza.

The atmosphere in Rafah was hopeful over the weekend, when reports of progress in cease-fire talks emerged, Mr. Rose said. But that optimism was transformed into ubiquitous fear and anxiety after Israel issued its evacuation order for the eastern parts of the city, indicating that it may move ahead with a planned ground invasion as it tries to dismantle Hamas in Gaza.

Many in Rafah said they knew they had to go, but did not know how to manage it.

Mousa Ramadan al-Bahabsa, 55, was sheltering with his 11 children inside a tent he erected at a U.N. school near al-Najma Square in Rafah. They have moved three times since the start of the war in October, he said.

After the evacuation order was issued, he said, people living at the school just looked at one another in shock. Then many began to pack up their things. But he did not have enough money to leave.

“All the people around me are evacuating,” said Mr. al-Bahabsa, who said the war had left him penniless. “I do not know where to go or who to ask for help.”

Leaving Rafah is expensive, Palestinians interviewed there said on Monday. Even though the Israeli military is telling people to move to an area that is less than 10 miles away, taking a taxi out of town would cost more than $260, and leaving on a smaller auto rickshaw would cost half that. A donkey-drawn cart would cost around $13, but even that is too expensive for many people.

The order also led to a spike in prices, Palestinians in Rafah said. The cost of fuel jumped to $12 a liter from $8, as did the cost of basic foodstuffs like sugar, which rose to $10 per kilogram from $3, they said.

“I do not even have 1 shekel,” Mr. al-Bahabsa said, referring to the currency used in Israel and Gaza. “I already lost my house, but I do not want to lose any of my children.”

Across town, Malak Barbakh, 38, was trying to gather her eight children as her husband packed their belongings. But her elder son had run off somewhere, she said, after telling them he did not want to leave Rafah after sheltering there for so long.

“What scares me most is the unknown,” Ms. Barbakh said. “I am so fed up with this nasty life.”

To make things easier, she said, the family planned to return to their house in the city of Khan Younis, even though they know it is gone.

“I hope we can build our tent over the rubble of our house,” she said.

The evacuation order came as a shock to Mahmoud Mohammed al-Burdeiny, 26. He said he thought Israel had been using the idea of a Rafah invasion only as a bluff to get a better deal from Hamas in cease-fire talks.

That meant he had made no plan to leave his house in southeastern Rafah. But now he felt the danger was real, and he had spent the morning watching neighbors flee.

“I saw the long road by the beach full of trucks, vans and cars,” said Mr. al-Burdeiny, who worked as a taxi driver before the war. He said the sight made him feel “infected with the disease of leaving, like the others.”

So Mr. al-Burdeiny and his wife began to pack their belongings and plan for the worst. They could take the doors of their house with them to use as shelter, they realized. And they could take apart their furniture to use as firewood, too.

Otherwise, Mr. al-Burdeiny feared, it would all end up looted or buried beneath the rubble of an airstrike.

“I do not want to see what happened to the people in Gaza City and in the north happen again in Rafah,” he said. “I am really so worried about my whole family.”

In a defiant speech, Netanyahu asserts Israel’s right to fight its enemies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday rejected international pressure to rein in its military campaign in Gaza and, speaking at a Holocaust memorial, asserted Israel’s right to fight its “genocidal enemies.”

Nearly seven months into the war, Mr. Netanyahu has been steadfast in his goal of destroying Hamas. This, and Mr. Netanyahu’s insistence on sending troops into Rafah, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip, has complicated efforts to end the fighting and raised concerns about the future of the hostages held by Hamas.

But Mr. Netanyahu has remained defiant.

On Sunday, he spoke at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, to mark the national Holocaust remembrance day. Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, he said, was not a “Holocaust” — not because Hamas did not have the intention to destroy Israel but because of its inability to do so. About 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 were taken hostage that day, Israeli authorities say. Hamas’s intention, Mr. Netanyahu said, was the same as that of the Nazis.

In his speech, which lasted for about 15 minutes and was largely in Hebrew, Mr. Netanyahu rejected accusations that Israel was committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the war, Gazan authorities say Israeli troops have killed more than 34,000 people, many of them women and children, though the statistics do not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel’s military does everything it can to avoid harming civilians and that it has allowed aid to flow through to Gaza to avoid a humanitarian crisis. A United Nations official recently said that parts of Gaza are experiencing “full-blown famine.”

Mr. Netanyahu made a point to say a few words in English that were aimed at the international community. He invoked the Holocaust in asserting Israel’s right to defend itself, with or without international support.

“If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone,” he said. “But we know we are not alone because countless decent people around the world support our just cause. And I say to you, we will defeat our genocidal enemies. Never again is now!”

On Monday morning after his speech, the Israeli military gave the strongest signal yet that it was going to invade Rafah as it asked tens of thousands of Gazans to evacuate from the city.

Houthi attacks are forcing more global shipping delays, Maersk says.

Global shipping lines have become increasingly strained as the Houthi militia in Yemen broadens its attacks on cargo vessels, one of the largest companies in the industry warned on Monday.

“The risk zone has expanded,” Maersk, the second-largest ocean carrier, said in a note to customers, adding that the stress was causing further delays and higher costs.

Since late last year, the Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea, which cargo vessels from Asia have to travel through to reach the Suez Canal. This has forced ocean carriers to avoid the sea and take a much longer route to Europe around the southern tip of Africa. But in recent weeks, the Houthis have been trying to strike ships making that longer journey in the Indian Ocean.

Because going around Africa takes longer, shipping companies have had to add more vessels to ensure that they can transport goods on time and without cutting volumes.

The threat to vessels in the Indian Ocean has only added to the difficulties. “This has forced our vessels to lengthen their journey further, resulting in additional time and costs to get your cargo to its destination for the time being,” Maersk said.

The company estimated that putting extra ships and equipment onto the Asia-to-Europe route would result in a 15 percent to 20 percent drop in industrywide capacity in the three months through the end of June.

That said, shipping companies have plenty of capacity available because they have ordered many new ships in recent years.

Maersk said on Monday that customers should expect higher surcharges on shipping invoices as a result of the higher costs borne by the shipping line, which include a 40 percent increase in fuel use per journey.

The cost of shipping a container from Asia to a northern European port was $3,550 last week, according to Freightos, a digital shipping marketplace, down from a recent high of $5,492 in January and well below rates that climbed above $14,000 when global shipping became snarled during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, have said their attacks are in response to Israel’s war in Gaza.

Biden warns Netanyahu against an offensive in Rafah.

President Biden on Monday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel against a large military offensive in southern Gaza, just hours before the Israeli government voted to move forward with the long-threatened assault.

Mr. Biden had previously told Mr. Netanyahu that the United States did not support a ground invasion of Rafah, where more than one million Palestinians are sheltering, calling it a “mistake.” White House officials said the president maintained his position in a call with the prime minister on Monday.

“The president doesn’t want to see operations in Rafah that put at greater risk the more than a million people that are seeking refuge there,” said John F. Kirby, a White House National Security Council spokesman.

Mr. Kirby said that Mr. Biden asked Mr. Netanyahu about the plans to keep people in Rafah safe, and that the United States was questioning Israel about its intentions.

“Are we curious about the timing and the intent and where they’re going? Yes, absolutely,” Mr. Kirby said. “And the president expressed our curiosity about that on the call today.”

Shortly after the call, Hamas announced that it had accepted a deal proposed by Qatar and Egypt. But even as negotiations continued, Israel announced that it had conducted targeted strikes against Hamas in Rafah, and its war cabinet voted unanimously to move forward with the ground offensive there.

Mr. Biden has been pressing for a cease-fire deal before Israel can begin its assault on Rafah, an operation that he and his advisers fear could thwart any short-term chances for peace. But Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly rebuffed Mr. Biden’s warnings, and in an address on Sunday he reiterated his vow to protect Israel against its “genocidal enemies.”

Also Monday, Mr. Biden met at the White House with King Abdullah II of Jordan, a key Middle East ally who has been a forceful voice in the global push for a cease-fire in Gaza. The meeting was described by White House officials as a private meeting, rather than an official state visit.

When the two leaders met earlier this year, they were united in denouncing the Rafah invasion. At a joint news conference in February, Mr. Biden said Israel should not proceed with a major ground offensive in Rafah without a “credible plan.” King Abdullah said an Israeli invasion of Rafah was “certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe” and demanded an immediate cease-fire.

On Monday, the Israeli military began warning more than 100,000 people in eastern Rafah to evacuate as Mr. Netanyahu vowed to move forward with the invasion in order to defeat Hamas, which killed more than 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages in its Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Since the beginning of the war, according to Gazan authorities, Israel’s bombardment and ground invasion have killed more than 34,000 people, many of them women and children, although the statistics do not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

On Sunday, King Abdullah’s wife, Queen Rania, described “outrage” in Jordan, where much of the population is ethnically Palestinian, and frustrations throughout the Arab world over Washington’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Queen Rania said that Jordan saw the United States as an “enabler” of Israel’s war tactics and that Washington was sending “mixed messages” about the limits of international and humanitarian law.

“So, the next time a country breaks rules, you know, and the U.S. comes and tries to apply moral authority, those countries are going to say, Well, you made an exception here,” she said. “So why apply to us?”

In response to the criticism, Mr. Kirby said that “two things can be true at once.”

“Israel has a right and a responsibility to defend itself, and we’re going to continue to provide for their security to help them with that,” he said. “And at the same time, they have a right and obligation to be careful about civilian casualties, and getting more humanitarian assistance in, and that’s why we’re working so hard on this hostage deal.”

Media experts condemn Israel’s move against Al Jazeera.

The Israeli government’s decision to shut down Al Jazeera’s operations in that country and block its reports there was condemned by American media and free speech experts as a troubling precedent and further evidence that Israel was engaging in a harsh wartime crackdown on democratic freedoms.

The experts noted that it was rare for a democratic government like Israel’s to close down a foreign news outlet. The government described its move as a national security necessity.

But invoking national security as the basis for barring a news organization from operating in a country is “incredibly vague” and “way outside the bounds of democratic norms,” said Joel Simon, director of the Journalism Protection Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said that closing off a country to information, news and ideas from abroad has long been a hallmark of repressive governments.

“The legitimacy of any democracy turns in part on its citizens having unrestricted access to foreign media,” Mr. Jaffer said.

Some free speech advocates acknowledged that the United States seems to be pulling back from its role as a champion of information freedom. Washington is moving to ban TikTok, the popular social media app with a Chinese parent company, unless it is sold to American investors.

But Israel, they said, is a different case. Shutting down Al Jazeera is the latest step in “a broad attack on press and speech freedom” by the Israeli government, said Genevieve Lakier, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who writes about freedom of speech. Israel’s actions, she added, are “inconsistent with a commitment to democratic values.”

Carlos Martinez de la Serna, program director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement that Israel’s move “sets an extremely alarming precedent for restricting international media outlets working in Israel.” He called on the Israeli government to reverse course and “allow Al Jazeera and all international media outlets to operate freely in Israel, especially during wartime.”

But there are concerns that Israel may go in the other direction. “Is Al Jazeera a test case?” asked Seth Stern, director of advocacy at the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Will Israel start going after other news outlets that are not to the government’s liking?”

Where 3 Dead Tourists Were Found Fast, Thousands Remain Missing

When two Australian brothers drove down to Mexico’s northwest coast from San Diego last week with their American friend, they were looking to catch the crisp waves that make Baja California a popular destination among travelers from across the world.

But soon after arriving to the Mexican city of Ensenada, Callum Robinson’s Instagram posts of his surf adventure ceased. The group stopped answering calls and texts.

He and his brother Jake never showed up at an Airbnb they had booked, their mother said in a social media post, pleading for help from anyone who had seen her two sons.

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Assaults on German Politicians Raise Election-Year Worries

A spate of attacks on German officials and politicians has brought fresh worries over political violence and a breakdown of civility ahead of several critical elections this year, including in three states where the far-right Alternative for Germany party could make significant gains.

In the latest attack, on Friday evening, four people assaulted a prominent Social Democratic politician who was hanging campaign posters in Dresden, leaving him with a broken cheekbone and eye socket that required emergency surgery.

The official, Matthias Ecke, is running for re-election to the European Parliament.

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5 Dead After Inhaling Hazardous Gas at a Water Plant in Sicily

Five workers died on Monday afternoon while working in a sewer connected to a water treatment plant in the town of Casteldaccia near Palermo, Sicily, according to firefighters who recovered the bodies. A sixth worker was seriously injured and in intensive care, local officials said.

Girolamo Bentivoglio, chief of firefighters in Palermo, said the workers had breathed in hydrogen sulfide, a gas often present at waste treatment plants that is toxic in high concentrations. Levels were so high at the site where the workers were killed, “that fatality is immediate,” Mr. Bentivoglio said in a televised interview on RaiNews24, the national broadcaster’s news channel.

The accident raised a new round of outrage over the incidence of workplace deaths in Italy. In April, seven workers were killed in an explosion in a hydroelectric plant near Bologna, while five died in Florence during the construction of a supermarket in February.

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Inquiry Into Johannesburg Fire Blames City Officials for Deadly Conditions

An inquiry into a deadly fire in Johannesburg last August that killed 76 people and exposed a housing crisis in South Africa’s largest city placed the blame on officials who ignored “ringing alarm bells” for years.

The eight-month inquiry, led by a retired constitutional court justice, released its findings in a report on Sunday. The report said that years of inaction by city agencies had allowed the building to fall into lethal disrepair, and singled out a high-ranking official for blame.

“The consequences of the fire would have been mitigated had the city complied with its legal obligations as owner and municipality,” the report said.

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Meet the Candidate Challenging Venezuela’s Authoritarian President

Genevieve Glatsky and

Genevieve Glatsky reported from Bogotá, Colombia, and Isayen Herrera from Caracas, Venezuela.

Leer en español

The day Edmundo González was plucked from obscurity and chosen to take on South America’s longest ruling authoritarian leader, technicians were busy making sure his home was not wiretapped.

“This was not in our plans,” his wife, Mercedes López de González, said in an interview that day in April in their apartment in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

Not long ago, Mr. González, 74, was a retired diplomat and grandfather of four with no political aspirations. He kept busy writing academic papers, speaking at conferences and taking his grandchildren to haircuts and music lessons. Few in his native Venezuela knew his name.

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3 Bodies Found in Baja California Are Identified as Missing Tourists’

Three bodies that were found in the Mexican state of Baja California last week have been identified as those of three tourists from Australia and the United States who had disappeared days earlier, the Mexican authorities said on Sunday.

The bodies were confirmed to be those of Callum and Jake Robinson, two brothers from Perth, Australia, and Jack Carter Rhoad of San Diego, the Baja California attorney general’s office said in a statement. “The confirmation comes after the victims’ families were able to identify them, without the need for genetic testing,” the statement read.

The Robinsons and Mr. Rhoad had been on vacation, surfing and camping along the coast near the Mexican city of Ensenada, when they disappeared on April 27. The Robinsons’ mother said in a social media post on Wednesday that they had never showed up at an Airbnb they had booked in another coastal town.

Early on Friday, the Mexican authorities recovered the three bodies from a 50-foot-deep water hole near La Bocana beach. A fourth, yet unidentified male body, which prosecutors said had no relation to the case, was also found at the bottom of the hole.

Each of the bodies later identified as those of the tourists had a gunshot wound to the head, said María Elena Andrade Ramírez, the state’s attorney general.

Three suspects have been detained in connection with the killings. One has been charged with forced disappearance. Ms. Andrade Ramírez said he tried to rob the Robinson brothers and Mr. Carter of the pickup truck in which they were traveling. When they resisted, she said, he shot them and later disposed of their bodies.

“Unfortunately, they stayed in an inhospitable place where there was no way to call for help,” Ms. Andrade Ramírez said at a news conference on Sunday.

The other two people being detained have been charged with possession of methamphetamine, Ms. Andrade Ramírez said. She said that there might be more arrests, but that there was no indication that any of Mexico’s organized crime gangs had been involved in the killings.

“The hypothesis so far is that they approached with the intent to seize the pickup truck and attacked the victims,” she said.

Ms. Andrade Ramírez said a burned campsite had been discovered in a remote, isolated area south of Ensenada, about four miles from where the bodies were found. A single shell casing and blood stains were found at the site, and the tourists’ pickup truck, also burned, had been abandoned nearby, Ms. Andrade Ramírez said.

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Airline Agrees to Pay $79 Million After Selling Tickets for Canceled Flights

Qantas, Australia’s national airline, said on Monday that it had reached a deal with the country’s consumer watchdog to pay the equivalent of $79 million for selling thousands of tickets to flights that it had already canceled.

The airline said in a statement that the payments, totaling 120 million Australian dollars, would resolve a lawsuit that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed against Qantas over the issue last year. The commission accused the airline of advertising and selling tickets for more than 8,000 canceled flights from May 2021 through July 2022.

The commission said Qantas had known that the flights would never take off, and that tickets remained available for an average of over two weeks after the flights were canceled — in some cases, for as long as 47 days.

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What to Know About Xi Jinping’s Trip to Europe

This week, for the first time in five years, President Xi Jinping of China is visiting Europe, with stops in France, Serbia and Hungary.

Mr. Xi’s trip comes at a time of tensions with many European countries over China’s support for Russia in the face of its war in Ukraine, its trade practices and its apparent espionage activities. The trip will also test Europe’s delicate balancing act between China and the United States.

Mr. Xi hopes to head off a trade war with the European Union as frictions rise over exports of Chinese electric vehicles and diminished market access for European companies in China. Mr. Xi will also encourage President Emmanuel Macron of France to pursue greater autonomy from the United States in a bid to weaken Washington’s global dominance.

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DNA Tests and Stranded Bodies: Ukraine’s Struggle to Name Its Dead

The bodies of the two Ukrainian soldiers lay motionless in a field for months. Around them were bloodstains and their rifles.

The soldiers’ relatives identified their bodies from aerial footage gathered by drone. Though excruciating to watch, it seemed clear: The two men — Pvt. Serhiy Matsiuk and Pvt. Andriy Zaretsky — were dead. Yet more than four months later, the Ukrainian military still lists them as missing, even though subsequent drone footage provided by a fellow soldier weeks later showed them still lying there.

“I want to have his grave, where I can come and cry all this out properly,” said Private Zaretsky’s wife, Anastasia, 31, who has been looking for closure since he was killed in November in the Zaporizhzhia region in Ukraine’s south.

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Noisy, Gaudy and Spiritual: Young Pilgrims Embrace an Ancient Goddess

Chris Buckley and

Chris Buckley, Amy Chang Chien and Lam Yik Fei spent four days walking parts of two pilgrimages in central and southern Taiwan. On the journey, they interviewed around 20 pilgrims.

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In a din of firecrackers, cymbals and horns, a team of devotees carried the shrouded wooden statue of a serene-faced woman, holding her aloft on a brightly decorated litter as they navigated through tens of thousands of onlookers.

As the carriers nudged forward, hundreds of people were lined up ahead of them, kneeling on the road and waiting for the moment when the statue would pass over their heads.

Some wept after it did; many smiled and snapped selfies. “I love Mazu, and Mazu loves me,” the crowd shouted.


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In Western Ukraine, a Community Wrestles With Patriotism or Survival

It was sunset when Maj. Kyrylo Vyshyvany of the Ukrainian Army stepped into the yard of his childhood home in Duliby, a village in western Ukraine, just after his younger brother, also a soldier, had been buried. Their mother was still crying in the living room.

“I can already see that she’ll be coming to visit him every day,” he said that day.

He was right, but he would not be by her side. A few days after the funeral, in March 2022, he was killed in a Russian missile strike on a Ukrainian military base and buried next to his brother, Vasyl.

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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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A Portrait Artist Fit for a King (but Not a President)

Few famous Britons, it seems, can resist the chance to be painted by Jonathan Yeo. David Attenborough, the 97-year-old broadcasting legend, is among those who have recently climbed the spiral stairs to his snug studio, hidden at the end of a lane in West London, to pose for Mr. Yeo, one of Britain’s most recognized portrait artists.

Yet when it came to painting his latest portrait, of King Charles III, the artist had to go to the subject.

Mr. Yeo rented a truck to transport his 7.5-by-5.5-foot canvas to the king’s London residence, Clarence House. There, he erected a platform so he could apply the final brushstrokes to the strikingly contemporary portrait, which depicts a uniformed Charles against an ethereal background.

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A Novelist Who Finds Inspiration in Germany’s Tortured History

She became a writer because her country vanished overnight.

Jenny Erpenbeck, now 57, was 22 in 1989, when the Berlin Wall cracked by accident, then collapsed. She was having a “girls’ evening out,” she said, so she had no idea what had happened until the next morning. When a professor discussed it in class, she said, it became real to her.

The country she knew, the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, remains a crucial setting for most of her striking, precise fiction. Her work, which has grown in acuity and emotional power, combines the complications of German and Soviet history with the lives of her characters, including those of her own family members, whose experiences echo with the past like contrapuntal music.

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

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

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

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

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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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Este es el candidato que desafiará a Nicolás Maduro en Venezuela

En español

Genevieve Glatsky informó desde Bogotá, Colombia, e Isayen Herrera desde Caracas, Venezuela.

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El día en que Edmundo González fue sacado de las sombras y elegido para retar al líder autoritario con mayor tiempo en el poder de Sudamérica, un equipo de técnicos estuvo ocupado asegurándose de que su casa no estuviese intervenida.

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

“Esto no estaba en nuestros planes”, dijo su esposa, Mercedes López de González, en una entrevista concedida ese día en abril en su apartamento en Caracas, la capital de Venezuela.

Hasta hace poco, González, de 74 años, era un diplomático jubilado con cuatro nietos y ninguna aspiración política. Se mantenía ocupado escribiendo ensayos académicos, participando en conferencias y llevando a sus nietos a la barbería y a clases de música. Pocos en su Venezuela natal conocían su nombre.

Hoy, muchos venezolanos han puesto sus esperanzas en él para que le ponga fin a años de un gobierno represivo, ya que se enfrentará al presidente Nicolás Maduro, quien ha ostentado el poder desde 2013, en las elecciones programadas para finales de julio.

De repente, González ha vuelto a tener un trabajo de tiempo completo.

“Dos veces al día debo limpiar el teléfono”, dijo en una breve entrevista. “Borro casi 150 mensajes. Me acuesto a la 1:00 a. m. y a las 4 a. m. ya estoy otra vez atento y trabajando. Nunca me imaginé esto”.

Después de años de elecciones amañadas y persecuciones políticas, la población en Venezuela que anhela un regreso a la democracia había aprendido a esperar decepciones.

Una coalición de partidos de oposición, la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, MUD, había estado haciendo esfuerzos para apoyar a un único candidato que pudiera representar un desafío viable para Maduro, pero su gobierno les puso una serie de obstáculos.

Al final, González emergió como un candidato al que el gobierno no intentaría bloquear y que la oposición apoyaría.

Aceptó el reto, pero tanto amigos como colegas afirman que es un desafío para el que nunca se había preparado.

“Edmundo no es un hombre que haya tenido alguna vez ambiciones políticas”, dijo Phil Gunson, experto sobre Venezuela del International Crisis Group en Caracas y amigo de González. “Es alguien que está haciendo lo que siente es su deber”.

Algunos expertos afirman que su bajo perfil podría dificultar que González coja impulso entre los votantes, sobre todo fuera de Caracas, donde la información llega a través de los medios controlados por el gobierno que muy probablemente no le den mucha cobertura a su campaña.

A diferencia de otros líderes opositores, González no ha criticado abiertamente el gobierno de Maduro y su historial con los derechos humanos, lo que ha generado preocupación entre algunos analistas que afirman que responsabilizar a las autoridades por los abusos es crucial para restaurar el Estado de derecho en el país.

En su casa, el día que ingresó a la tarjeta electoral, González se negó a conversar en detalle sobre las elecciones.

González, el menor de tres hermanos, nació en una familia de recursos modestos en la pequeña ciudad de La Victoria, a unos 80 kilómetros al oeste de Caracas. Su madre era profesora y su padre era un comerciante que lo desanimó de su sueño infantil de ser diplomático, calificándolo de “una profesión para gente rica”, según la hija del candidato, Carolina González.

Firme, González terminaría estudiando relaciones internacionales en la Universidad Central de Venezuela.

Imelda Cisneros, excompañera de clases y vieja amiga, recordó que González era un estudiante dedicado en la universidad. Era una época políticamente tumultuosa en la que una ideología comunista de extrema izquierda se estaba volviendo popular en el campus y las tensiones eran altas.

Pero González se convirtió en un líder estudiantil “con un enfoque muy calmado, de reconciliación”, contó Cisneros.

“Quería ser un diplomático”, añadió Cisneros. “Eso lo tuvo muy claro su objetivo desde que entró”.

Se unió al servicio diplomático poco después de graduarse en 1970, con experiencias en Bélgica, El Salvador y Estados Unidos, donde obtuvo una maestría en relaciones internacionales en la Universidad Americana en Washington.

Posteriormente fue nombrado embajador de Venezuela en Algeria y luego Argentina, donde estaba asignado cuando Hugo Chávez fue elegido presidente en 1999. Chávez terminaría consolidando su poder bajo la bandera de una revolución de inspiración socialista.

González regresó a Venezuela en 2002 y poco después se retiró del servicio diplomático.

En 2008 empezó a participar en la coalición de partidos de oposición llamada Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, asesorando tras bastidores en asuntos de relaciones internacionales.

González se convirtió en el presidente de la junta de directores de la coalición en 2021, afirmó Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, exsecretario ejecutivo de la coalición.

Pero la mayoría de las personas, incluso en los círculos políticos venezolanos, no sabía que González desempeñaba ese papel hasta que se anunció su candidatura presidencial, porque los líderes de la oposición a menudo enfrentan persecución.

Eso hace que, para González, sea una decisión arriesgada estar al centro de atención frente a un gobernante empeñado en retener el poder.

“Estoy nerviosa porque no sabemos si nos pueda pasar algo”, dijo López de González.

Quienes conocen a González afirman que afrontar una campaña presidencial es algo que no asumiría con ligereza.

“Es un hombre sumamente equilibrado, tranquilo, un hombre bastante serio y sobre todo sobrio”, dijo Ramón José Medina, quien fue secretario ejecutivo adjunto de la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática hasta 2014 y ha sido amigo de González durante décadas.

En octubre, Maduro firmó un acuerdo con la oposición para tomar medidas hacia unas elecciones libres y justas, y Estados Unidos levantó temporalmente algunas sanciones económicas severas como un gesto de buena voluntad.

Días después, una exdiputada nacional, María Corina Machado, gano unas elecciones primarias con más del 90 por ciento de los votos, convirtiéndola en una amenaza considerable para Maduro en un enfrentamiento entre ambos.

Desde entonces, el gobierno de Maduro ha puesto obstáculos para impedir que un rival serio llegue a la tarjeta electoral.

En primer lugar, el Tribunal Supremo del país inhabilitó a Machado en enero debido a lo que los jueces afirmaron habían sido irregularidades financieras ocurridas cuando era diputada nacional, una táctica común utilizada para mantener a rivales viables fuera de la tarjeta electoral.

Luego, el mes pasado, el gobierno impidió que una coalición de oposición presentara otra candidata preferida utilizando maniobras electorales técnicas justo antes de la fecha límite de inscripción.

Solo a un político, Manuel Rosales, a quien los analistas políticos consideraban como alguien que había recibido el visto bueno de Maduro, se le permitió inscribirse. Por un momento pareció que el esfuerzo por presentar un candidato unificado había sido derrotado.

Pero, sorpresivamente, la coalición anunció que la autoridad electoral le había concedido una prórroga, lo que allanó el camino para que González entrara de manera oficial en la contienda. Rosales se hizo a un lado y apoyó a González.

La carrera de González como “buscador de consenso” lo ayudó a unir a la oposición, afirmó Gunson.

“Es alguien aceptable para muchas diferentes personas”, añadió. “Y no ofende a nadie”.

Esas cualidades también podrían lograr que sea más probable que el gobierno de Maduro le ceda el poder si gana, dijo Tamara Taraciuk Broner, experta en Venezuela para el Diálogo Interamericano, una organización de investigación en Washington.

Según los expertos, Maduro podría estar dispuesto a aceptar la derrota si se le concediera amnistía por abusos contra los derechos humanos y si a su partido se le diera una participación permanente en el sistema político del país.

En este sentido, González ha sido más conciliador que otros candidatos. Machado ha dicho que Maduro y otras autoridades de su gobierno deben ser responsabilizados penalmente por corrupción y abusos contra los derechos humanos.

González ha dicho en entrevistas que está dispuesto a conversar con el gobierno de Maduro para garantizar una transición de poder sin sobresaltos.

“Su principal desafío será conservar ese equilibrio entre mantener a la oposición alineada detrás de una candidatura unificada y asegurarse de que su candidatura no represente una amenaza insoportable para el régimen”, dijo Taraciuk Broner. “Y esa es una línea muy delgada”.

Una encuesta ya lo muestra derrotando a Maduro, aunque esta también reveló que alrededor de un tercio de los encuestados afirmó que no estaban seguros por quién votarían y cerca de otro 20 por ciento dijo que no lo harían por ningún candidato en la contienda.

Aveledo afirmó que tenía la esperanza de que González pudiera ganar apoyo de más venezolanos en las próximas semanas.

“Por fin alguien que habla con serenidad, con moderación, que piensa en los problemas y las soluciones, que habla sin gritar, sin insultar”, dijo. “Porque el país está muy cansado de conflicto”.

José Raúl Mulino es elegido presidente de Panamá

Los panameños eligieron el domingo a José Raúl Mulino, exministro de Seguridad Pública, como su próximo presidente. Fue la culminación de un ciclo electoral que ha estado envuelto en agitación política.

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Mulino, de 64 años, centró su campaña en el crecimiento del empleo y prometió aumentar el turismo y construir una línea ferroviaria que conectará la capital, Ciudad de Panamá, con el interior del país, lo que crearía puestos de trabajo en construcción. También prometió aumentar la producción agrícola, reducir el costo de los medicamentos y proporcionar acceso gratuito a internet en las escuelas.

Mulino obtuvo el 34 por ciento de los votos con más del 90 por ciento de los sufragios escrutados el domingo, según el Tribunal Electoral del país, que lo declaró vencedor de la contienda a una sola vuelta. Mulino tenía una ventaja de 10 puntos porcentuales sobre su competidor más próximo, Ricardo Lombana, antiguo diplomático. Mulino asumirá el cargo el 1 de julio, sustituyendo al presidente saliente, Laurentino Cortizo.

“Es un honor para mí, para mi familia, para mis amigos, recibir esta llamada”, dijo Mulino en su discurso de victoria en Ciudad de Panamá el domingo por la noche. Su elección, dijo, “implica un enorme peso sobre mis hombros”, añadiendo que prometía hacer todo lo posible por el país.

En un grupo de ocho candidatos, Mulino lideraba las encuestas, prometiendo devolver a Panamá el crecimiento económico que experimentó bajo el mandato de Ricardo Martinelli, quien fue presidente de 2009 a 2014.

Martinelli, a quien sus partidarios conocen como “el Loco”, había sido uno de los principales contendientes hasta que fue inhabilitado por una condena por blanqueo de dinero en 2023. Pero desde la embajada de Nicaragua en Ciudad de Panamá, donde se le otorgó asilo, Martinelli hizo una intensa campaña en favor del Mulino, quien fue su compañero de fórmula y ocupó su lugar en la papeleta electoral.

La campaña del Mulino adoptó el eslogan “el Loco con Mulino”.

Carlos Taylor, camarero de 71 años, dijo que no había tenido tiempo de leer las propuestas de Mulino. Votó por él en una escuela pública de Ciudad de Panamá debido a Martinelli.

“Por el solo hecho de que está acompañado de Martinelli, yo confío en él”, dijo. “Cuando Martinelli fue presidente a todos nos iba mejor”.

Desestimó la condena por blanqueo de dinero de Martinelli, diciendo que otros funcionarios públicos roban pero, a diferencia del expresidente, no son investigados por ello.

“Todos hacen lo suyo”, dijo.

El caos político caracterizó las elecciones, que se celebraron en medio de una frustración generalizada con el gobierno actual y tras unas nutridas protestas del año pasado contra contratos de minería de cobre que, según los manifestantes, eran perjudiciales para el medioambiente.

Los candidatos compitieron por un mandato de cinco años en una votación de una sola vuelta. Panamá no permite a los presidentes en ejercicio presentarse a un segundo mandato consecutivo. Los votantes también eligieron a los representantes de la Asamblea Nacional y de los gobiernos locales.

Panamá ha emergido como una de las economías de más rápido crecimiento del hemisferio occidental gracias a la expansión del canal de Panamá, acuerdos de libre comercio que han atraído a inversores y el uso del dólar como moneda local.

Pero en marzo, la agencia Fitch Ratings rebajó la calificación crediticia de Panamá. Se espera que la producción económica del país crezca solo un 2,5 por ciento este año, frente al 7,5 por ciento de 2023.

Según el Fondo Monetario Internacional, esta desaceleración se debe en gran medida a la decisión de la Corte Suprema de declarar inconstitucional el contrato de extracción de cobre y a la posterior decisión del Gobierno de cerrar la mina. (El Banco Mundial pronostica un crecimiento más rápido a partir del año que viene).

Mulino tendrá que hacer frente a una serie de otros problemas, como la crisis humanitaria que empeora a medida que cientos de miles de migrantes cruzan un camino selvático entre Panamá y Colombia conocido como el Tapón del Darién. Las organizaciones de ayuda han denunciado un alarmante aumento de los asaltos en el lado panameño de la brecha, incluidas violaciones.

El presidente electo ha prometido cerrar el paso y deportar a los migrantes que infrinjan las leyes panameñas. “No voy a permitir que miles de ilegales pasen por nuestro territorio como si nada, sin control”, afirmó.

La preocupación por el agua también fue un tema central de las elecciones. Una reciente sequía provocada por la escasez de lluvias ha reducido los niveles de agua del canal de Panamá, lo que ha provocado que se permita el paso de menos barcos. Mulino prometió suministrar agua potable a las comunidades que carecen de ella.

También prometió abordar el alto déficit que afecta al sistema de pensiones de Panamá y crear nuevos empleos en un país que lucha contra la escasez de mano de obra calificada y un alto número de trabajadores informales.

Al igual que otros candidatos, Mulino evitó tocar temas sociales polémicos y no hizo hincapié en una ideología política concreta en su campaña.

A pesar de la inhabilitación de Martinelli, la campaña de Mulino ha seguido utilizando su imagen en materiales promocionales y se ha apoyado de manera significativa en su legado, el cual incluye una ampliación multimillonaria del canal de Panamá y la inauguración de un sistema de metro en Ciudad de Panamá, la capital.

Mulino calificó el juicio por corrupción de Martinelli, , el cual tuvo como resultado una sentencia de 10 años de prisión, de “juicio armado”, y ha afirmado que él también ha sido un perseguido político.

En 2015, Mulino fue detenido y pasó varios meses en prisión por cargos de malversación vinculados a unos contratos multimillonarios que firmó en 2010 para la compra de radares, cuando era ministro de Seguridad Pública de Martinelli.

Posteriormente, la Corte Suprema de Justicia dictaminó que se habían producido violaciones de procedimiento y confirmó la desestimación de los cargos por parte de un tribunal inferior, aunque mantuvo abierta la posibilidad de que el caso pudiera reabrirse. (El viernes, la Corte Suprema dictaminó que la candidatura de Mulino era legal después de que una impugnación afirmara que no debería participar en la contienda porque no se está presentando con un candidato a vicepresidente como lo exige la constitución del país).

No está claro qué significará la victoria del Mulino para la situación de Martinelli. El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Panamá ha rechazado la petición de Nicaragua de permitir la salida del país de Martinelli.

Mary Triny Zea colaboró con reportería desde Ciudad de Panamá.


La policía de Haití necesita ayuda para combatir a los criminales

En marzo, unas bandas criminales entraron en el vecindario del jefe de la policía haitiana, Frantz Elbé, irrumpieron en su casa, la incendiaron y mataron a su perro.

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Elbé y su familia no estaban en casa en ese momento, y no quiso dar detalles de lo sucedido. Pero el ataque, que fue grabado en video, envió un mensaje escalofriante a las filas de la policía y a los residentes de Puerto Príncipe, la asediada capital del país.

“Simbolizaba que nadie estaba a salvo”, declaró Reginald Delva, consultor de seguridad y exministro del gobierno haitiano.

El incendio de la casa del jefe de la policía aumentó el temor entre los haitianos de que su país está al borde del colapso ante el ataque de una coalición de bandas armadas que se apoderaron de muchas zonas de Puerto Príncipe y amenazan instituciones clave, como el Palacio Nacional.

La policía haitiana, superada en número y armamento, ha conseguido —al menos por ahora— enfrentar a las bandas en algunos combates y defender los pocos edificios gubernamentales que quedan bajo control estatal.

Como resultado, la policía ha pasado de ser una fuerza muy criticada, considerada por muchos analistas como inepta y corrupta, a adquirir un nuevo respeto entre algunos haitianos.

“La policía ha hecho esfuerzos importantes”, afirmó Gédéon Jean, director del Centro de Análisis e Investigación de los Derechos Humanos, con sede en Haití. “Todavía es insuficiente, pero ahora tienen a la población de su lado”.

Según los expertos, la policía se centra en proteger los principales edificios e infraestructuras gubernamentales, haciendo que las zonas residenciales de la capital queden expuestas a los ataques de las bandas, en lo que un funcionario de EE. UU. comparó con una partida de Whac-a-Mole.

Las bandas dominan muchas zonas de Puerto Príncipe y controlan barrios enteros. Han recurrido a la extorsión y al secuestro para financiar sus operaciones y también han exigido tener injerencia en el futuro político de Haití.

La policía ha contribuido a disminuir el dominio que las bandas ejercían sobre el aeropuerto de la capital, permitiendo el aterrizaje de aviones militares. Está previsto que los vuelos comerciales se reanuden este mes por primera vez desde principios de marzo.

Y el miércoles, la policía también le quitó el control de las carreteras de acceso al puerto de Puerto Príncipe a las pandillas, lo que permitió que los barcos atracaran y descargaran.

La ofensiva de las bandas, que comenzó a fines de febrero, sí logró uno de sus objetivos: la destitución del líder de Haití.

Al primer ministro Ariel Henry se le impidió regresar al país de un viaje al extranjero después de que las bandas atacaran el aeropuerto internacional de la capital, y finalmente se vio obligado a dimitir.

Se suponía que la policía de Haití iba a recibir ayuda del extranjero en su campaña para sofocar la anarquía: una fuerza multinacional de 2500 miembros dirigida por Kenia que fue aprobada por las Naciones Unidas y financiada en gran parte por Estados Unidos.

Pero el contingente quedó suspendido porque los dirigentes de Kenia dijeron que estaban esperando a que se instalara un nuevo gobierno haitiano.

Un consejo de transición encargado de aportar estabilidad política a Haití ha tomado el relevo, como parte de un proceso para conformar un nuevo gobierno y allanar el camino para unas elecciones generales.

Haití no ha tenido un líder elegido por una votación democrática desde que su último presidente, Jovenel Möise, fue asesinado hace tres años.

Pero Kenia aún no ha dicho cuándo partirá la fuerza multinacional hacia Haití, por lo que, de momento, la policía del país tendrá que seguir enfrentándose a las bandas por su cuenta.

“Llevan meses rogando por ayuda”, dijo Bill O’Neill, experto de Naciones Unidas en derechos humanos en Haití. “Me sorprende que sigan resistiendo. Es un pequeño milagro”.

La policía cuenta con unos 9000 oficiales activos para una población de 11 millones de habitantes, según cifras del gobierno, aproximadamente un tercio de la dotación recomendada por Naciones Unidas para un país de ese tamaño.

En Puerto Príncipe suelen estar de servicio unos cientos de oficiales, según los expertos, aunque de manera oficial hay unos 2400 asignados a la capital.

Muchos oficiales han muerto, han renunciado o simplemente han abandonado el trabajo, afirmó Elbé, el jefe de la policía. Sin embargo, dijo que un número significativo ha abandonado Haití al amparo de un programa de permiso humanitario o de permanencia temporal de EE. UU. (conocido como parole en inglés) para inmigrantes haitianos presentado el año pasado por el gobierno de Joe Biden.

En el otro bando hay hasta 200 bandas criminales en todo el país, de las cuales unas dos decenas operan en Puerto Príncipe, según los expertos. Estas van desde pequeños grupos de unas pocas decenas de jóvenes que comparten pistolas hasta pandillas de unos 1500 hombres armados con armas automáticas.

Las autoridades estadounidenses afirman que algunas bandas también disponen de rifles de gran calibre que pueden disparar munición capaz de penetrar fortificaciones. También utilizan drones para vigilar a la policía. Las armas de la policía consisten principalmente en rifles y pistolas.

El gobierno de Biden, que ha dado a la policía de Haití alrededor de 200 millones de dólares en ayuda en los últimos años, está gastando otros 10 millones de dólares en capacitación y equipamiento, incluyendo armas, municiones, chalecos antibalas y cascos.

“Les hemos proporcionado material suficiente, diría yo, por el momento, pero cada día cuenta, y ésta es una acción de contención”, declaró en una entrevista Brian A. Nichols, subsecretario de Estado para Asuntos del Hemisferio Occidental. Las autoridades de EE. UU. han insistido repetidamente en la urgencia de contar con la fuerza multinacional sobre el terreno en Haití.

Al mismo tiempo, organizaciones de derechos humanos en Haití afirman que la policía también ha cometido abusos, como detener a personas bajo acusaciones no especificadas o falsas y golpear a los detenidos, según un informe del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU. publicado en abril.

El asalto a la casa del jefe policial se produjo cuando las bandas intensificaron su nivel de violencia: en los tres primeros meses de este año, más de 2500 personas murieron o resultaron heridas en Haití. Además de forzar el cierre del principal aeropuerto del país, las pandillas también cerraron el principal puerto de Haití, bloqueando el transporte marítimo.

Con este sombrío telón de fondo, Elbé, que no suele hacer apariciones públicas, difundió dos videos en los que les aseguraba a los haitianos que sus oficiales estaban haciendo todo lo posible para protegerlos.

“Se han mantenido firmes en la defensa de la población y han evitado que el país se desmorone por completo”, dijo en un video, con un chaleco protector y rodeado de oficiales de élite antibandas.

También hizo un llamado directo a sus compañeros policías. “Les pido que se unan a esta lucha para evitar que el país muera”, dijo.

Sin embargo, algunos oficiales que viven en barrios invadidos por las bandas se han unido a los cientos de miles de haitianos que han huido de sus hogares.

Las bandas criminales han atacado deliberadamente a la policía como muestra de poder y para sembrar el terror, según los expertos.

“Asesinan o mutilan brutalmente los cuerpos de los policías”, afirmó Diego Da Rin, quien supervisa Haití para el International Crisis Group.

El jefe del sindicato de la policía, Lionel Lazarre, declaró: “La policía es víctima, como el resto de la población. La moral no es alta”.

Desde enero, al menos 24 oficiales han muerto y otros 5 han desaparecido tras sufrir emboscadas de bandas criminales, afirmó Elbé. Unos 220 oficiales han dimitido y 170 han abandonado las filas sin dar explicaciones, añadió.

Debido a los enormes retos y riesgos que enfrentan los oficiales, algunos funcionarios de Estados Unidos afirmaron que la institución había mostrado un compromiso y una resistencia notables.

Equipos especializados SWAT y unidades antipandillas han logrado repeler varios ataques contra edificios clave del gobierno en el centro de la ciudad, incluidos los ministerios del Interior y de Justicia y la Corte Suprema, en lo que Elbé describió como “guerra de guerrillas urbanas por bandas fuertemente armadas”. Al menos 22 comisarías de policía de Puerto Príncipe y sus suburbios fueron destruidas en las últimas semanas.

Un equipo de 14 asesores y capacitadores del Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. está integrado en la policía haitiana para prestar apoyo, incluido asesoramiento táctico. Los altos mandos de la policía haitiana también han recibido formación a través del Colegio Interamericano de Defensa de Washington, que forma parte de la Organización de Estados Americanos.

Sin embargo, los expertos advierten que la policía haitiana está en desventaja en su lucha contra las bandas porque carece de una buena capacidad de respuesta y equipos de inteligencia, como vehículos de patrulla blindados, helicópteros o aviones no tripulados, para atacar las bases fortificadas de las bandas criminales.

La fragilidad de la policía preocupa a los expertos, quienes han advertido que no será fácil derrotar a las bandas ni siquiera con la llegada de la misión multinacional respaldada por la ONU.

“El despliegue internacional tendrá que estar específicamente entrenado para ejecutar operaciones en entornos urbanos densos, donde las bandas probablemente también empleen tácticas de guerrilla que aumenten el riesgo para los civiles”, dijo Lewis Galvin, analista principal para las Américas de Janes, la empresa de inteligencia de defensa.

Encuentran cuerpos sin vida en Baja California tras la desaparición de 3 turistas

Una búsqueda de tres turistas desaparecidos cerca de una localidad surfista cercana a la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México terminó trágicamente el viernes cuando las autoridades informaron que habían localizado tres cuerpos en un pozo de agua.

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Dos hermanos australianos Callum y Jake Robinson, y su amigo, Jack Carter Rhoad, un ciudadano estadounidense, habían estado de vacaciones practicando surf y acampando en la costa cercana a la ciudad mexicana de Ensenada cuando desaparecieron el sábado pasado.

Debra Robinson, la madre de los hermanos, dijo en una publicación en las redes sociales el miércoles que sus hijos habían reservado un Airbnb en otro pueblo costero al norte de Ensenada pero nunca llegaron allí.

“Este es un mensaje para cualquiera que haya visto a mis dos hijos. No nos han contactado”, suplicó a los más de 120.000 miembros de una página comunitaria en Facebook creada para personas interesadas en recorrer la península de Baja California en México.

Robinson informó además que Callum padece de diabetes tipo 1.

La fiscal general del estado, María Elena Andrade Ramírez, dijo en una conferencia de prensa el jueves que los fiscales estaban investigando a tres personas relacionadas con el caso, pero que había transcurrido un tiempo crucial desde la desaparición de los tres hombres.

Andrade Ramírez declaró ante los reporteros que la desaparición se había conocido de manera tardía, por lo que, agregó, eso significaba que se había perdido tiempo importante.

En una entrevista, Andrade Ramírez dijo que después de un análisis minucioso de un pozo de agua de 15 metros de profundidad en la playa La Bocana, cerca del pueblo de Santo Tomás, las autoridades mexicanas encontraron tres cuerpos masculinos la madrugada del viernes. Los restos ya descompuestos, añadió, “reunen las caracteristicas para suponer con un alto grado de probabilidad” que se trata de los hermanos Robinson y Rhoad.

Los investigadores realizarán pruebas de ADN para confirmar los hallazgos.

Los fiscales también creen que las tres personas vinculadas con las muertes intentaron apoderarse del vehículo de las víctimas. Cuando se resistieron, dijo Andrade Ramírez, un hombre sacó un arma, disparó y luego trató de deshacerse de sus cuerpos. Esa persona ha sido arrestada.

“Esta agresion al parecer se dio de manera imprevista, de manera circunstancial”, añadió. “Nos comprometemos a que este crimen no va a quedar impune”.

En el mismo lugar también se encontraron restos humanos de un cuarto cuerpo masculino, que aún no ha sido identificado y no está relacionado con este caso.

En 2022, 192 ciudadanos estadounidenses murieron en México, según las cifras del Departamento de Estado, pero la mayoría de esas muertes fueron accidentes o suicidios. Solo 46 se dictaminaron como homicidios.

Las grandes olas de Baja California han atraído durante mucho tiempo a muchos surfistas y viajeros, varios de los cuales han tenido que lidiar con las crecientes tasas de criminalidad durante casi dos décadas.

Pero en los últimos años el estado se ha visto afectado por niveles de violencia sin precedentes. Los datos gubernamentales muestran que Baja California ocupa actualmente el primer lugar en robo de vehículos y el segundo en homicidios, la mayoría de los cuales están relacionados con el tráfico de drogas o el crimen organizado, según declaró este año el secretario de la Defensa Nacional de México, Luis Cresencio Sandoval.

Un funcionario familiarizado con la investigación, quien no estaba autorizado a hablar públicamente, dijo que una camioneta blanca en la que viajaban los turistas desaparecidos había sido encontrada carbonizada cerca de la playa de La Bocana, en Santo Tomás. También se estaban analizando otras pertenencias y pruebas, añadió el funcionario.

El rápido esfuerzo por encontrar a los turistas fue una rara excepción en un país donde casi 100.000 personas siguen desaparecidas, según el último recuento facilitado por las autoridades mexicanas en marzo.

La mayoría de los casos siguen sin resolverse. Los familiares y los voluntarios tienen que seguir por su propia cuenta las pistas, pero la presencia de los cárteles y la falta de apoyo de las autoridades convierten la búsqueda en una misión peligrosa.

Este caso reciente en Ensenada hizo recordar un suceso de 2015 en el que dos surfistas australianos, Adam Coleman y Dean Lucas, fueron asesinados mientras conducían por Sinaloa, otro estado del norte de México. Las autoridades locales arrestaron a tres personas, quienes dijeron que le habían disparado a los dos amigos después de que se habían resistido a un robo. Sus cuerpos fueron encontrados dentro de su camioneta, la cual había sido rociada con gasolina y prendida en fuego.

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega es un investigador reportero del Times en Ciudad de México. Cubre México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

¿Proteger los árboles de la Amazonía puede ser más rentable que la ganadería?

Manuela Andreoni visitó proyectos de restauración y propiedades rurales en el norte del Amazonas para entender cómo están cambiando las economías locales.

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Los habitantes de Maracaçumé, una localidad al borde de la selva amazónica cuya población vive en situación de pobreza, se sienten desconcertados por la empresa que acaba de comprar la mayor hacienda de la región. ¿Cómo puede ganar dinero plantando árboles, que los ejecutivos dicen que nunca talarán, en terrenos donde el ganado ha pastado durante décadas?

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“Estamos acabando con unos pastos que muchos granjeros necesitan”, afirmó Josias Araújo, un antiguo ganadero que ahora trabaja en la reforestación, parado sobre una parcela de tierra que estaba ayudando a abonar. “Es tan extraño”, agregó.

La nueva empresa, que también es el nuevo empleador de Araújo, es un negocio de restauración forestal llamado Re.green. Su objetivo, junto con otras empresas, es crear toda una nueva industria que pueda hacer que los árboles en pie, que almacenan el carbono que calienta al planeta, sean más lucrativos que la mayor causa de deforestación mundial: la ganadería.

Es el santo grial de la economía forestal. Y ahora podría estar al alcance de la mano.

El interés es enorme. Ya desapareció una quinta parte de la gran selva tropical. Y los científicos advierten que el aumento de las temperaturas globales podría hacer que todo el ecosistema, un tesoro de biodiversidad y un regulador crucial del clima mundial, colapse en las próximas décadas, a menos que se detenga la deforestación y se restaure una zona del tamaño de Alemania.

Re.green planea restaurar árboles endémicos en áreas deforestadas y vender créditos que corresponden al carbono que captan. Esos árboles se conservarán, no se talarán. Luego, las empresas utilizarán esos créditos para compensar sus propios gases de efecto invernadero en el recuento de emisiones.

Lo que está en juego depende del éxito de un sistema que se está construyendo desde cero y que implica desafíos enormes. Medir el carbono que contienen los árboles y el suelo es complejo. Además, a muchos conservacionistas les preocupa que las empresas puedan abusar de los créditos de carbono para aparentar conciencia ecológica sin renunciar a los combustibles fósiles.

A pesar de eso, los proyectos de reforestación han creado un gran revuelo en el norte de la Amazonía, donde las empresas se apresuran a comprar grandes parcelas de tierra con potencial de restauración.

“Ustedes saben que a quienes crían ganado no les importa mucho esto de la reforestación”, comentó Anderson Pina Farias, un ganadero cuya finca está deforestada casi en su totalidad. Pero, añadió, “si vender carbono es mejor que la ganadería, podemos cambiar de negocio”.

Una reacción adversa de la naturaleza parece estar ayudando a las empresas de restauración a ganarse los corazones y las mentes en una región donde la cultura ganadera está muy arraigada.

Jose Villeigagnon Rabelo, alcalde de Mãe do Rio, ciudad del noreste de la Amazonía, está preocupado. Una sequía brutal provocada por el cambio climático y la deforestación secó recientemente buena parte de los pastizales que los ganaderos usaban como alimento. Y, tras décadas de pisoteo de los animales, millones de hectáreas en toda la región se han degradado tanto que no sirven para cultivar casi nada.

“El ganado se está muriendo de hambre”, declaró Rabelo sentado en su oficina, recubierta de madera y con bancos de ‘Dinizia excelsa’, también conocido como angelim vermelha, un árbol que ahora es difícil de encontrar en la región. “Nunca habíamos tenido un verano así”.

La crisis ha hecho que los ganaderos tengan que dedicar partes cada vez mayores de sus fincas a alimentar a un número cada vez menor de reses. En la actualidad, menos de la mitad de las haciendas registradas en la ciudad tienen ganado.

Pero, hace más o menos un año, una empresa de restauración llamada Mombak inició un proyecto que abarca 3035 hectáreas en uno de los ranchos ganaderos más grandes de la región. Rabelo confía en que la nueva industria sea un salvavidas para la comunidad.

La idea es sencilla: la venta de un crédito, por cada tonelada de carbón que los árboles absorban de la atmósfera, para las empresas que quieran compensar la contaminación que producen.

Según los expertos, los trastornos medioambientales, combinados con el interés cada vez mayor por los créditos de carbono, han creado una oportunidad para desafiar el dominio del imperio de la carne de res sobre vastas extensiones de selva tropical. Según un informe de 2023 de BloombergNEF, los mercados de carbono podrían alcanzar un valor de un billón de dólares en 2037, el doble de lo que vale en este momento el mercado mundial de la carne de res.

Cultivar un bosque grande y biodiverso en terrenos degradados puede costar decenas de millones de dólares. Durante años, los proyectos de reforestación forestal habían tenido que depender de varias fuentes de ingresos, incluida la tala sostenible de madera, para restaurar el suelo y cultivar distintos tipos de árboles endémicos.

Sin embargo, las empresas que quieren mejorar sus credenciales climáticas están cada vez más dispuestas a invertir más recursos para financiar proyectos que consideran de alta calidad. Por eso, empresas como Mombak y Re.green están desarrollando un modelo de negocio que se basa casi exclusivamente en créditos de carbono, con poca o ninguna tala.

Parte de la estrategia de empresas como Mombak y Re.green es ayudar a los agricultores a mejorar la tierra e intensificar la ganadería en algunas zonas degradadas, al tiempo que restauran los bosques en otras. En promedio, las fincas amazónicas mantienen un animal por cada 0,80 hectáreas. Los investigadores afirman que esta cifra podría aumentar a tres animales con poca inversión.

La mayoría de los proyectos emplean a decenas de lugareños para que planten los árboles, fertilicen la tierra y estén atentos a incendios. Las empresas también financian y capacitan a empresas locales para que proporcionen las semillas y plántulas autóctonas que tanto necesitan.

En algunos proyectos, a medida que crecen los bosques, las comunidades locales también pueden ganarse la vida recolectando y procesando nueces de Brasil, aceite de andiroba y otros productos forestales que pueden vender a empresas de alimentos, belleza y farmacéuticas.

Cuando un bosque se convierte en una respuesta a las diversas necesidades de la gente, se vuelve una poderosa razón para que las comunidades lo protejan, afirmó Luiza Maia de Castro, economista que gestiona las relaciones comunitarias de Re.green. En este momento, la tala de árboles es un medio de subsistencia aceptable en la mayor parte de la Amazonía.

“Para romper ese ciclo”, dijo, “tienes que cambiar la manera en la que la gente se gana el sustento”.

Estas iniciativas siguen enfrentando retos enormes. El suministro de semillas de árboles endémicos es un problema logístico y encontrar granjas que puedan ser adquiridas en regiones donde la tenencia de la tierra es caótica puede implicar meses de investigación.

Y lo que es más importante, la trayectoria de los precios de los créditos de carbono depende de que el mundo establezca qué es un crédito de alta calidad. En repetidas ocasiones, los mercados de carbono se han visto afectados por investigaciones académicas y periodísticas que revelaron que decenas de proyectos habían exagerado el impacto de sus emisiones, por ejemplo, al “proteger” bosques que nunca estuvieron en peligro de tala.

Pero los proyectos de reforestación almacenan carbono con el cultivo de árboles en tierras degradadas, un sistema más sencillo y directo.

Algunos expertos advierten que el ganado desplazado podría continuar impulsando la deforestación en otros lugares y que los incendios forestales podrían eliminar los beneficios de los árboles que tardaron décadas en crecer.

“Suena a que el financiamiento del carbono puede marcar la diferencia”, dijo Barbara Haya, directora del Proyecto de Comercio de Carbono de Berkeley, que ha investigado varios proyectos de silvicultura de carbono. Pero también hay dudas sobre los métodos de contabilidad.

Además, agregó: “Es problemático intercambiar carbono forestal por emisiones de combustibles fósiles”. En parte, eso se debe a que la compra de créditos de carbono puede resultar menos costosa que la transición de una empresa a abandonar las fuentes de energía sucias, lo que, según los científicos, el mundo debe hacer en última instancia para evitar los peores efectos del cambio climático.

Manuela Andreoni es periodista del Times que cubre el clima y el medioambiente y escribe el boletín Climate Forward. Más de Manuela Andreoni