The New York Times 2024-06-07 00:26:08

As Biden Pushes for Truce in Gaza, Tensions Rise in Lebanon

Even as the Biden administration renewed its push for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel threatened “very intense”
military action against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Two days after the militant group launched a barrage of rockets and exploding drones from Lebanon into northern Israel, igniting several wildfires, Mr. Netanyahu visited soldiers and firefighters in the area and said the Israeli military was ready to strike.

“Whoever thinks he can hurt us and we will respond by sitting on our hands is making a big mistake,” he said, according to the Israeli government. “We are prepared for very intense action in the north.”

Against the backdrop of escalating tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border, the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, met on Wednesday with top Qatari and Egyptian officials in the latest effort to broker a deal to end the fighting in Gaza and free the hostages taken captive during the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Mr. Burns met in Doha with the Qatari prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and the chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, Abbas Kamel, according to an official briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door encounter.

The Qatari prime minister and Mr. Kamel also met Hamas leaders in Doha on Wednesday, according to the official. Egypt and Qatar have been key mediators between Israel and Hamas, which do not talk directly to each other.

The meeting with Mr. Burns focused on finding ways to bring Israel and Hamas closer to a cease-fire, according to the official, who said that Qatar had received a positive preliminary response from Hamas to a cease-fire proposal endorsed last week by President Biden, but was still waiting for a formal reply.

Outlining the proposal on Friday, Mr. Biden described it as a three-phase plan proffered by Israel to Hamas that would begin with a six-week pause in fighting and ultimately lead to the “cessation of hostilities permanently” and the rebuilding of Gaza.

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Even though Mr. Biden described the proposal as an Israeli offer, Mr. Netanyahu has not publicly endorsed the terms as described by the American president. He told Israeli lawmakers on Monday that he was open to a six-week pause in the war, according to a person who attended the closed-door discussion.

But in public, Mr. Netanyahu has continued to insist that Israel will not stop fighting in Gaza until Hamas’s military and governing capabilities are destroyed. Two of Mr. Netanyahu’s far-right ministers have threatened to leave his coalition and bring down his government if he agrees to any deal that leaves Hamas intact.

Addressing questions about whether Israeli officials were truly supportive of the cease-fire plan outlined by Mr. Biden, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, said on Wednesday that it was “still a live proposal.”

“Israel is a raucous democracy, so there is a lot of talk and a lot of chatter,” Mr. Sullivan said on NBC’s “Today” show. “But the Israeli government has reconfirmed repeatedly, as recently as today, that that proposal is still on the table, and now it’s up to Hamas to accept it.”

A senior Hamas official, Basem Naim, on Wednesday repeated the group’s position that it would not agree to any deal that did not provide for a permanent cease-fire. Mr. Naim also said that “it doesn’t make sense” for Hamas to negotiate while Israeli forces launch attacks in Gaza.

“The thirsty will drink a little and the hungry will eat a little, and then after a month and a half we will return to being killed,” he said.

Amid such disagreements, Mr. Burns’s visit to Doha wasn’t expected to bring about major progress, said a second person briefed on the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the talks. Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza and the presumed mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack, still had to weigh in on the latest proposal, that person said.

Without an agreement to stop the fighting, Israel said on Wednesday that it had launched an offensive in central Gaza, hitting the region with air and artillery strikes and sending in ground troops who clashed with Hamas militants.

Dozens of people have been killed, according to health workers in Gaza, who warned that the only remaining hospital in the area had been inundated with wounded patients.

In the past 24 hours, the Gazan Health Ministry said it had recorded 36 dead and 115 injured, without saying how many were combatants. The international aid group Doctors Without Borders said that at least 70 bodies, most of them of women and children, had been brought to Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza since Tuesday. The Israeli military declined to comment on the reports.

“The odor of blood in the hospital’s emergency room this morning was unbearable,” Karin Huster, a medical adviser for Doctors Without Borders in Gaza, said in a statement. “There are people lying everywhere, on the floor, outside.”

Israel’s military said it was conducting military operations “above and below ground” against Hamas militants in Bureij and the eastern part of Deir al-Balah, both in central Gaza, and that it had “eliminated” several.

Hamas also reported clashes with Israeli forces in the area, and said on Wednesday that it had fired missiles at Israeli troops in the east of Bureij.

“There is no place to flee to now,” said Hani Ahmed, a teacher and father of five who lives near the center of Bureij. He said two buildings in his area had been struck.

“Khan Younis is rubble. Rafah is under attack. The north is destroyed,” Mr. Ahmad said. “I might take my family in my small bus and live at the beach as I have no tent. We are terrified.”

As the bloodshed in Gaza continued, there was growing talk in Israel of going to war in Lebanon against Hezbollah militants, who have been trading strikes with Israeli forces for months, forcing more than 150,000 people on both sides of the border to flee.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a drone attack that the Israeli military said had injured at least 11 people in Hurfeish, a village in northern Israel whose residents are primarily Druse, part of an Arab-Israeli minority.

The Israeli military said that it had used artillery and fighter jets to strike Hezbollah targets in Lebanon and that it was increasingly frustrated with Hezbollah’s attacks.

“We are approaching the point in which a decision needs to be made, and the I.D.F. is ready and prepared for that decision,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military’s chief of staff, said on Tuesday.

Far-right leaders in Israel have been calling for war against Hezbollah. “The time has come,” Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, said on social media on Wednesday.

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said on Wednesday that the Biden administration remained “incredibly concerned” about the risk of escalation between Israel and Hezbollah.

“That said, the government of Israel has long maintained — privately to us, and they’ve said it publicly, too — that their preferred solution to this conflict is a diplomatic one, and we continue to pursue a diplomatic resolution,” Mr. Miller said.

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 2006 in attempts to root out militants who launched attacks into Israel. It occupied southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000, when it withdrew its last troops, ending what Prime Minister Ehud Barak called an “18-year tragedy.”

Adding to the mounting tensions in Lebanon, a gunman opened fire on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on Wednesday and was then shot and captured by Lebanese security forces. The embassy said that a security guard had been wounded in the attack.

The Lebanese Army identified the gunman as a Syrian citizen and said he was being treated at a hospital. Mr. Miller, the State Department spokesman, said the gunman had “what appeared to be ISIS insignia, but we are conducting a full investigation with the Lebanese authorities into the actual motivations.”

Reporting was contributed by Erika Solomon, Iyad Abuheweila, Abu Bakr Bashir, Raja Abdulrahim, Julian E. Barnes, Gabby Sobelman and Johnatan Reiss.

D-Day at 80

The American Cemetery in Normandy holds 9,388 graves.

Most of them young soldiers who died 80 years ago…

…during the Allied invasion on the shores of France.

Fewer and fewer of those who survived are still alive.

Today their sacrifices loom over a newly precarious time.

D-Day at 80

Veterans of the pivotal battle of World War II are disappearing. Europe, facing new conflict, recalls what their comrades died for.

Roger Cohen reported from Normandy, and Laetitia Vancon from Normandy and the United States.

They were ordinary. The young men from afar who clambered ashore on June 6, 1944, into a hail of Nazi gunfire from the Normandy bluffs did not think of themselves as heroes.

No, said Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the commanding general of United States Army Europe and Africa, the allied soldiers “in this great battle were ordinary,” youths who “rose to this challenge with courage and a tremendous will to win, for freedom.”

In front of the general, during a ceremony this week at Deauville on the Normandy coast, were 48 American survivors of that day, the youngest of them 98, most of them 100 years old or more. The veterans sat in wheelchairs. They saluted, briskly enough. Eight decades have gone by, many of them passed in silence because memories of the war were too terrible to relate.

When the 90th anniversary of D-Day comes around in 2034, there may be no more vets. Living memory of the beaches of their sacrifice will be no more.

“Dark clouds of war in Europe are forming,” General Williams said, as he alluded to allied determination to defend Ukraine against Russian attack. This 80th anniversary of the landings is a celebration, but a somber one. Europe is troubled and apprehensive, extremism eating at its liberal democracies.

For more than 27 months now, there has been a war on the continent that has taken hundreds of thousands of young Ukrainian and Russian lives. Russia was not invited to the commemoration even though the role of the Soviet Red Army in the defeat of Hitler was critical. A decade ago, President Vladimir V. Putin attended. Now he speaks of nuclear war. It is a time of fissuring and uncertainty.

Every one of the long-lived veterans who returned to Normandy knows where such drift can lead, how easy it is to sleepwalk toward conflagration.

“It’s between you and the higher-up,” said George K. Mullins, 99, a former staff sergeant in the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne, as he recalled the day he came ashore at Utah Beach with a folding carbine hooked to his belt and two K-rations. “We know there’s a spirit somewhere.”

Staff Sgt. George K. Mullins paid tribute to a fallen comrade, Pfc. Willam H. Lemaster, who died nearby on June 9, 1944.

A portrait of Sergeant Mullins in Germany in the spring of 1945. “We know there’s a spirit somewhere,” he said on his visit to Normandy.

Sergeant Mullins at home in Garberville, Calif. “It’s history all over again,” he said of the war in Ukraine.

D-Day was not an end but a beginning. The Normandy campaign, zigzagging through the hedgerows that still divide fields today and teem in the sunlight with insect life, took a terrible toll.

Sergeant Mullins, who now lives in Garberville, Calif., looked up from his foxhole a couple of days into the fighting and, two foxholes away, saw Pfc. William H. Lemaster, peeking over the edge. It proved to be the last act of this young man from West Virginia.

A German sniper’s bullet cut through Private Lemaster’s head and killed him — a memory so vivid that Sergeant Mullins took a moment this week to kneel at his buddy’s grave in the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.

There are 9,388 graves in the cemetery, most of them in the form of white Latin crosses, a handful of them Stars of David commemorating Jewish American service members. As antisemitism rises again in Europe, they seem somehow more conspicuous.

The allied army did not advance to save the Jews of Europe — suggestions that the railroads to Auschwitz be bombed were rejected. But the end of the war in Europe 11 months after D-Day did bring an end to Hitler’s slaughter of six million Jews.

Today, in Germany, Maximilian Krah, the top candidate for the extreme-right Alternative for Germany party in elections this weekend for the European Parliament, asserts that not all members of the Waffen SS, the Nazi paramilitary group, were criminals. Another AfD leader, Björn Höcke, was convicted last month of using a Nazi slogan.

“A far-right party that wears its historical revisionism on its sleeve has up to 20 percent support in polls,” said Jan-Werner Mueller, a politics professor at Princeton University. “I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. There seems to be no limit on how far the extreme right will go.”

History may not repeat itself but it does rhyme, as Mark Twain is said to have noted.

Here in Normandy, the thousands who died as the allies secured a toehold in Europe are everywhere, their black-and-white photographs attached to wooden utility poles on the Road of the First (American) Division that leads from Colleville-sur-Mer down to Omaha Beach. In their youthful expressions, innocence and hope predominate. Roland Barthes, the French essayist, observed that in every old photograph lurks catastrophe.

The British Normandy Memorial commemorates the 22,442 service members who died while under British campaign on D-Day and in the months after.

Families and friends visited Normandy to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Time has eroded telltale reminders of the enormity of the invasion.

Perhaps the world, just two years after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, needs little reminder of what it is like to be swept away by the gale of history, what it is for every assumption to collapse, what it is to feel the extreme fragility of freedom and life. Certainly, with armed conflicts raging in Ukraine and Gaza, it needs no reminder of war’s perennial grip on humanity.

Hatred gets the blood pumping in a way that reasoned compromise and civilized disagreement — foundations of any healthy society living in freedom under the rule of law — do not. Today, many politicians in Western societies do not hesitate to play on such emotions in attacking “the other.”

Patrick Thomines, the mayor of Colleville-sur-Mer, stood in front of a school bedecked with the French, American and European Union flags, symbolizing the postwar trans-Atlantic foundation of the West. “You realize that peace is never won for all time, it’s an eternal struggle to secure it,” he said. “We should unite to avoid war, but extreme parties are rising and represent the very contrary of what we are celebrating here.”

The celebration has an extraordinary magnetism. The horrifying cratered landscape at the Pointe du Hoc, reminiscent of the still-pitted terrain of the Battle of Verdun in World War I, poses and reposes the question of how U.S. Rangers scaled that cliff. People flock to see it and wonder.

Converging from countless countries, they join in uniformed re-enactment groups. They careen around among the hedgerows in jeeps, provoking endless traffic jams. They party and they dance and they come together on the vast wide sandy beaches in solemn contemplation of how Europe was saved from Hitler. Their children go to museums that recreate the terrain and the battle.

Yuri Milavc, a Slovenian who had traveled from Ljubljana with a jeep, along with 18 friends, also in jeeps, said he had now come to the Normandy commemorations several times. The feeling today was more mixed, he said. “I remember how Europe once felt,” he told me. “Now Putin has showed his true colors and is fighting the last imperialist war in Europe.”

President Biden will meet with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, in Normandy this week, a show of allied support for the country at a time when it is under increased Russian attack. President Emmanuel Macron, who has invited Mr. Biden to a state dinner on Saturday, has also chosen to draw a strong link between the 80th anniversary of D-Day and the fight for freedom in Ukraine.

“I know that our country, with its bold and valiant youth, is ready in the same spirit of sacrifice as our forbears,” he said in a speech Wednesday in Brittany.

When it comes to spirit, it is difficult to match that of Cpl. Wilbur Jack Myers, 100, of Company B, 692nd Tank Destroyer Battalion, attached to the 104th and 42nd Infantry Division. He was so excited about coming to Normandy for the anniversary, he said he did not “feel a day over 85!” To prove it, he’s been enjoying karaoke sessions back home in Hagerstown, Md.

One of 13 children from a Maryland family, trained to be a gunner, Corporal Myers arrived in Cherbourg, France, on Sept. 23, 1944. It was the start of an odyssey that ended with the liberation of the Nazi Dachau camp near Munich in late April, 1945.

“It really hurt me to look at those skin-and-bone prisoners, and I knew that many were already dead,” Corporal Myers told me. “I’ve never forgotten it, but for 50 years I was silent because if I tried to talk about the war I would tear up and get embarrassed. Finally, I got the strength.”

Corporal Myers said he felt he had to be part of the fight to stop Hitler, but had no wish to die. He was a gunner with a 90-mm anti-tank gun, a “helluva weapon,” as he put it. One devastating firefight in which a member of his tank crew died as shrapnel went through his steel helmet took a heavy emotional toll. The dead man was a Native American named Albert Haske.

“Recently his great-great-great nephew saw me on TV and made contact with me,” Corporal Myers said. “Looks just like his uncle!”

Sometimes he would examine German corpses and find crucifixes and conclude that despite their faith they could not say no to Hitler. His own Christian faith is strong. He said it keeps him walking straight and loving others and that is how he has made it this far. Hatred, he believes, is part of human nature, and the quest for power and money provokes wars, but all this can be beaten with faith. “Hell, I don’t even know you and I love you!” Corporal Myers said.

He grew meditative about war. “You know, I never killed anyone I did not have to, although I felt like it a lot of times when we were pinned down. It’s hard for me to believe that today Putin is so ready to kill to seize other countries.”

With war back in Europe, the ghosts that have haunted the continent feel closer, when two decades ago it appeared they had been laid to rest. The European Union was created to put an end to war and has proved a peace magnet. NATO has been Europe’s military guarantor. The two institutions have held the line, but the line between the world and war feels flimsier today than in a long time.

It has been hard to escape that feeling even in a festive Normandy. and I have found myself thinking of the last verse of Siegfried Sassoon’s “Suicide in the Trenches,” a poem of World War I:

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

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Biden Links Fight for Ukraine With Allied Effort on D-Day

NORMANDY — President Biden observed the 80th anniversary of D-Day on the beaches of Normandy on Thursday by asserting that the allied effort to stand up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a direct extension of the battle for freedom that raged across Europe during World War II.

Addressing 180 surviving veterans of the Normandy operation and thousands of other guests, Mr. Biden said that the world must defeat another “tyrant bent on domination” and meet “the test of ages” to defend Ukraine — just as the heroes who stormed the beaches and dropped behind enemy lines did eight decades ago.

“Isolation was not the answer 80 years ago and is not the answer today,” Mr. Biden said, with World War II veterans seated in wheelchairs behind him. “We know the dark forces that these heroes fought against 80 years ago. They never fade. Aggression and greed, the desire to dominate and control, to change borders by force — these are perennial. The struggle between dictatorship and freedom is unending.”

In an energetic address, Mr. Biden declared that “NATO is more united than ever” and insisted that the alliance would stand by Ukraine in its own hour of need just as the United States had stood by Europe against the Nazis.

“We will not walk away,” Mr. Biden said. “Because if we do, Ukraine will be subjugated and it will not end there.”

The president spoke just steps from where 9,388 members of the American military are buried, most of whom participated in the Allied invasion at Omaha Beach. Their graves are marked with rows of stark white marble crosses or Stars of David, which gleamed under the bright sunlight and blue skies.

Mr. Biden, 81, who was a toddler when American, British and Canadian troops poured onto the beaches here on June 6, 1944, will almost certainly be the last U.S. president to speak at a Normandy remembrance who was alive at the time Allied forces began to push Adolf Hitler out of Europe.

Now, eight decades later, Mr. Biden is leading a coalition of European and other nations in a very different war on the continent, but for a very similar principle — pushing back against the attempted seizure of a neighboring country, in this case Ukraine, by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

In his remarks on Thursday at the Normandy American Cemetery, the president drew a direct line between the two, connected by the defense of a rules-based international order.

“The men who fought here became heroes not because they were the strongest, the toughest or the fiercest — although they were,” Mr. Biden said, “but because they were given an audacious mission, knowing — every one of them knew — the probability of dying was real.”

“They knew beyond any doubt there are things that are worth fighting and dying for,” Mr. Biden added. “Freedom is worth it. Democracy is worth it. America is worth it. The world is worth it. Then, now and always.”

Mr. Biden’s appearance at the cemetery was the first public event of a five-day visit to France, which will include a second speech on Friday at Pointe du Hoc and a state dinner hosted by President Emmanuel Macron of France in Paris on Saturday. Mr. Biden will return to Europe a few days later for a meeting of the leaders of the Group of 7 nations in Italy.

Before Mr. Biden’s address, the audience delivered a nearly hourlong series of standing ovations as a procession of D-Day veterans arrived. Most of the men, now in their late 90s or over 100 years old, were rolled up a blue-carpeted ramp in wheelchairs. A few managed to walk with canes or even unassisted, drawing extra applause.

With medals on their chests, baseball caps identifying their service on their heads and in a few instances tears in their eyes, the veterans saluted, waved, took selfies and flashed thumbs-ups. One snapped pictures with a windup disposable camera. A few women veterans who served in supporting roles at the time were among the honored guests.

In the audience were Tom Hanks, the actor, and Steven Spielberg, the director, who together made the film “Saving Private Ryan” and have dedicated themselves to documenting the lives and service of the World War II generation. Other guests included senators, members of Congress and relatives of those who fought in the conflict.

Before his speech, Mr. Biden met with 41 veterans of the Normandy campaign — including 33 who participated in D-Day itself. In a small glass-backed gazebo overlooking Omaha Beach, Mr. Biden leaned down to shake the hands of those in wheelchairs and offered challenge coins that he had made up specially for this 80th anniversary commemoration.

“The greatest generation ever, man,” he told one 102-year-old veteran.

“You saved the world,” he told another.

Some of the veterans told Mr. Biden they were honored to meet him. One had advice for the president: “Don’t get old,” the veteran said, as he settled back in his wheelchair.

Mr. Biden was accompanied by the first lady, Jill Biden, who flew separately to France to join him after attending the trial of their son Hunter Biden in Wilmington, Del., on federal gun charges. Wearing his aviator sunglasses, the president held Dr. Biden’s hand as they marched up a blue carpet to the ceremony with the Macrons while military aircraft streaked overhead.

Addressing the crowd first, Mr. Macron hailed what he called “a blood tie, shed for liberty” between the United States and France. He turned to directly address some of the veterans onstage individually and by name, thanking them for coming to France’s rescue 80 years earlier.

“You came here to free the continent,” he said, “and you came here with the strength that allows you to resist 171 days of fighting the enemy.” He added in English: “You are back here today, at home, if I may say.”

As cinematic music played in the background, Mr. Macron then made 11 of the veterans knights of the Legion of Honor, among France’s highest awards. While some struggled to lift themselves from their wheelchairs to stand, the veterans beamed with pride as Mr. Macron pinned the medals to their jackets and gave each a kiss on both cheeks.

After his speech, Mr. Biden briefly visited the grave of John S. Greenfield, from the president’s hometown, Wilmington, Del. Mr. Greenfield was a private first class in the Army’s 115th Infantry Regiment during World War II. Mr. Biden and Dr. Biden laid a wreath filled with red roses plus white and blue blooms at the grave.

Later, Mr. Biden attended an international remembrance of D-Day with other leaders from around the world. The ceremony took place at nearby Omaha Beach, and was hosted by Mr. Macron. As he walked in, Mr. Biden shook hands with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who was attending the ceremony.

American officials said the somber backdrop of Normandy — where the Allies helped turn the tide in Europe after nearly five years of war — was meant to underscore the stakes for Europe and the world if the United States and its fellow nations lose their resolve and let Mr. Putin win.

Mr. Biden has said that the months of congressional refusal to approve funding for Ukraine set back the war effort there, giving Russian forces the opportunity to push forward along battle lines in the north and east of the country.

On Friday, Mr. Biden will return to Normandy for the speech at Pointe du Hoc, where Army Rangers scaled huge cliffs in an effort to secure critical military positions held by the Germans.

Officials said that the president would use that backdrop, where Ronald Reagan delivered a similar speech in 1984, to make a broader point about the dangers of isolationism and the need to protect and nurture democracy. John F. Kirby, a retired Navy admiral and the White House national security spokesman, said the speech would be different from previous addresses by Mr. Biden on the topic of protecting democracy.

“You can point to real lives that were impacted at Pointe du Hoc,” Mr. Kirby said. “You can point to real blood that was spilled in pursuit of that loftier goal. And you can tell stories about real men who climbed real cliffs and faced real bullets and real danger in the pursuit of something a whole hell of a lot bigger than themselves.”

Live Updates: Israeli Strike Kills Dozens at School Complex Where Civilians Sought Shelter


Here are the latest developments.

An Israeli airstrike early Thursday hit a United Nations school complex in central Gaza that had become a shelter for thousands of displaced Palestinians, killing dozens of people. Israel’s military said the attack had targeted Hamas operatives. Palestinian officials said it had killed civilians.

The strike, in Nuseirat, was the latest in a deadly surge in fighting in central Gaza, where Israeli forces have announced an offensive against what they describe as a renewed insurgency by Hamas militants.

The bodies of more than 40 people killed in the attack were taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al Balah, a hospital spokesman said. The Gazan Health Ministry said that of 40 deaths in the strike that it had registered, 14 were children and nine were women.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said he was “not aware of any civilian casualties” as a result of the strike. “We conducted a precise strike against the terrorists where they were,” he added.

Here is what else to know:

  • The Israeli military said its fighter jets had targeted three classrooms in a school building that held 20 to 30 Palestinian militants affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller militia also backed by Iran. He said the militants had used the compound to plan attacks on Israeli forces, although he did not provide specific examples.

  • Videos posted on a social media by a Palestinian videographer at the Al-Aqsa Martys hospital showed heart-wrenching scenes of the attack’s aftermath: a mother begging her dead child to take her hand; a young man wrapped in bandages, weeping next to a corpse; a little boy, his face coated in dust and blood, staring vacantly from a hospital floor as people shout around him.

  • At least 140 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in recent days during the Israeli offensive in central Gaza, according to the spokesman at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, Khalil Daqran. His hospital is the last one still functioning in central Gaza, and he said wounded people were “lying on the ground in the hallways and in tents outside.”

  • Israel’s offensive in central Gaza comes as cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas remain stuck, with senior officials on both sides expressing deep concerns over a proposal endorsed by President Biden to pause the fighting in exchange for the release of hostages held in Gaza. Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have signaled they are not ready to wind down the war, which Gazan health officials say has killed more than 36,000 people.

Gazans weep and pray over loved ones killed in the strike.

A mother begs her dead child to take her hand. A young man, wrapped in bandages, lies weeping next to the corpse of another man. A little boy, his face coated in dust and blood, stares vacantly from a hospital floor as people shout frantically around him.

The scenes at the doorstep of the last functioning hospital in central Gaza, posted on social media by a Palestinian videographer after an Israeli strike hit a United Nations school complex, have yet again highlighted the awful dilemma that Palestinian civilians keep facing through eight months of war: The places where they seek refuge often end up being attacked.

The videos were posted to Instagram on Thursday after the strike. The New York Times verified that they were shot at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al Balah.

In the early morning hours of Thursday, Israel launched a strike on a school complex housing thousands of displaced Palestinians who had sought shelter there. Dozens were killed. Israel says its attack targeted and killed Hamas operatives using the school building as a base. Palestinian medical workers say it killed civilians.

Of 40 dead bodies from the attack registered by Gaza’s Health Ministry, 14 were children and nine were women, the ministry said.

Al-Aqsa hospital had warned for days that it was overwhelmed by an influx of dead and wounded since Israel launched an operation to root out Hamas militants in the area.

On Thursday, crowds gathered at the hospital to weep and pray over the dead. A local Palestinian videographer posted a video that shows a young woman with the body of her small son.

“Open your hands,” she pleads with the dead boy as others around her try to wrap his body. “Answer me, you’ve always answered me, you never liked to upset me.”

The number of people in central Gaza, particularly in Deir al Balah, had swelled in recent weeks as Gazans fled an Israeli offensive in the southern city of Rafah. Before Israel launched the operation in Rafah last month, that city had been a main port of refuge for civilians, urged by Israel to head there to avoid the fighting elsewhere. At one point, according to U.N. agencies, Rafah hosted around half of the population of Gaza.

Displaced Gazans often try to set up tents or find apartments near U.N. facilities or medical units in the hope that their humanitarian purpose, and the fact that aid workers often report their coordinates to Israeli forces, will make them less of a target. But Israel has emphasized throughout the war that it will strike wherever it believes Hamas is operating.

Just last week, two areas near the fighting in Rafah where civilians had hoped to find safety were hit by attacks. An Israeli strike near a tent camp in Rafah killed 45 people, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that civilian deaths in the episode were a “tragic accident.” A few days later, a strike the area of Al-Mawasi, on the outskirts of Rafah, killing 21 people; Israel denied responsibility for that strike.

Khalil Farid, 57, a teacher in Nuseirat, said his neighborhood had already been struck so many times that “there are no windows in our house left to be smashed.” But he and his family have given up on trying to flee.

“At home, you know who is sharing the place with you, who your neighbors are, and it makes you feel safer somehow,” he said. “But deep inside, I know nowhere is safe.”

Nader Ibrahim, Christiaan Triebert and Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.



Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s top diplomat, called for an independent investigation into the Israeli strike on the former U.N. school complex in Nuseirat, noting an International Court of Justice ruling had ordered Israeli forces not to take actions deemed genocidal under international law. “This appalling news must be independently investigated,” he said. Israel claims it was targeting militants hiding at the school, not civilians sheltering there.

Of the 40 dead in the strike registered by Gaza’s health ministry, 14 were children and nine were women, the ministry said.

Spain will ask to join South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, the Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, announced on Thursday, according to the Reuters news agency. Ireland, Turkey, Egypt and several other countries have previously said they would support the case. In response to an urgent request from South Africa, the court last month ordered Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah, though the I.C.J. has few means of enforcing its order.

Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where the bodies of more than 40 people killed in the attack have been brought, is now the only functioning hospital in central Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, and has been operating at three times its normal capacity. Health authorities in central Gaza estimate that the hospital has been handling services for one million people.

The number of people in central Gaza, particularly in Deir al Balah, where the hospital is located, has swelled as hundreds of thousand of Gazans escaped fighting in the southern city of Rafah, once the main hub for people sheltering from the war.



Israeli forces attacked the same compound on May 14, killing at least six people and wounding others, UNRWA said. The Israeli military said it had killed at least 15 militants, including 10 Hamas members, in an attack against a “war room” used by militant commanders in the complex.

The White House and the leaders of 16 other countries put pressure on Hamas and Israel on Thursday to move ahead with a cease-fire on terms outlined last week by President Biden. “We call on Hamas to close this agreement, that Israel is ready to move forward with,” they said in a joint statement. Neither Israel nor Hamas has said definitively that they would accept or reject the proposal amid disagreements over fundamental issues.

Philippe Lazzarini, the director of UNRWA, wrote on social media that 6,000 Palestinians were sheltering at the school complex when the strike took place. At least 35 people were killed and “many more injured,” he said.

Palestinian officials say civilians were killed in a strike that Israel says targeted Hamas.

An Israeli airstrike hit a United Nations school complex in central Gaza that had become a shelter for thousands of displaced Palestinians, killing dozens of people, officials said early Thursday.

Israel’s military said the attack had targeted Hamas operatives. Palestinian officials said it had killed civilians.

The bodies of more than 40 people killed in the attack were brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza city of Deir al Balah, a spokesman for the medical facility, Khalil Daqran, said on Thursday morning. At least some of the victims were women, children and older people, he added, although he declined to provide a precise figure.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said he was “not aware of any civilian casualties” as a result of the strike. “We conducted a precise strike against the terrorists where they were,” he added.

At least 140 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in recent days during the Israeli offensive in central Gaza, Dr. Daqran said, severely taxing the hospital’s already depleted resources.

“Wounded patients are lying on the ground in the hallways and in tents outside,” he said. “And our capability to treat them at this point is extremely limited.”

The Israeli military said its fighter jets had targeted three classrooms in a school building that held 20 to 30 Palestinian militants affiliated with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller militia also backed by Iran. Israeli forces had twice postponed the strike so as to reduce civilian casualties, the military said.

Lt. Col. Lerner, the Israeli military spokesman, said the militants were “effectively operating under the U.N. flag” in an attempt to avoid Israeli fire, in what he said was the fifth such incident in the past month. He said the militants had used the compound to plan attacks on Israeli forces, although he did not provide specific examples.

The compound that was hit, in the central Gaza city of Nuseirat, had been operated by UNRWA, the main U.N. body that aids Palestinians in Gaza. Philippe Lazzarini, the director of UNRWA, called Israel’s claim that Hamas had used the school’s premises for military purposes “shocking” but said the agency could not verify it.

Lauren Leatherby contributed reporting.



Netanyahu warns of ‘very intense’ action against Hezbollah in Lebanon, as talk of a new war intensifies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday threatened further military action against Hezbollah in Lebanon, amid growing talk of another full-scale war, even as Israel fights Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Two days after Hezbollah militants launched a barrage of rockets and exploding drones from Lebanon into northern Israel, igniting several wildfires, Mr. Netanyahu visited soldiers and firefighters in the area, and said the Israeli military was ready to strike.

“Whoever thinks he can hurt us and we will respond by sitting on our hands is making a big mistake,” he said, according to the Israeli government. “We are prepared for very intense action in the north. One way or another, we will restore security to the north.”

Other Israeli officials have threatened war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, which has stepped up attacks on northern Israel since the war between Israel and Hamas began in October. But the bellicose talk carries more weight coming from the highest levels — not only the prime minister but the military chief of staff and a cabinet minister.

Israeli forces and Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia and political faction that exercises de facto control over southern Lebanon, have been exchanging strikes for months, forcing more than 150,000 people on both sides of the border to flee.

On Monday, the Lebanese television network Al Manar, which is controlled by Hezbollah, said the group had fired at Israeli soldiers in several locations close to the border, starting fires, and claimed to have inflicted casualties.

One of the most intense fires threatened homes in the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanese border, according to Israeli news outlets. That city, like much of the Israeli border area, has been largely evacuated for months, and no casualties were reported.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for another drone attack in the region. The Israeli military said that two drones landed in the area of Hurfeish, a Druse village whose citizens are primarily part of an Arab-Israeli minority in Israel. At least 11 people were reported injured, one critically. No sirens sounded warning of the attack, according to the Israeli military, which said it was reviewing the incident.

Such strikes — and threats of more direct military action — have raised concerns about the prospect of Israel waging war on two fronts.

On Wednesday, Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said that the Biden administration remained “incredibly concerned” about the risk of escalation between Israel and Hezbollah.

“That said, the government of Israel has long maintained — privately to us, and they’ve said it publicly, too — that their preferred solution to this conflict is a diplomatic one, and we continue to pursue a diplomatic resolution,” Mr. Miller said.

The Biden administration has held talks with Israel and Lebanon, exchanging messages with Hezbollah through intermediaries. The talks are aimed at moving Hezbollah forces away from the border, according to Lebanese and Israeli officials, and other participants.

But Hezbollah has said repeatedly that it will not negotiate until the war in Gaza ends, and Israeli military officials have said this week that they are growing increasingly frustrated with Hezbollah’s attacks.

“We are approaching the point in which a decision needs to be made, and the I.D.F. is ready and prepared for that decision,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military’s chief of staff, said on Tuesday.

Far-right leaders in Israel have been calling for war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The time has come,” Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, said on social media on Wednesday. “There is full backing from the entire people of Israel.”

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 2006 in attempts to root out armed militants who launched attacks into Israel.

Adam Rasgon and Ephrat Livni contributed reporting.

Here’s a closer look at what is standing in the way of a cease-fire deal.

President Biden raised hopes last week when he endorsed a plan that he said could lead to a “cessation of hostilities permanently.” He said Israel had put forward the plan, but neither Israel nor Hamas has said definitively that they would accept or reject the proposal, and they appear to still be locked in disagreement over fundamental issues.

Here’s a look at what is known about the cease-fire deal, which key points still must be negotiated, and the hurdles still ahead:

What’s in the plan?

Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire in November that lasted for a week. But the proposal now on the table — as laid out by Mr. Biden, a senior U.S. administration official and Israeli officials — is more ambitious. Major issues remain unresolved, including whether Hamas would remain in control of the Gaza Strip.

The proposal would unfold in three phases.

In phase one, among other things, Israel would withdraw from population centers in Gaza during a six-week cease-fire, and dozens of women and elderly hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and its allies would be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.

During that time, talks over a permanent cease-fire would continue, and if successful, the deal would enter phase two, with the full withdrawal of Israel’s military from the enclave. All hostages and more Palestinian prisoners would be freed. Under phase three, Hamas would return the bodies of hostages who had died, and a three- to five-year reconstruction period, backed by the United States, European countries and international institutions, would begin.

What are Israel’s concerns?

One of the key gaps between Hamas and Israel over the plan is the length of the cease-fire and the future role of Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Monday that he was open to a six-week cease-fire, according to a person who attended a closed-door meeting he held with Israeli lawmakers. But publicly he has said that Israel will fight until Hamas’s governing and military capabilities are destroyed.

As the proposal has been laid out, it appears that Hamas would conduct talks over phases two and three with Israel, which suggests that it would retain some measure of control of Gaza. Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that this is a red line and has also ruled out a governing role for the Palestinian Authority, a fierce rival to Hamas that has limited governing powers in the Israel-occupied West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister is facing competing pressures from the United States and other allies to end the war and, on the other side, from two far-right partners in his governing coalition that have threatened to bring down his government should Israel agree to a deal that would end the war without eliminating Hamas.

In a sign of that pressure, one of them, Israel’s far-right security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said on Wednesday that his party would continue to disrupt Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition until he published details of the proposal. Two Israeli officials confirmed this week that the offer shared by Mr. Biden generally aligned with the most recent cease-fire proposal that Israel had presented in talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

What about Hamas?

Hamas has said it was responding “positively” to the plan, but at a news conference on Tuesday, Osama Hamdan, a Hamas spokesman, said that Hamas had informed mediators that the group could not approve an agreement that did not provide for a permanent cease-fire, a total withdrawal of Israeli troops and a “serious and real deal” to exchange Palestinian prisoners for hostages.

The same day, Sami Abu Zuhri, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, accused Israel of not being serious about a deal and said the White House was putting pressure on Hamas despite “knowing that the problem lies” with the Israelis.

Many residents of Gaza say they are desperate for an end to the war but analysts note that Hamas, an armed group, is not responsive to the wishes of the enclave’s civilians. Political experts say that the group’s leaders, including its most senior official in the territory, Yahya Sinwar, may be in no hurry to end the conflict, perceiving in part that Hamas’s leverage will diminish once it agrees to release the hostages.

Mr. Sinwar, the presumed mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack, still has to weigh in on the proposal, a person briefed on the negotiations said.

Adam Rasgon contributed reporting.

Inside the Base Where Israel Has Detained Thousands of Gazans

Patrick Kingsley and

Patrick Kingsley, from Israel, and Bilal Shbair, from Gaza, spent three months interviewing Israeli soldiers who worked at Sde Teiman and Palestinians held there. Patrick Kingsley visited the site.

The men sat in rows, handcuffed and blindfolded, unable to see the Israeli soldiers who stood watch over them from the other side of a mesh fence.

They were barred from talking more loudly than a murmur, and forbidden to stand or sleep except when authorized.

A few knelt in prayer. One was being inspected by a paramedic. Another was briefly allowed to remove his handcuffs to wash himself. The hundreds of other Gazan detainees sat in silence. They were all cut off from the outside world, prevented for weeks from contacting lawyers or relatives.

This was the scene one afternoon in late May at a military hangar inside Sde Teiman, an army base in southern Israel that has become synonymous with the detention of Gazan Palestinians. Most Gazans captured since the start of the war on Oct. 7 have been brought to the site for initial interrogation, according to the Israeli military.

The military, which has not previously granted access to the media, allowed The New York Times to briefly see part of the detention facility as well as to interview its commanders and other officials, on condition of preserving their anonymity.

Once an obscure barracks, Sde Teiman is now a makeshift interrogation site and a major focus of accusations that the Israeli military has mistreated detainees, including people later determined to have no ties to Hamas or other armed groups. In interviews, former detainees described beatings and other abuse in the facility.

By late May, roughly 4,000 Gazan detainees had spent up to three months in limbo at Sde Teiman, including several dozen people captured during the Hamas-led terrorist attacks on Israel in October, according to the site commanders who spoke to The Times.

After interrogation, around 70 percent of detainees had been sent to purpose-built prisons for further investigation and prosecution, the commanders said. The rest, at least 1,200 people, had been found to be civilians and returned to Gaza, without charge, apology or compensation.

“My colleagues didn’t know whether I was dead or alive,” said Muhammad al-Kurdi, 38, an ambulance driver whom the military has confirmed was held at Sde Teiman late last year.

“I was imprisoned for 32 days,” said Mr. al-Kurdi. He said he had been captured in November after his convoy of ambulances attempted to pass through an Israeli military checkpoint south of Gaza City.

“It felt like 32 years,” he added.

A three-month investigation by The New York Times — based on interviews with former detainees and with Israeli military officers, doctors and soldiers who served at the site; the visit to the base; and data about released detainees provided by the military — found those 1,200 Palestinian civilians have been held at Sde Teiman in demeaning conditions without the ability to plead their cases to a judge for up to 75 days. Detainees are also denied access to lawyers for up to 90 days and their location is withheld from rights groups as well as from the International Committee of the Red Cross, in what some legal experts say is a contravention of international law.

Eight former detainees, all of whom the military has confirmed were held at the site and who spoke on the record, variously said they had been punched, kicked and beaten with batons, rifle butts and a hand-held metal detector while in custody. One said his ribs were broken after he was kneed in the chest and a second detainee said his ribs broke after he was kicked and beaten with a rifle, an assault that a third detainee said he had witnessed. Seven said they had been forced to wear only a diaper while being interrogated. Three said they had received electric shocks during their interrogations.

Most of these allegations were echoed in interviews conducted by officials from UNRWA, the main U.N. agency for Palestinians, an institution that Israel says has been infiltrated by Hamas, a charge the agency denies. The agency conducted interviews with hundreds of returning detainees who reported widespread abuse at Sde Teiman and other Israeli detention facilities, including beatings and the use of an electric probe.

An Israeli soldier who served at the site said that fellow soldiers had regularly boasted of beating detainees and saw signs that several people had been subjected to such treatment. Speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid prosecution, he said a detainee had been taken for treatment at the site’s makeshift field hospital with a bone that had been broken during his detention, while another was briefly taken out of sight and returned with bleeding around his rib cage. The soldier said that one person had died at Sde Teiman from trauma injuries to his chest, though it was unclear whether his injury was sustained before or after reaching the base.

Of the 4,000 detainees housed at Sde Teiman since October, 35 have died either at the site or after being brought to nearby civilian hospitals, according to officers at the base who spoke to The Times during the May visit. The officers said some of them had died because of wounds or illnesses contracted before their incarceration and denied any of them had died from abuse. Military prosecutors are investigating the deaths.

During the visit, senior military doctors said they had never observed any signs of torture and commanders said they tried to treat detainees as humanely as possible. They confirmed that at least 12 soldiers had been dismissed from their roles at the site, some of them for excessive use of force.

In recent weeks, the base has attracted growing scrutiny from the media, including a CNN report later cited by the White House, as well as from Israel’s Supreme Court, which on Wednesday began to hear a petition from rights groups to close the site. In response to the petition, the Israeli government said that it was reducing the number of detainees at Sde Teiman and improving conditions there; the Israeli military has already set up a panel to investigate the treatment of detainees at the site.

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In a lengthy statement for this article, the Israel Defense Forces denied that “systematic abuse” had taken place at Sde Teiman. Presented with individual allegations of abuse, the military said the claims were “evidently inaccurate or completely unfounded,” and might have been invented under pressure from Hamas. It did not give further details.

“Any abuse of detainees, whether during their detention or during interrogation, violates the law and the directives of the I.D.F. and as such is strictly prohibited,” the military statement said. “The I.D.F. takes any acts of this kind, which are contrary to its values, with utmost seriousness, and thoroughly examines concrete allegations concerning the abuse of detainees.” The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, which conducts some of the interrogations at the base, said in a brief statement that all of its interrogations were “conducted in accordance with the law.”

Yoel Donchin, a military doctor serving at the site, said it was unclear why Israeli soldiers had captured many of the people he treated there, some of whom were highly unlikely to have been combatants involved in the war. One was paraplegic, another weighed roughly 300 pounds and a third had breathed since childhood through a tube inserted into his neck, he said.

“Why they brought him — I don’t know,” Dr. Donchin said.

“They take everyone,” he added.

Fadi Bakr, a law student from Gaza City, said he was captured on Jan. 5 by Israeli soldiers near his family home. Displaced by fighting earlier in the war, Mr. Bakr, 25, had returned to his neighborhood to search for flour, only to get caught in the middle of a firefight and wounded, he said.

The Israelis found him bleeding after the fighting stopped, he said. They stripped him naked, confiscated his phone and savings, beat him repeatedly and accused him of being a militant who had survived the battle, he said.

“Confess now or I will shoot you,” Mr. Bakr remembered being told.

“I am a civilian,” Mr. Bakr recalled replying, to no avail.

The circumstances of Mr. Bakr’s arrest mirror those of other former detainees interviewed by The Times.

Several said they had been suspected of militant activity because soldiers had encountered them in areas the military thought were harboring Hamas fighters, including hospitals, U.N. schools or depopulated neighborhoods like Mr. Bakr’s.

Younis al-Hamlawi, 39, a senior nurse, said he was arrested in November after leaving Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City during an Israeli raid on the site, which Israel considered a Hamas command center. Israeli soldiers accused him of having ties to Hamas.

Mr. al-Kurdi, the ambulance driver, said he had been captured while he attempted to bring patients through an Israeli checkpoint. Israeli officials say that Hamas fighters routinely use ambulances.

All of the eight former detainees described their capture in similar ways: They were generally blindfolded, handcuffed with zip ties and stripped naked except for their underwear, so that Israeli soldiers could be sure they were unarmed.

Most said they were interrogated, punched and kicked while still in Gaza, and some said they were beaten with rifle butts. Later, they said, they were crammed with other half-naked detainees into military trucks and driven to Sde Teiman.

Some said they had later spent time in the official Israeli prison system, while others said they were brought straight back to Gaza.

During his month at the site, Mr. Bakr spent four days, on and off, under interrogation, he said.

“I consider them the worst four days of my entire life,” said Mr. Bakr.

During previous wars with Hamas, including the 50-day conflict in 2014, the Sde Teiman military base intermittently held small numbers of captured Gazans. A command center and warehouse for military vehicles, the base was selected because it is close to Gaza and houses an outpost of the military police, who oversee military detention facilities.

In October, Israel started using the site to detain people captured in Israel during the Hamas-led attack, housing them in an empty tank hangar, according to the site commanders. Once Israel invaded Gaza at the end of that month, Sde Teiman began receiving so many people that the military refitted three other hangars to detain them and converted a military police office to create more space for interrogations, they said.

By late May, they said, the base included three detention sites: the hangars where detainees are guarded by military police; nearby tents, where detainees are treated by military doctors; and an interrogation facility in a separate part of the base that is staffed by intelligence officers from Israel’s military intelligence directorate and the Shin Bet.

Classified as “unlawful combatants” under Israeli legislation, detainees at Sde Teiman can be held for up to 75 days without judicial permission and 90 days without access to a lawyer, let alone a trial.

The Israeli military says these arrangements are permitted by the Geneva Conventions that govern international conflict, which allow the internment of civilians for security reasons. The commanders at the site said that it was essential to delay access to lawyers in order to prevent Hamas fighters from conveying messages to their leaders in Gaza, hindering Israel’s war effort.

After an initial interrogation at Sde Teiman, detainees still suspected of having militant ties are usually transferred to another military site or a civilian prison. In the civilian system, they are supposed to be formally charged; in May, the government said in a submission to Israel’s Supreme Court that it had started criminal proceedings against “hundreds” of people captured since Oct. 7, without giving further details about the exact number of cases or their status. There have been no known trials of Gazans captured since October.

Experts on international law say Israel’s system around initial detention is more restrictive than many Western counterparts in terms of the time it takes for judges to review each case, as well as in the lack of access for Red Cross staff.

Early in its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the United States also delayed independent review of a detainee’s case for 75 days, said Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne, a law professor who wrote an overview of the laws governing detention of nonstate combatants. The U.S. shortened that delay in 2009 to 60 days, while in Iraq cases were reviewed within a week, the professor said.

Israel’s decision to delay judicial review of a case for 75 days without providing access to lawyers or the Red Cross “looks to me like a form of incommunicado detention, which itself is a violation of international law,” Professor Hill-Cawthorne said.

After Mr. Bakr disappeared suddenly in January, he said, his family had no way of finding out where he was. They assumed he was dead.

Inside Sde Teiman, Mr. Bakr was held in an open-sided hangar where he said he was forced, with hundreds of others, to sit handcuffed in silence on a mat for up to 18 hours a day. The hangar had no external wall, leaving it open to the rain and the cold, and guards watched him from the other side of a mesh fence.

All the detainees wore blindfolds — except for one, known by the Arabic word “shawish,” which means sergeant. The shawish acted as a go-between the soldiers and the prisoners, doling out food and escorting fellow prisoners to a block of portable toilets in the corner of the hangar.

Weeks later, Mr. Bakr said, he was appointed as a shawish, allowing him to see his surroundings properly.

His account broadly matches that of other detainees and is consistent with what The Times was shown at the site in late May.

The commanders at the site said detainees were allowed to stand up every two hours to stretch, sleep between roughly 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and pray at any time. For a brief period in October, they said, detainees were allowed to take off their blindfolds and move around freely within the hangars. But that arrangement ended after some detainees became unruly or tried to unlock their handcuffs, the commanders said.

Exhausted after the journey to Sde Teiman, Mr. Bakr fell asleep soon after his arrival — prompting an officer to summon him to a nearby command room, he said.

The officer began beating him, Mr. Bakr said. “This is the punishment for anyone who sleeps,” he recalled the officer saying.

Others described similar responses to minor infractions. Rafiq Yassin, 55, a builder detained in December, said he was beaten repeatedly in his abdomen after trying to peek from underneath his blindfold. He said he began vomiting blood and was treated at a civilian hospital in the nearby city of Beersheba. Asked about the claim, the hospital referred The Times to the health ministry, which declined to comment.

The Israeli soldier who witnessed abuses at a hangar said one detainee was beaten so hard that his ribs bled after he was accused of peeking beneath his blindfold, while another was beaten after talking too loudly too often.



The Times did not witness any beatings during the visit to the hangar, where some detainees were seen praying while others were assessed by paramedics or brought by the shawish to wash in a sink at the back of the hangar. One man could be seen peeking beneath his blindfold without immediate punishment.

Like the other former detainees, Mr. Bakr recalled receiving three meager snacks on most days — typically bread served with small quantities of either cheese, jam or tuna, and occasionally cucumbers and tomatoes. The military said that the food provisions had been “approved by an authorized nutritionist in order to maintain their health.”

According to several former detainees, it was not enough. Three said they lost more than 40 pounds during their detention.

Some medical treatment is available on site. The commanders brought The Times to an office where they said medics screened every detainee on arrival, in addition to monitoring them every day in the hangars. Serious cases are treated in a nearby cluster of tents that form a makeshift field hospital.

Inside those tents, patients are blindfolded and handcuffed to their beds, in accordance with a health ministry document outlining policies for the site, which was reviewed by The Times.



During the visit, four medics at the hospital said those measures were necessary to prevent attacks on the medical staff. They said that at least two prisoners had tried to assault medics during their treatment.

But others, including Dr. Donchin, said that in many cases the handcuffs were unnecessary and made it harder to treat people properly.

Two Israelis who were at the hospital last year said that its staff members were much less experienced and more poorly equipped during earlier phases of the war. One of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid prosecution, said that at the time patients were not given enough painkillers during painful procedures.

Physicians for Human Rights, a rights group in Israel, said in a report in April that the field hospital was “a low point for medical ethics and professionalism.”



The hospital’s current leadership acknowledged that it had not always been as well-equipped as it has become, but said its staff was always highly experienced.

Dr. Donchin said in some respects the treatment at the field clinic was now “a little better” than in Israeli civilian hospitals, mainly because it was staffed by some of the best doctors in Israel. Dr. Donchin, a lieutenant colonel in the military reserve, was a long-serving anesthesiologist at a major hospital in Jerusalem and now teaches at a leading medical school.

The facilities and equipment seen by The Times included an anesthesia machine, an ultrasound monitor, X-ray equipment, a device for analyzing blood samples, a small operating theater and a storeroom containing hundreds of medicines.

Doctors serving at Sde Teiman who spoke to The Times said they were also told not to write their names on any official documentation and not to address each other by name in front of the patients.

Dr. Donchin said that officials feared they could be identified and charged with war crimes at the International Criminal Court.



During The Times’s visit, three doctors said they did not fear prosecution but sought anonymity to prevent Hamas and their allies from attacking them or their families.

Roughly four days after his arrival, Mr. Bakr said he was called in for interrogation.

Like others who spoke to The Times, he remembered being brought to a separate enclosure that the detainees called the “disco room” — because, they said, they were forced to listen to extremely loud music that prevented them from sleeping. Mr. Bakr considered it a form of torture, saying it was so painful that blood began to trickle from inside his ear.

The Israeli military said that the music was “not high and not harmful,” played within earshot of Israelis and Palestinians alike, and was meant to prevent the detainees from easily conferring with each other before interrogation. The Times was not shown any part of the interrogation complex, including the area where music was played.

Wearing nothing but a diaper, Mr. Bakr said, he was then brought to a separate room to be questioned.

The interrogators accused him of Hamas membership and showed him photographs of militants to see if he could identify them. They also asked him about the whereabouts of hostages, as well as a senior Hamas leader who lived near Mr. Bakr’s family home. When Mr. Bakr denied any connection to the group or knowledge of the pictured men, he was beaten repeatedly, he said.



Mr. al-Hamlawi, the senior nurse, said a female officer had ordered two soldiers to lift him up and press his rectum against a metal stick that was fixed to the ground. Mr. al-Hamlawi said the stick penetrated his rectum for roughly five seconds, causing it to bleed and leaving him with “unbearable pain.”

A leaked draft of the UNRWA report detailed an interview that gave a similar account. It cited a 41-year-old detainee who said that interrogators “made me sit on something like a hot metal stick and it felt like fire,” and also said that another detainee “died after they put the electric stick up” his anus.

Mr. al-Hamlawi recalled being forced to sit in a chair wired with electricity. He said he was shocked so often that, after initially urinating uncontrollably, he then stopped urinating for several days. Mr. al-Hamlawi said he, too, had been forced to wear nothing but a diaper, to stop him from soiling the floor.

Ibrahim Shaheen, 38, a truck driver detained in early December for nearly three months, said he was shocked roughly half a dozen times while sitting in a chair. Officers accused him of concealing information about the location of dead hostages, Mr. Shaheen said.

Mr. Bakr also said he was forced to sit in chair wired with electricity, sending a current pulsing through his body that made him pass out.



After more than a month in detention, Mr. Bakr said, the officers seemed to accept his innocence.

Early one morning in February, Mr. Bakr was put on a bus heading to Israel’s border with southern Gaza: After a month of detention, he was about to be released.

He said he asked for his phone and the 7,200 shekels (roughly $2,000) that had been confiscated from him during his arrest in Gaza, before he reached Sde Teiman.

In response, a soldier hit and shouted at him, Mr. Bakr said. “No one should ask about his phone or his money,” the soldier said, according to Mr. Bakr.

The military said all personal belongings were documented and placed in sealed bags after detainees arrived at Sde Teiman, and returned on their release.



Around dawn, the bus arrived at the Kerem Shalom crossing point, near the southern tip of Gaza.

Like other returned detainees, Mr. Bakr walked for roughly a mile before being greeted by aid workers from the Red Cross. They fed him and briefly checked his medical condition. Then they brought him to a nearby terminal where, he said, he was briefly interrogated by Hamas security officials about his time in Israel.

Borrowing a phone, he called his family, who were still 20 miles away in Gaza City.

It was the first time that they had heard from him in more than a month, Mr. Bakr said.

“They asked me, ‘Are you alive?’”

Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Istanbul; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; and Ronen Bergman from Tel Aviv.

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Russia Detains a French National Suspected of Collecting Military Data

Russian investigators said on Thursday that they had detained a French national in Moscow on suspicion of collecting intelligence about activities of the Russian military, adding to a list of foreign citizens held in the country since the invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian state news agency TASS identified the detained individual, citing its sources in law enforcement, as Laurent Vinatier. The agency said Mr. Vinatier was employed as a consultant at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Swiss-based nonprofit.

On its website, the center states that its mission is to “prevent and resolve armed conflicts around the world through mediation and discreet diplomacy.”

Responding to a request for comment, the nonprofit confirmed that Mr. Vinatier worked as an adviser and that he had been detained in Russia.

“We are working to get more details of the circumstances and to secure Laurent’s release,” the center said.

Mr. Vinatier has worked with the nonprofit since 2014 as adviser in its Russia/Eurasia program, according to his profile on the social network LinkedIn. He listed “facilitating meetings,” “meditating” and “passing messages” as among his duties. He also worked as a risk adviser, researcher and lecturer at various schools and institutes, with Russia as his primary focus.

Since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine, Western journalists and researchers visiting or living in Russia have found it increasingly risky to work in the country as they have gotten caught up in the worst crisis in relations between Moscow and Western states in decades.

Russia’s state Investigative Committee said in a statement that the detained French national would be charged for failing to register as a “foreign agent,” a charge that carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.

The statement said that during repeated visits to Russia, the detained individual had held meetings with Russian citizens to “purposefully collect information in the field of military and military-technical activities of Russia” and that this information “can be used against the security of the state.”

The agency published a video in which it showed security officials detaining a man in jeans and a black shirt who was sitting at a veranda outside a restaurant in central Moscow. The man’s face was blurred in the video.

Mr. Vinatier has joined a list of Westerners in Russian custody including Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal; Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine; and Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

On Wednesday a court in St. Petersburg said that it had sentenced Yuri Malev, a Russian American national, to three and a half years in a penal colony after he posted memes and other posts that criticized the country, its leadership and its war in Ukraine on social media.

The detentions of Westerners in Russia in recent years have raised fears that the Kremlin is seeking to use them as bargaining chips to be exchanged for Russian individuals held in the West.

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.

Bombed and Bruised, a City Braces for Another Russian Onslaught


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Carlotta Gall and

Reporting from Sumy, Ukraine

It was the dead of night and a fire was raging in the apartment building where a Russian drone had struck just minutes earlier. Through the smoke, residents stumbled down the stairs from their apartments and told fire officers who were trying to account for all the inhabitants that a young woman was renting the top-floor flat.

Artem, 37, was one of several officers on duty that night, March 13, who raced up to try to find her. On the fifth floor, they broke open the metal door of the woman’s apartment, and dense black smoke billowed into the stairwell. On the other side of the door, they looked into a void.

“There was no apartment,” said Artem, who gave only his first name for security reasons. “There was a meter of floor and then nothing.”

That strike, which killed four people in the building, was one of many that have rained down for months on the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, just 25 miles from the border with Russia, and its surrounding region. Ukrainian officials have warned with increasing urgency that Sumy is a target of a new offensive by Russian forces massing across the border.

“The mood is very anxious,” said Capt. Dmytro Lantushenko, 38, spokesman for the 117th Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces, based in Sumy. “People read the news, people read Telegram channels, and they cannot ignore the news about a possible attack on Sumy.” Telegram is one of the most widely used social media channels in Ukraine.

Villages and towns closer to the border are already being shelled daily, and guided bombs, rockets, missiles and drones have smashed into factories and power plants in Sumy’s industrial district, Captain Lantushenko said. The damage is accumulating, and Sumy, like much of Ukraine, is living under rolling power outages.

A map highlighting Sumy, Ukraine , showing it’s proximity to Kharkiv and the border with Russia.

The five-story apartment block destroyed on March 13 was struck by an Iranian-made Shahed drone, said Artem, the fire officer. The Russians have taken to attacking the center of town with bursts of several exploding drones, which have hit several residential buildings.

The fire crews worked for four days putting out the fire and clearing the rubble, Artem said. A soldier living alone in one apartment and a pensioner in another were among those who were killed in the strike, Artem and a family member of the soldier said. A family of four were pinned under a fallen ceiling. Fire officers pulled out the wife and two children but said the husband did not survive. Rescuers never found the young woman in the top apartment.

On a recent morning, a resident named Lyubov, 71, was having new windows put in at her apartment after they were blown out by a drone strike just a week earlier. She missed being injured because she went to stand in the stairwell when she heard an air raid siren, she said. Like Artem, she provided only her first name for security reasons.

With its tree-lined avenues and lush, riverside parks, Sumy has the feel of a quiet, provincial town. Shoppers wait at bus stops and young women push infants in strollers in the parks.

Yet the city has lived through heavy assault before and its inhabitants put up a ferocious resistance. When Russia began its full-scale invasion in 2022, tanks rolled into Sumy the very first day, Feb. 24.

The Ukrainian Army and security services had been ordered to withdraw, leaving behind just a small number of people in the territorial defense force, along with members of the emergency services and medical personnel in the hospitals.

Artem was among the first to come across the Russians when he was driving back to his base at around 5 that afternoon. He saw four tanks approaching along the main avenue. “I stopped at a traffic light,” he said, “and they stopped at the light too.” He laughed at the memory of the surreal moment.

The Russian soldiers seemed relaxed, he said. One had his rifle slung across his back and his legs crossed over the barrel of the tank, he recalled. The Russians began setting up checkpoints on the edge of town, he said. But that evening, members of the Ukrainian territorial defense forces attacked the Russian forces and burned some of their vehicles.

Townspeople rallied to the defense of the city, said Captain Lantushenko, who volunteered for the territorial defense forces shortly before the invasion.

“There was an incredible unity,” he said. “We realized we had to defend our homes on our own. And thousands of people like me went and took weapons.”

Facing such heavy resistance, the Russian troops abandoned their plans to occupy the city as they had elsewhere. In those other areas, the occupations led to brutal consequences for residents.

“We had guys on bicycles with rifles on their backs,” Artem recalled. Two of his friends who ran a cafe had scores of people making Molotov cocktails in their courtyard, he said. “From the first days it was like: ‘Just you dare try and come here.’”

The Ukrainians hit and burned Russian vehicles at two entry points to the city on the first days. The Russian troops pulled back, choosing instead to blockade the city, setting up positions on the perimeter and firing artillery from afar.

“They shelled and shelled,” Lyubov recalled. She gave only her first name for security reasons to avoid repercussions for herself or her family. She moved in with her daughter and grandchildren for two months during that time so the family could be together. “There were often air raid alarms,” she said. “We all sat in the corridor.”

Within a month, the Russian Army abandoned its northern incursion, retreating from a whole stretch of territory around the capital, Kyiv, and the northeastern cities of Chernihiv and Sumy, to focus on seizing the eastern region of the Donbas.

Later in 2022, Ukraine won further successes, forcing Russian troops into retreat from another part of northeastern Ukraine, around the city of Kharkiv, as well as from the Kherson region in southern Ukraine.

But since then, the momentum has swung in favor of the invading Russian forces. Ukraine failed to advance far in a counteroffensive in the summer of 2023 and has suffered a shortage of troops and ammunition as American support became delayed by hard-liners in Congress.

In early May, Russia began a new incursion toward Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, after Kyiv. Troops seized a dozen villages and approached within artillery range of the city. More forces are mustering near the border to attack Sumy, Ukrainian officials have said.

There is a weariness and a sense of dread among residents as they face the ordeal of another Russian attack.

People who had cars and the means were leaving, Artem said. But those who had jobs or family commitments were staying, hoping for the best.

“I don’t believe they will come to Sumy,” Lyubov, whose windows were shattered by the drone strike, said of the Russian forces. “But I’m afraid.”

Captain Lantushenko expressed confidence that the army’s preparations and fortifications would be sufficient to hold out against a renewed Russian assault. Unlike the first days of the war, Ukraine’s defense forces are now trained and organized, he said.

But people were exhausted, he said, even if the sense of unity was still there.

“No one knows when the war will end,” he said. “I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have a friend or family member or neighbor in the army, and more and more people are in the army every day. It’s incredibly hard to keep holding on.”

Yuriy Shyvala contributed from Sumy, Ukraine.

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In Global Elections, Strongmen Are Taken Down a Notch

In India, a powerful leader wins another term but sees his party’s majority vanish. In South Africa, the governing party is humbled by voters for the first time since the end of apartheid. In Britain, a populist insurgent barges into an election that is shaping up to be a crushing defeat for the long-ruling Conservatives.

If there is a common thread halfway through this global year of elections, it is a desire by voters to send a strong signal to the powers that be — if not quite a wholesale housecleaning, then a defiant shake-up of the status quo.

Even in Mexico, where Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist and the handpicked successor of the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was elected in a landslide last Sunday, voters were rewarding the forces that had uprooted the country’s entrenched establishment only six years earlier.

With a billion-plus people going to the polls in more than 60 countries, some analysts had feared that 2024 would pose a fateful test for democracy — one that it might fail. For years, populist and strongmen leaders have chipped away at democratic institutions, sowing doubts about the legitimacy of elections, while social media has swamped voters with disinformation and conspiracy theories.

In some of the biggest, most fragile democracies, leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had been regarded as close to invincible, using appeals to nationalism or sectarianism to mobilize supporters and bending institutions to suit their purposes.

Yet now, Mr. Modi and Mr. Erdogan have both had their wings clipped. Soaring inflation, chronic unemployment and uneven economic growth have widened inequality in India, Turkey and elsewhere, frustrating voters who have shown a willingness to buck the establishment.

“We do have electoral systems that are producing outcomes the governing parties didn’t want,” said Ben Ansell, a professor of comparative democratic institutions at the University of Oxford. “They’ve all been destabilized by a tricky economic environment, and behaving like strongmen hasn’t saved them.”

Mr. Modi and Mr. Erdogan remain in power, each now in his third term. But Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., lost dozens of seats and will have to govern in a coalition with two secular parties. Turkey’s opposition struck a blow against Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party in April, winning a string of local elections and solidifying its control of important cities like Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

“In a lot of countries where there’s been talk of backsliding, that’s where we’ve seen a bounce back,” Professor Ansell said. “For Modi and Erdogan, taking the sheen off their infallibility was very important.”

With so many elections in so many countries, it is dangerous to generalize. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia rolled up 88 percent of the vote in a landslide re-election victory in March that spoke less to Russian public sentiment and more to the ability of an autocrat, facing no meaningful opposition, to stage-manage a show of support for his war in Ukraine.

In Europe, far-right parties are expected to perform well in European Parliament elections, which began on Thursday. Analysts said they did not believe this would jeopardize the political center that has governed Europe in the post-World War II era. And Poland provided a source of reassurance last fall, when voters pushed out its nationalist Law and Justice Party in favor of a more liberal opposition.

Still, the success of far-right figures like Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister of Italy, attests to the enduring appeal of populism.

“Populists and right-wingers will continue to make gains and strike fear into the European political establishment,” the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, said in its analysis of the top risks of 2024.

Britain’s general election was shaken up on Monday when Nigel Farage, a populist politician, pro-Brexit campaigner and ally of former President Donald J. Trump, announced he would run for a seat in Parliament under the banner of his Reform U.K. party, which has a strident anti-immigration message.

That will add to the headache for the Conservative Party, which has lagged the opposition Labour Party by double digits in polls for nearly 18 months. Reform, which is fielding candidates across the country, could siphon off Conservative votes among those who blame the party for a weak economy and rising immigration numbers since Britain left the European Union in 2020.

Some critics argue that the Conservative Party’s problems stem from its free-market policies, which they say have disillusioned voters in disadvantaged parts of Britain and set it apart from right-wing parties in Europe or Mr. Trump’s Make America Great Again movement in the United States.

More fundamentally, though, the Conservatives have been in power for 14 years, and they face the same pent-up dissatisfaction with the status quo that fueled the recent elections in India, South Africa and Turkey.

In some countries, the urge to break with the past has led voters to make unorthodox choices: Javier Milei, a flamboyant libertarian economist, swept to power in Argentina last November with a promise to close its central bank and wage an all-out assault on what he described as a corrupt political “caste.”

Some analysts argue that similarly disruptive forces are driving the presidential race in the United States, where a comparatively healthy economy and the advantages of incumbency have not spared President Biden, who faces a neck-and-neck challenge from Mr. Trump even after the former president was convicted of multiple felonies.

“It’s not about left versus right, it’s about the status quo versus change,” said Frank Luntz, an American political strategist who has lived and worked in Britain. “You can’t buy a house in the U.K., the N.H.S. doesn’t work,” he said, referring to the National Health Service. “In the United States, you can’t afford housing or health care. It’s about broken promises, year after year after year.”

That sense of betrayal is even more acute in countries like South Africa, where the African National Congress, or A.N.C., has governed since the start of democracy there in 1994, piling up majorities even as the economy and social infrastructure crumbled. Last week, voters finally rebelled, driving down the A.N.C.’s vote share to 40 percent, from 58 percent in the last national election in 2019.

Among their biggest complaints is the lack of job opportunities: South Africa’s unemployment rate — at 42 percent, including those who have stopped looking for work — is one of the highest in the world. Stagnation has widened the country’s already profound inequality.

South Africans flock to cities looking for work. But many end up in decrepit buildings and slapdash shack communities, often without running water or sanitary toilets. Regular power outages leave streets dark and residents of many communities vulnerable to crime. South Africa’s murder rate is six and a half times as high as that of the United States and 45 times as high as Germany’s.

Jacob Zuma, the scandal-scarred former president, has benefited from this misery, helping start a new party, umKhonto weSizwe, or M.K., which won nearly 15 percent of the vote, mostly at the expense of his former party, the A.N.C.

Mr. Zuma attracts a feverish following among disillusioned A.N.C. supporters, who accuse the party of selling out to wealthy white businesspeople and not moving aggressively enough to redistribute wealth to the Black majority after apartheid.

India’s election was a comparable anti-incumbent revolt, even if Mr. Modi’s B.J.P. is still the largest party in Parliament by a wide margin. The party’s campaign spending was at least 20 times as much as that of its main opposition, the Congress Party, which had its bank accounts frozen by the government in a tax dispute on the eve of the election. The country’s news outlets have been largely bought off or bullied into silence.

And yet, the results showed Mr. Modi, 73, losing his majority for the first time since he took office in 2014. Analysts said that reflected widespread dissatisfaction with how the fruits of India’s economy have been shared. While India’s steady growth has made it the envy of its neighbors — and created a conspicuous billionaire class — those riches have not flowed to the hundreds of millions of India’s poor.

The government has handed out free rations of wheat, grain and cooking gas. It offers home water connections, subsidizes building supplies and gives farmers cash. But it has not tackled India’s inflation or unemployment, leaving hundreds of millions of people, especially women, chronically out of work.

There is also some evidence that Mr. Modi’s appeals to Hindu nationalism were not as potent as in previous elections. The B.J.P.’s candidate did not even win the constituency that is home to the lavish Ram temple, built on grounds disputed by Hindus and Muslims. Mr. Modi inaugurated the temple just before the campaign started, hoping it would galvanize his Hindu political base.

The economy figured into Mexico’s election as well, but in a very different way. While overall growth was disappointing — averaging only 1 percent a year during Mr. López Obrador’s term — the government doubled the minimum wage and strengthened the peso, lifting millions of Mexicans out of poverty.

“People vote with their wallets, and it’s very obvious there’s more money in the wallets of almost everybody in Mexico,” said Diego Casteñeda Garza, a Mexican economist and historian at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Still, analysts said, there was also a desire among voters to cement the change that Mr. López Obrador, a charismatic outsider, symbolized when he came to power in 2018. Even as Ms. Sheinbaum, 61, vowed to continue her mentor’s policies, she cast herself — Mexico’s first female and Jewish president — as a change agent.

For Jacqueline González, 33, who works at a cargo transportation company and viewed Mexico’s previous governments as corrupt, that made voting for Ms. Sheinbaum an easy decision.

“With Obrador we have already seen, although some people don’t want to admit it, some change,” Ms. González said. “Let’s hope it continues with Sheinbaum.”

Reporting was contributed by John Eligon from Johannesburg, Alex Travelli from New Delhi and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega from Mexico City.

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Train Crash in Czech Republic Kills 4 and Injures More Than 20

A train crash in the Czech Republic late Wednesday killed at least four people and injured more than 20 others, according to officials.

A passenger train was bound for Kosice, Slovakia, with roughly 380 passengers on board when it hit a freight train, according to the national Fire and Rescue Service. The crash occurred in Pardubice, a city around 62 miles east of Prague, which is where the passenger train had started its journey

The accident occurred after the passenger train proceeded down a track despite “a signal in a position prohibiting the passage of an express passenger train,” the transport minister, Martin Kupka, wrote on the X social media platform.

“Whether this was a technical fault, human error or a combination of both factors is the subject of a detailed investigation and it is not possible to predict specific conclusions,” he wrote.

The freight train was carrying calcium carbide, a caustic, flammable chemical compound used in steel manufacturing, among other things. There was no leakage from the crash, according to the Fire and Rescue Service.

Pictures from the scene appeared to show that some of the cars had derailed. Early Thursday, emergency workers were seen helping passengers and their luggage off the train in videos posted by the authorities. Uninjured passengers were taken to Pardubice Station, and children were given stuffed animals.

Mr. Kupka traveled overnight with Vít Rakusan, the interior minister, to the site of the crash and expressed his condolences on social media.

Train schedules on the Pardubice line, one of the country’s major railway corridors, are expected to be disrupted through Thursday as authorities investigate the scene.

RegioJet, a private railway and bus company, is the operator of the passenger train that crashed, according to the authorities.

Barbara Petrova contributed reporting from Prague

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Papua New Guinea to End Search for Landslide Victims

Two weeks after a landslide leveled a remote community in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province, search and rescue operations are about to end, amid indications that the disaster was less devastating than previously thought.

So far, 11 bodies have been recovered, but crews have struggled to work through debris that covered an irregularly shaped area more than a third of a mile long. Aid workers have distributed food — rice, canned fish, cooking oil, sugar and salt — to about 3,000 people living near the site.

Geological experts from New Zealand have urged the authorities to evacuate a larger area because of the risk of another landslide, a United Nations agency said, adding that the search for victims is scheduled to end on Friday.

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Moscow Could Target Countries Supplying Weapons to Ukraine, Putin Says

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia warned on Wednesday that Western nations supplying Ukraine with long-range missiles and allowing them to be used to attack inside Russia was a “dangerous step” that could prompt Moscow to reciprocate against Western targets.

“If someone thinks it possible to send such weapons to a war zone to strike our territory and create problems for us,” Mr. Putin said at a news conference, “then why do we not have the right to send our weapons of the same class to those regions of the world where strikes can be made on sensitive facilities of the countries that do this against Russia?”

Mr. Putin singled out Germany, saying that its supply of battle tanks to Ukraine had been an initial blow to Russian-German relations, but its permission to use missiles in Russia was even worse.

“Now, when they say that some missiles will appear that will strike targets on Russian territory, this, of course, is ultimately destroying Russo-German relations,” he said.

Mr. Putin was speaking to senior editors from at least 15 news agencies from around the world that were invited to meet with him on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Mr. Putin had skipped the tradition since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, but this year the invitation was extended to Western outlets such as The Associated Press, Reuters and various European agencies including Agence France-Presse, DPA from Germany, ANSA from Italy and EFE from Spain.

Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters that representatives from “unfriendly countries” were included because “it is very important for them to get to know Putin and understand Russia firsthand,” according to Russia’s official news agency, Tass.

Western business executives largely avoided the forum, while China had a significant presence, including a presentation of a bulletproof limousine that retails for more than $560,000 in China, Tass reported.

Mr. Putin answered questions on a wide range of topics, but many of the queries focused on the war in Ukraine. Although Russia invaded Ukraine after it had begun destabilizing the Eastern regions in 2014 by supporting separatists, Mr. Putin again portrayed the war as the fault of Ukraine and its Western allies.

Countries that are supplying weapons to Ukraine risked being dragged into a war with Russia, he said.

It was not clear where Mr. Putin possibly planned to position Russian weapons in other regions. Troops and armaments have been deployed in Belarus, possibly including nuclear missiles, during the war. Belarus borders Europe more closely than Russia, as does the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea. Russia also has forces in Syria near bases where the United States operates.

In terms of relations with Washington, Mr. Putin said that he did not think the looming presidential election would change much as long as the United States continued to pursue “greatness.”

Asked about the recent conviction of the former president, Donald J. Trump, Mr. Putin said that the United States was burning itself from within. “It is obvious all over the world that the prosecution of Trump, especially in court on charges that were formed on the basis of events that happened years ago, without direct proof, is simply using the judicial system in an internal political struggle,” he said.

On the subject of Evan Gershkovich, the American reporter from The Wall Street Journal who has been imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges for more than a year, Mr. Putin said that the United States was taking “vigorous steps” toward his release. Mr. Gershkovich, The Journal and the U.S. government have all denied the charges.

Such issues “should only be resolved on the basis of reciprocity,” Mr. Putin added. “The relevant U.S. and Russian agencies are in contact with each other on this issue.”

Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.

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A War on the Nile Pushes Sudan Toward the Abyss

A proud city of gleaming high rises, oil wealth and five-star hotels lies in ruins.

Millions have fled.

A famine threatens.

The gold market is a graveyard of rubble and dog-eaten corpses. The state TV station became a torture chamber. The national film archive was blown open in battle, its treasures now yellowing in the sun.

Artillery shells soar over the Nile, smashing into hospitals and houses. Residents bury their dead outside their front doors. Others march in formation, joining civilian militias. In a hushed famine ward, starving babies fight for life. Every few days, one of them dies.

Khartoum, the capital of Sudan and one of the largest cities in Africa, has been reduced to a charred battleground. A feud between two generals fighting for power has dragged the country into civil war and turned the city into ground zero for one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes.

As many as 150,000 people have died since the conflict erupted last year, by American estimates. Another nine million have been forced from their homes, making Sudan home to the largest displacement crisis on earth, the United Nations says. A famine looms that officials warn could kill hundreds of thousands of children in the coming months and, if unchecked, rival the great Ethiopian famine of the 1980s.

Fueling the chaos, Sudan has become a playground for foreign players like the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Russia and its Wagner mercenaries, and even a few Ukrainian special forces. They are all part of a volatile stew of outside interests pouring weapons or fighters into the conflict and hoping to grab the spoils of war — Sudan’s gold, for instance, or its perch on the Red Sea.

The greatest tragedy is that none of it was necessary, said Samawal Ahmed, as he picked his way through the remnants of a famous market, past looted jewelry stores and a mangled tank. A year ago, in the first weeks of the war, a rocket smashed into his apartment, and the medical lab where he worked closed down for good. Now he was back, to salvage what he could.

“I lost everything,” he said, holding a batch of documents pulled from the wreckage of his home: his children’s school certificates, his professional qualifications, and a passport. Across the street, the withered remains of three fighters, reduced to bones, were splayed among the debris.

“It makes my stomach churn,” Mr. Ahmed said. “All this could have been avoided.”

The war erupted without warning in April 2023, when a standoff between Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary group it helped create — the Rapid Support Forces — burst into gunfire on the streets of Khartoum.

Few Sudanese expected it would last long. Since independence in 1956, their country has experienced more coups than any other in Africa, most short-lived and bloodless. The rivals this time — the national army and the paramilitary force that once did its bidding — had seized power together in 2021, but fell out over how to merge their armies.

The map locates the tri-city area of greater Khartoum in Sudan, which includes Khartoum to the south, Bahri, or Khartoum North to the north, and the city of Omdurman to the west. Khartoum and Bahri are mostly controlled by the Rapid Support Forces, or R.S.F., and the Sudan military controls the northern and central parts of Omdurman, while large areas of west and south Omdurman are still held by the R.S.F.

Almost immediately, the fighting ripped across Khartoum and far beyond, in pulsing waves that quickly consumed Africa’s third-largest country. Sudanese have been stunned by the destruction, but neither side looks capable of victory, and the war is metastasizing into a devastating free-for-all.

Another genocide now threatens Darfur, the region that became synonymous with war crimes two decades ago. Fields have become battlegrounds in the country’s breadbasket. The health system is crumbling. And a plethora of armed groups, including hard-line Islamists, foreign mercenaries and even former pro-democracy protesters, has piled into the fight.

With American-led peace talks stalled, the Sudanese state is collapsing and threatening to drag down a fragile region with it. Experts say it is a matter of time before one of Sudan’s many neighbors, like Chad, Eritrea or South Sudan, gets sucked in.

Though often overshadowed by the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, the conflict in Sudan has global ramifications. Iran, already allied with the Houthis in Yemen, is now backing military forces on both sides of the Red Sea. Europeans fear a wave of Sudanese migrants heading for their shores. A recent U.S. intelligence assessment warned that a lawless Sudan could become a haven for “terrorist and criminal networks.”

We spent three weeks crossing Sudan, where few foreign reporters have gained access in the past year.

We traveled from Port Sudan, the new de facto capital on the Red Sea, where nearly quarter of a million have sought refuge.

We drove through sandstorms and dozens of checkpoints guarded by jumpy fighters, reaching Khartoum, the ravaged city where the war began.

As we approached the capital, artillery boomed, a warplane swept overhead and, across the Nile, an oily plume of smoke rose from Sudan’s largest refinery — the latest flashpoint in a sprawling urban battle. With the city in tumult, we slept in an abandoned house, where a neighbor told of how a bomb killed his sister in their kitchen.

It was just one corner of a country three times larger than France. Yet it was possible to see, up close, the immense damage to a capital once considered a jewel on the Nile — and how, if unchecked, it could still get much worse.

Gunfire and mortars splashed into the waters around Col. Osman Taha, a badly wounded officer in the Sudanese military, as he crossed the Nile on a moonless night last November. Around him, he recalled, other wounded soldiers huddled in the boat, hoping to avoid being hit again. Several died.

Colonel Taha made it to the far bank, and five days later his right leg was amputated. Even then, there was no respite. As he recovered in a military hospital overlooking the Nile, he said, shells slammed into its walls, fired by the Rapid Support Forces across the river. Patients moved their beds to avoid being hit as artillery fell.


“It was hell.”

Col. Osman Taha, a wounded officer in the Sudanese military.

The Nile has long defined Khartoum. Its tributaries merge in the city center before pushing north through the desert into Egypt. Now, the great river divides Khartoum militarily as well, yet another front line in a splintered capital.

Snipers nestle in the riverbank beneath a giant bridge, blown up in fighting, that slumps into the river. Drones swoop over the water, hunting for targets. And an island in the center of the Nile, where people once picnicked and swam, has become a kind of open-air prison controlled by the R.S.F., residents say.

“Watch your step,” said Dr. Manahil Mohamed as she led us up a sandbag-lined staircase to the fourth floor of the Aliaa Specialist Hospital, overlooking the Nile, where a line of blown-out windows offered a stark panorama.

On the deserted street below, burned-out vehicles clustered around the Parliament building. In the distance stood the skeletal skyline of downtown Khartoum: government ministries, luxury hotels and mirrored high-rises that poked over the city’s poverty, many built during Sudan’s oil boom of the 1990s, now pocked by shelling or gutted by fire. Among them stood the old Republican Palace where followers of the Mahdi, a cleric, toppled and beheaded the country’s British governor-general, Charles Gordon, in 1885. It, too, has gone up in smoke.

In many ways, the destruction in Khartoum is a bitter historical reckoning. For over half a century, Sudan’s military waged ugly wars in the nation’s distant peripheries, quelling rebellions by deploying ruthless militias. Khartoum was left untouched, its residents insulated from the consequences of wars fought in their name.

Now, the army’s most powerful creation — the Rapid Support Forces, a successor to the infamous Janjaweed militias that terrorized Darfur in the 2000s — has turned against the military and brought its trademark havoc to the capital.

Half of Khartoum state’s nine million residents have fled, the United Nations estimates. Its international airport is closed, bullet-pocked jets abandoned on the runway. Nearly all of the city’s 1,060 bank branches have been robbed, officials say, and many thousands of cars stolen — some later located as far away as Niger, 1,500 miles west — in a campaign of street-by-street looting, most but not all, by the Rapid Support Forces.

“A city of this size, this wealth, and nothing remains?” Mohamed Eldaw, a banker, said. “It must be the biggest episode of looting in history.”

At the Aliaa hospital, a triple thud of outgoing artillery shattered the calm. Warning of snipers, Dr. Mohamed urged us back inside.

For months, shells rained on the hospital, which mostly treated soldiers, often punching through its walls, she said. With no electricity, surgeons performed operations by the light of mobile phones.

Relief came in February when the military, armed with powerful new Iranian drones, recaptured this part of the city. (By contrast, the R.S.F. uses drones supplied by the United Arab Emirates).

The military’s advance allowed hundreds of wounded troops to be evacuated by air to Port Sudan, where they lie in the crowded wards of a military hospital. One man had extensive facial injuries from a drone strike. Amputations were common.

The evacuees included Colonel Taha, who sat up in his bed to show a series of videos that he took during his last battle. Jubilant soldiers can be seen whooping and hugging, thinking they have won. Bleeding R.S.F. fighters lie in the dust, and are kicked or taunted by the soldiers. The camera flips to show Colonel Taha himself, sweating heavily, his eyes glazed from battle.

But the soldiers had missed one R.S.F. fighter, a sniper hidden in a residential block, and he shot Colonel Taha in the leg. Later that night, he said, medics moved him to an ammunition factory beside the Nile, where they embarked on their perilous crossing.

He was pessimistic the war would end anytime soon.

“Guns can’t solve this problem,” he said. “We need to talk peace.”

To Amna Amin, war means hunger.

After Rapid Support Forces fighters swept into her part of Omdurman, one of the three cities that make up greater Khartoum, Ms. Amin, 36, had no way to feed her five children.

Her husband, a gold miner in the distant north, had vanished. She lost her job as a cleaner. Neighbors shared what they could, but it wasn’t enough. And soon she had two more mouths to feed: Iman and Ayman, twins born in September.

Within months, the twins started losing weight and suffering diarrhea, classic signs of malnutrition. Panicking, Ms. Amin bundled her children in her arms and made a desperate dash across the front line, traveling by donkey cart and minibus to reach Al Buluk children’s hospital, the last place they might be saved.

The United Nations has yet to officially declare a famine in Sudan, but few experts doubt that one is already underway in parts of Darfur and, shockingly, Khartoum, one of the largest capitals in Africa.

More than 220,000 children could die in the coming months alone, the U.N. says. And both sides use hunger as a weapon of war, aid officials say. The army withholds visas, travel permits and permission to cross the front lines. Rapid Support Force fighters have looted aid trucks and warehouses and raised their own obstacles.

“One of the most horrific situations on Earth is on a trajectory to get far, far worse,” said Tom Perriello, the United States envoy for Sudan.

At the hospital, Ms. Amin’s twins, Iman and Ayman, lay with thin limbs and papery skin. They had been saved. For now.

But many more starving children arrive every day, and the entire health system is crumbling.

Half of Khartoum’s 50 hospitals are closed, many destroyed in fighting, said Dr. Sohail Albushra, a state health official.

The hospitals still functioning are strained to the point of collapse. Every day hundreds of new patients arrive at Al Nau hospital, near the frontline in Omdurman. Many sleep two to a bed.

Patients spoke of pinballing from one neighborhood to another as the front line shifts, running a gauntlet of checkpoints defended by fighters who demand money, steal phones and sometimes open fire.

Huda Adil, 30, was paralyzed from the waist down after R.S.F. fighters shot up the bus she was traveling in. (Three passengers died, she said).

Amouna Elhadi sat over her son, Hassan, a 14-year-old shot in the stomach by the mustanfareen, as new youth groups fighting alongside Sudan’s military have become known.


“All his stomach fell out.”

Amouna Elhadi, mother of Hassan, 14.

Mujahid Abdulaziz, however, was smiling.

For 10 weeks, he had been trying to get a bullet removed from his leg. An R.S.F. fighter shot him at a checkpoint after a drone strike on a nearby fuel station killed several other fighters. “The guy was angry,” Mr. Abdulaziz said.

For Mr. Abdulaziz, a 20-year-old engineering student, it was just the start of a torturous search for help.

One hospital patched up his wound, but couldn’t extract the bullet. A second hospital couldn’t, either. He crossed the Nile three times, circling the capital in buses that passed through deserts and around a mountain. Finally, after a journey of 100 miles that should have been 10, he reached Al Nau hospital, where doctors pulled out the bullet, at last.

Not long ago, Mr. Abdulaziz believed he was part of an exciting future. He participated in the euphoric mass protests in 2019 that helped topple President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan’s autocratic ruler of three decades, a moment of triumph for the country. Two years later, he returned to the streets, defiantly flinging stones at riot police officers following the military coup that set back hopes for civilian rule.

Some protesters now run soup kitchens that provide much of the limited aid available in Khartoum.

But Mr. Abdulaziz just felt defeated.

Before the war, “we were just dreaming,” he said. “Those hopes are gone.”

Mudassir Ibrahim, 50, lifted his shirt to show welts across his back — evidence, he said, of a week spent in R.S.F. detention inside the headquarters of Sudan’s national radio and television station. His captors beat him with iron rods and electrical cables, he said: “It felt like death a thousand times over.”

At the television station in Omdurman, we saw evidence to back his claims. Ropes and other restraints hung from barred rooms in the finance department. Piles of dry excrement were scattered on the floor. Filthy walls were scrawled with names, pleas and snatches of poetry.

“The treachery of your tears is no use to fight injustice,” read one.

“Friends forever” read another, under a list of six names.

Most of the compound stood in ruins. Its main building had been incinerated by airstrikes, while a film archive dating back to the 1940s, one of the largest in Africa, had been blown open by gunfire. The R.S.F. had retreated across the river, soldiers said, but some left behind their own wartime wisdom.

“As long as death is certain,” read a line scrawled on one wall, “don’t live like a coward.” (The R.S.F. did not respond to the allegations of torture and other abuses by its fighters).

As the fighting raged, some Omdurman residents refused to leave. “We were born here, we grew up here, and we will die here,” said Edward Fahmy, 73, sitting in his courtyard of his modest home in the old city, where pictures of Jesus hung on every wall.

Mr. Fahmy and his cousin, Janette Naeim, 50, stayed put even as bombs rained down. Ms. Naeim was hit by a stray bullet as she went to fetch water. When two relatives died, they buried them outside their front door, they said, showing a pair of freshly dug mounds.

Both Orthodox Christians, they are testament to the enduring religious and ethnic diversity of a country whose image was often obscured by three decades of harsh Islamist rule. The war risks washing away that richness as well.

At the Marmina Coptic Orthodox church, shafts of dusty light shone through holes in a rooftop fresco of Jesus, punctured in the fighting. The bishop fled after R.S.F. fighters smashed into his home, firing guns and shouting “Where are the dollars?” said Andrews Hanna, a local businessman.

When Mr. Hanna turned up, an hour later, the floor was smeared with the blood of a priest who had shielded the bishop from rifle blows, he said. Then Mr. Hanna’s factory was raided by fighters who carted away 8,000 motorbikes and rickshaws, he said. Weeks later, his family fled.

“We love this country,” said Mr. Hanna. “The problem is that it has too many armies.”

Sheikh Elamin Omar, a charismatic Sufi cleric in the same part of the city, offered a rare haven from the fighting. “I had to stay,” he said.

He said he sheltered about 1,000 people at his sprawling compound in the old city for over a year.

Families ate from a communal kitchen and fetched water from the Nile, he said, showing us around a mosque, a well-stocked pharmacy and apartments. His followers helped bury the dead, and at night they performed zikir, a devotional dance that is an expression of Sufi spirituality. “It soothed our souls,” he said.

A soup kitchen still offered meals. Sheikh Elamin, a towering man in flowing green robes, said he paid for it all from his own pocket. Beyond running a Sufi Muslim order with branches in London, New York and Dubai, he was also a businessman who owned a gold mine and a meat export business, he said.

Before the war, the sheikh was sometimes criticized for his lavish choices, like chartering a private jet to attend the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. But his charity now has brought praise.

“In this time of war, he’s become the most popular figure in the country — period,” said Suliman Baldo, a veteran Sudan analyst. “People need something positive to hold onto.”

Nearby, we passed a giant mural with the word “Freedom,” leftover from the protests of 2019 and pocked by gunfire. Down the street, men huddled over a pot of bubbling lentils as they prepared to return to their shattered homes — a cautious gesture of hope as the war dragged on.

“We will have a beautiful future, God willing,” said Mahmoud Mustafa, a rickshaw driver clutching a plastic food bowl.

He didn’t even flinch when another artillery barrage rang out, sending more shells across the Nile.

Hundreds of black-clad young women, turning in perfect unison, marched through a schoolyard in Omdurman early one morning, the latest recruits in a rapidly expanding conflict.

The war started as a dispute between two men — Sudan’s army chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces leader, Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan. But since last fall, when a succession of R.S.F. victories set off widespread alarm, a proliferation of armed groups has joined the fight, mostly backing the military. There are rebels from Darfur, ethnic militias, Islamists once loyal to former President Bashir, and thousands of young people, women as well as men, recruited from the streets.

Even idealistic young Sudanese who once risked their lives to protest against Mr. Bashir and, later, the military, have joined in.

Whether the militias will decide the war, or cause it to spin entirely out of control, is unclear. Sudan’s military tumbled into the war because it outsourced its fighting to a powerful group, the Rapid Support Forces, that ultimately turned against it.

Now, critics say, the military is in danger of repeating that mistake by empowering more militias.

Even some military leaders are worried. In March, a member of the military high command, Lt. Gen. Shams al-Din al-Kabbashi, warned that, unless the militias were kept in check, “the next danger will come from” them.

Days later he was rebuked by another commander, Lt. Gen. Yasser al-Atta, who said the army “blessed” the popular militias.

“Any mistakes can be corrected as we move forward,” he said.

Wooden crates lay scattered across the weapons depot we sifted through next to an abandoned R.S.F. base. Any identifying marks — serial numbers or other clues that showed who had supplied the weapons — had been carefully scraped off. The foreign powers fueling Sudan’s war seemed to be covering their tracks.

Yet traces remain.

American officials have grown increasingly critical of the United Arab Emirates, the war’s biggest foreign sponsor. It has extensive gold and agricultural interests in Sudan, and before the war signed a deal to build a $6 billion port on the Red Sea. Since last year, it has smuggled weapons to the R.S.F. through a base in Chad, in breach of a U.N. arms embargo, The Times reported.

Egypt, by contrast, has backed Sudan’s military. But it is the army’s recent turn to Iran for drones and other weapons that has caused alarm in Washington, several Western officials said.

Russia seems to have helped both sides.

Earlier in the war, Wagner mercenaries supplied the R.S.F. with antiaircraft missiles, U.N. investigators say. Russians later traveled to Khartoum, where they trained fighters to shoot down Sudanese military warplanes, said two senior Sudanese officials who provided the Russians’ names and details of their movements.

Today, nearly two dozen Wagner operatives remain in the capital, mostly Libyan and Syrian recruits, flying drones and firing mortars for the R.S.F., the Sudanese said.

The Russian presence even spurred Ukraine to deploy a small team of special forces to counter its nemesis abroad by helping the Sudanese military in Khartoum.

But Russia’s posture may have changed since the death of Wagner’s founder, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin. Following a visit to Port Sudan by Russia’s Middle East envoy in April, a top Sudanese general said recently that Sudan was prepared to allow Russian naval access to its ports, a longstanding desire for Moscow, in exchange for arms and ammunition.

The foreign meddling is frustrating American- and Saudi-led diplomacy to reach a cease-fire, though critics say even those efforts to save Sudan have been shamefully weak. The country, they warn, is barreling into a protracted conflict that could lead to anarchy or rival fiefs, like Somalia in the 1990s or Libya after 2011.

The war could easily spill beyond Sudan’s borders. It is already causing tensions inside the security services of Chad, and has cut off vital oil revenues for South Sudan. Now it risks sucking in Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country.

Sudanese officials accuse Ethiopia of backing the R.S.F. Meanwhile, Eritrea, Ethiopia’s traditional enemy, has sided with Sudan’s military. And thousands of rebels from Ethiopia’s restive Tigray region are stationed at a camp in eastern Sudan, officials and aid groups said — part of a combustible mix that threatens to open a new front in the war.

Some Sudanese in exile desperately want the outside world to intervene. But so far, they say, it’s only made things worse.

“It’s sheer madness,” said Ibrahim Elbadawi, a former economy minister now in Cairo, calling for a U.N. peacekeeping force to save his country from collapse.

“The people of Sudan demand it,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Biden’s New Order Leaves Migrants at Border in Limbo Over Asylum Fate

Fabiola Yépez, a 20-year-old mother from Venezuela, was sheltering under a bridge in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, with her toddler son when she first learned of President Biden’s new executive order restricting asylum seekers.

Despite witnessing border guards on the American side firing nonlethal projectiles at migrants the day before, she planned to attempt crossing into the United States on Wednesday, just hours after the order took effect.

“Maybe it’s not like what they’re saying, and they won’t turn us back,” Ms. Yépez said. “I’m afraid, especially with my child in my arms.”

In the wake of the new order, migrants scattered along the U.S.-Mexico border are trying to understand how they will be affected by the measure, the most restrictive border policy instituted by Mr. Biden. The directive allows the United States to temporarily close the border to asylum-seekers when the seven-day average for daily illegal crossings hits 2,500.

In some locations along the border on Wednesday, there seemed to be confusion as to whether the order had technically taken effect and if border agents should be enforcing it. Shelter operators and humanitarian workers in Mexico were also scrambling to understand its implications.

Juan Fierro García, the director of El Buen Samaritano (The Good Samaritan), a migrant shelter in Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso, said that the new policy could place greater strain on his operation and other local shelters if large numbers of migrants are turned away.

He noted that there are relatively few migrants currently in the city, reflecting a sharp decline since the start of the year — a result of increased enforcement measures by Mexico to transport people away from the border to other parts of the country.

Mr. Fierro García said his shelter occupants were largely families who have been waiting for months for an interview with U.S. immigration officials through CBP One, an app used to schedule appointments to request asylum. But even though the shelter only housed 55 people in a space meant for 280, Mr. Fierro García said food was running short.

“We don’t have the supplies needed at this time to receive more people,” he said.

Some people were still entering the United States on Wednesday morning, reflecting limited exceptions to the new restrictions, including for minors who cross the border alone, victims of human trafficking and those who use the CBP One app. It was also unclear in some places whether the executive action was to be enforced immediately.

In Mexicali, across the border from Calexico, Calif., more than a dozen migrants, appearing to be from Haiti and holding CBP One appointments, were permitted to cross into the United States on Wednesday morning. Others, however, were refused entry.

Georgina Esquivel, 40, a food seller from Morelos state in Mexico, said she had not heard of Mr. Biden’s order. Hoping to request asylum in the United States without a CBP One appointment, Ms. Esquivel said she and her 10-year-old daughter, Maria, were turned away by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

“I’m going to stay here,” Ms. Esquivel said. “I don’t even know what to do yet. I don’t want to go back to Morelos, and I don’t want to stay in Mexicali either.”

At an open-air holding site, set between two walls that separate the United States and Mexico in the Tijuana River Valley in San Diego, dozens of migrants who had crossed the border on Wednesday gathered and waited for Border Patrol to pick them up to be processed.

“It’s been business as usual, I would say,” said Pedro Rios, a director at the American Friends Service Committee, a nonprofit that assists migrants and provides them food and water. The only change, he said, was that fewer people seemed to be crossing on Wednesday compared with previous days.

In El Paso, shelter operators said it may be too early to see a concrete effect from the order.

“We’re going to have to give it a chance to evolve,” said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House, a nonprofit shelter system. “You’re talking about an order that is going to have logistical implementation aspects to it. So we’re going to have to give them a chance to see how that actually gets done.”

Mr. Garcia also emphasized that the number of migrants on the border waiting to cross is extremely low compared with past years, making it less likely for the order to have a large impact.

Mexican immigration experts say Mr. Biden’s executive order is concerning and could put asylum seekers at risk.

“I see echoes of mechanisms that have been tried in the past,” said Rafael Velásquez García, the Mexico director of the International Rescue Committee, one of the world’s leading refugee assistance organizations. He noted that previous actions, such as Title 42, failed to reduce the demand for asylum, improve Mexico’s ability to receive migrants or allocate resources to increase opportunities within Mexico.

“I don’t see the point of it,” he added. “It simply doesn’t work.”

In any case, Mexico would bear the brunt of the measure, analysts say. Immigration authorities would likely be left to deal with the people sent back over the border, by detaining and busing them to distant states in an effort to wear them down, said Eunice Rendón, the coordinator of Migrant Agenda, a coalition of Mexican advocacy groups.

“The flow would be neither safe nor orderly,” said Ms. Rendón. “It’s the opposite of what you want migration to be.”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Wednesday denied that the executive action would create problems for Mexican officials, saying that his administration was helping the United States reach agreements with other countries to deport migrants directly. It was unclear which countries he referred to or how this would happen.

Some migrants who managed to cross into the United States in recent days were surprised over their luck.

José Luis Posada, 23, from El Salvador said he had crossed on Monday near Tijuana by climbing over a border wall. He was released on Wednesday by Border Patrol agents at a mass-transit stop in San Diego.

“It’s a miracle,” Mr. Posada said about his timing. By Wednesday, he had learned of Mr. Biden’s new executive order.

“God knows what he’s doing, and here we are,” he said.

Aline Corpus contributed reporting from Mexicali, Mexico, Jonathan Wolfe from San Diego and Reyes Mata III from El Paso.

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U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Censures Iran and Demands Access for Inspectors

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency on Wednesday censured Iran over its refusal to grant inspectors access to its uranium enrichment program, passing a carefully worded resolution after the United States toned it down in a bid to avoid provoking a crisis at a time in which the Middle East is already roiling.

The resolution was sponsored by France, Britain and Germany in response to advances in Iran’s nuclear program over the past year and the Iranian’s government’s refusal to cooperate with the agency. By most estimates Tehran is now just days or weeks away from being able to produce bomb-grade fuel for roughly three nuclear weapons, though actually fashioning them into warheads could take a year or more.

The resolution passed in a vote of the 35-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations body, with 20 votes in favor, 12 abstentions and two against. The no votes were cast by Russia and China. Russia has close security ties to Iran and purchases Iranian drones for the war in Ukraine. China is a close economic ally helping Iran evade sanctions by purchasing its oil at a discounted rate.

Nine years ago, when Iran agreed to sharp limits on its nuclear program in a deal reached with the Obama administration and European nations, both Russia and China joined the effort to contain Tehran’s nuclear capabilities. The vote in Vienna on Wednesday made clear how dramatically their position has shifted.

While I.A.E.A. censure resolutions are not legally binding, they do carry political weight. In November 2022, the board passed a similar resolution that was drafted by the same three European countries, demanding that Iran cooperate with investigations into uranium traces found at suspected former nuclear sites. Iran never complied.

The Biden administration, though, was clearly concerned about avoiding a resolution that was so sharply worded that it could set off a backlash in Tehran. American officials said that they shared the Europeans’ concern, but that they did not want to back an unenforceable resolution that might prompt Iran to escalate its nuclear program at a time it is seeking to defuse tensions in the region.

In the end, after some modifications of the wording, the United States voted for the resolution.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and that it is not pursuing a bomb. But in recent months, several senior officials have said publicly that Iran could revise its nuclear doctrine if it faced an existential threat from other nuclear countries, namely Israel and the United States.

Ali Vaez, the Iran director of the International Crisis Group, said that as a matter of principle the resolution adopted on Wednesday was merited, given the longstanding concerns about Iran’s lack of cooperation with the U.N. agency, but that it might backfire. “Precedent suggests that Tehran is more likely than not to double down on the very actions that are being condemned,” Mr. Vaez said.

Even before the votes were cast, Iran was signaling its displeasure. On Tuesday, the president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, called the resolution “anti-Iranian” and politically motivated and pledged immediate retaliation, according to the Iranian media.

It was not immediately clear what steps Iran might take, but its options include increasing still further the level of its enriched uranium, which is now at 60 percent, just short of the 90 percent that is usually considered weapons-grade fuel. That is far higher than the enrichment levels, normally around 3 percent, needed to produce fuel for nuclear power.

On Wednesday, Iran’s interim foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, who has also served as the chief nuclear negotiator, said his government could “activate” its nuclear capabilities based on its national interests, according to a video of his comments on Iranian media.

The vote came only two weeks after the death of Iran’s president and foreign minister in a helicopter crash.

Iran and seven allies — Russia, China, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Syria — issued a joint statement condemning the I.A.E.A. censure. They called the resolution ill-conceived and said it violated diplomatic norms, given that Iran is still mourning the deaths of its president and foreign minister. The statement said the resolution would have “the opposite effect.”

The three-page resolution lays out a long list of concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, particularly the unanswered questions about why traces of uranium were found in two locations that Iran had not declared as part of its nuclear program. It calls on Iran to allow inspectors to take samples, and it asks that the government lift a prohibition on the agency’s top investors examining the sites they need to see inside Iran.

When the Biden administration first came to office, it attempted to negotiate what Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken referred to as a “longer and stronger” version of the nuclear deal reached in 2015. The agreement fell apart after President Donald J. Trump unilaterally exited from it in 2018 and imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran. Experts — among them Mr. Trump’s own advisers — had told him that the deal was largely working.

A new agreement never came together.

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In the West Bank, Guns and a Locked Gate Signal a Town’s New Residents

Ben Hubbard reported from two towns in the occupied West Bank, the Arab-Palestinian community of Tuqu and the Jewish-Israeli settlement of Tekoa.

From the outskirts of his town in the West Bank, the mayor surveyed the rocky hills stretching toward the Dead Sea where Palestinians had long farmed and herded, and pointed out the new features of the landscape.

New guard posts manned by Israeli soldiers. New roads patrolled by Israeli settlers. And, most tellingly, a new metal gate blocking the town’s sole road to those areas, installed and locked by the Israeli army to keep Palestinians out.

“Anyone who goes to the gate, they either arrest him or kill him,” said the mayor, Moussa al-Shaer, of the town of Tuqu.

On the other side of the gate, atop a bald hill in the distance, stood one of the area’s new residents, Abeer Izraeli, a Jewish settler.

“With God’s help, we will stay here a long time,” Mr. Izraeli said.

The case of the two people on either side of the gate is a particularly clear example of a dynamic playing out across the Israeli-occupied West Bank. As much of the world has focused on the war in Gaza, Jewish settlers miles away in the West Bank have hastened the rate at which they are seizing land previously used by Palestinians, rights groups say.

Dror Etkes, a field researcher with Kerem Navot, an Israeli monitoring group, estimated that since the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that started the war in Gaza, settlers have taken more than 37,000 acres of land from Palestinians across the West Bank. More than 550 of those acres are near Tuqu, making it the largest such expansion by a single Israeli settlement.

The gate is not much to look at — made of orange bars and similar to what one might find on a farm. But Hebrew graffiti on the concrete blocks that hold it up refer to Genesis 21:10, a verse about driving people away.

Since the gate’s installation in October, it has served as a firm divider between the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of Tuqu and the Israeli Jews in the newly expanded settlement of Tekoa.

Map locates the West Bank villages of Tuqu and Tekoa.

Both communities draw their names from where, tradition holds, the biblical prophet Amos was born. In some places, homes in one community sit 500 yards from homes in the other. When the Muslim call to prayer sounds in Tuqu, the Jews in Tekoa hear it, too.

The catalyst for the recent seizures, said Mr. Etkes, was the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, which led to increased Israeli security measures in the West Bank that made it easier for settlers to take control of territory.

“There is a linkage between violence and settler expansion,” he said. “They are taking revenge on the Palestinians by taking more and more land.”

Israel increased its military presence in the West Bank out of concern that it could face widespread unrest or increased attacks on its forces and settlers there during the war in Gaza. Those concerns were amplified by the rise of new militant groups, an influx of weapons smuggled in by Iran and polling that suggests an increase in support for Hamas at the expense of the more moderate Palestinian Authority.

On Jan. 29, a Palestinian from Tuqu, Rani al-Shaer, 19, tried to stab an Israeli soldier and was shot dead by soldiers, the army said in a statement. The army took Mr. al-Shaer’s body and has not returned it to the family, said his brother, Nizar.

The Israeli military and the branch of the Defense Ministry that handles civilian affairs in the West Bank did not respond to requests for comment on the changes near Tuqu.

The United Nations said that 2023 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since it began keeping track in 2005. That violence rose significantly after the war in Gaza began and has continued into this year, with 489 Palestinians killed since Oct. 7 as of May 22. Ten Israelis, including four civilians, have been killed during the same period.

Since Israel occupied the West Bank, previously controlled by Jordan, in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the government has encouraged Jews to settle there, providing land, military protection, electricity, water and roads. More than 500,000 settlers now live among 2.7 million Palestinians in the territory, which is larger than Delaware but smaller than Puerto Rico.

Some Israeli Jews justify settlement on religious grounds, others on the basis of history — both ancient and modern. Many Israelis consider control of the territory necessary to prevent Palestinians from attacking Israel.

Nevertheless, most countries consider the settlements illegal. The Biden administration has criticized the settlements for undermining the United States’ goal of a two-state solution to the conflict, which would include the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.

Among Israelis, Tekoa is known for a hippy vibe, with a mixed community of secular and religious Jews that includes artists and activists. Few, if any, of the town’s residents consider their presence an impediment to peace.

“We were given this land by God,” said Shira Chernoble, 75, who moved from New Mexico to the West Bank nearly four decades ago and works in Tekoa as a massage therapist and spiritual counselor. “I believe in the Torah. It is not just a book of then. It is a book of now.”

Before the war in Gaza, the two populations had limited interactions, mostly through the Palestinian laborers who worked construction in the Jewish town. Settlers have seized land to expand their community over the decades — a process that took another leap forward after the Oct. 7 attack.

The Israeli military mobilized thousands of reservist settlers to protect the settlements and imposed wide-ranging restrictions on Palestinians, blocking the exits from their communities and barring Palestinian workers from entering Israel or the settlements.

That cut off residents of Tuqu from a major source of employment, said Mr. al-Shaer, the mayor. In addition, the gate has prevented Palestinian farmers from harvesting their olives and herders from grazing their livestock.

“They closed everything and took everything,” said Hassan al-Shaer, 24, an electrician who is not closely related to the mayor and who used to work in Tekoa. “There is no work and no money.”

In October, after the gate was erected, residents gathered to breach the barrier and the army shot at them, killing a 26-year-old car mechanic, Eissa Jibril, said his brother, Murad.

He said the Israeli police had questioned him about what happened, but nothing had come of it.

“Who can I complain to?” he said. “The settler who killed him, are they going to arrest him?”

In a statement, the Israeli military described the gathering as “a violent riot” during which “terrorists burned tires, threw stones and shot fireworks” at soldiers, threatening their lives. The soldiers fired back, the army said, adding that it was aware of the “claim” that a Palestinian had been killed.

Since then, the Palestinians have avoided the gate for fear of being shot.

During a recent drive through the area, New York Times reporters saw new roads carved into the hillsides, four new security posts and three plots where settlers had plowed or planted grapes. What had been a settler tent camp now had 10 prefab houses, with electricity, paved roads and streetlights.

Atop a tall hill, Mr. Izraeli and his friends slept in a tent next to a makeshift house inhabited by a couple with two young children. The group raised ducks and chickens and pastured their 150 sheep on the same hills the Palestinian shepherds had roamed before the war.

Mr. Izraeli, 16, had come to the West Bank after dropping out of a religious school in central Israel, he said. He and his friends had lived in a tent camp nearby before moving to the hilltop a few months ago, after the army had barred Palestinians from the area.

He hoped the army would not let them return.

“With God’s help, they will do the right thing and keep them out,” he said.

In response to written questions, Mayor Yaron Rosenthal of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, which includes Tekoa, said the Arabs from Tuqu never had a legal claim to the land. The settlers, he said, had rectified that situation.

“These aren’t their lands,” he added.

The Palestinians had few options, said Mr. al-Shaer, the mayor. Most complaints to the Israeli authorities went nowhere. He and other residents planned to file a court case in Israel, a long process that might not restore their access to the land or stop the settlers from building there.

“The settlers are working on the ground to make a new reality,” he said.

Rami Nazzal contributed reporting from Tuqu, West Bank, and Gabby Sobelman from Tekoa, West Bank.

‘Not Everything Was Bad’: Saluting the Mercedes of Eastern Europe and a Communist Past

As the beige car bounced up to the former Soviet barracks, the rattling of its half-century-old motor overpowered the din of people setting up for the day’s festivities at a temporary fairground.

A man dressed in the dark green uniform of a 1950s traffic cop, replete with an old-fashioned leather cap, blew his whistle sharply and waved the car — a well-maintained 1980 Wartburg, a classic despite the engine’s clatter — through to the parking lot.

The driver of the little sedan, once considered the Mercedes of Eastern Europe, slipped the clutch, jolting the car forward. The lapse earned a rebuke from a costumed parking attendant.

“You are entering the G.D.R. now,” he yelled with mock anger, referring to the extinct East German state. “Leave your Western manners behind!”

For more than a decade, the G.D.R. Museum Pirna has played host to a May Day event in Pirna, just a few miles from the Czech border in Germany’s east, where people can celebrate cars emblematic of the communist era.

Built after the war in state-owned factories, the cars are smaller, less powerful and less showy than most Western cars from the same era. But to the excited visitors in Pirna, who often dress in contemporaneous garb to match the vehicles they arrived in, the polished and pampered cars embody a local pride.

The hundreds of motorcycles, buses, trucks, cars and farming vehicles on display exuded the nostalgia that many here feel for a vanished country that — despite its oppressive dictatorship — was home for decades.

“As a proud Easterner, I’m happy to help revive this iconic car,” said Tom Grossmann, standing in front of his lime green 1985 Trabant, best remembered for a chassis made of a material similar to reinforced cardboard. “If it means that there are more of these cars on German roads, all the better.”

Born in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell, Mr. Grossmann expressed a sentiment typical at the scene in Pirna.

For years, he had been dismissive of the old Eastern-built cars, but in middle age, his view changed. In part, he was drawn by the community that had developed among people who own the cars.

When he bought his sedan five years ago, he paid 3,000 euros, about $3,250, but then spent more than twice that refurbishing his ride, adding a sunroof, wider tires and custom upholstery.

Uwe Röckler, 23, neatly dressed in a G.D.R. police uniform from the 1980s, paraded past the lineup of cars giving out fake parking tickets and posing for photos with passers-by. Mr. Röckler is a stickler for details: The tickets he carefully filled out and pinned under wipers were written on an exact reproduction of the form used by East German police in the 1980s.

“It starts with a belt buckle that you find at a flea market,” he said. “And pretty soon, you’re wearing a full uniform,” he added, noting he had several spares hanging in his home closet.

To Mr. Röckler, whose parents toiled under the communist regime, the era holds a fascination. “Not everything was bad, it was just everyday life,” he said. Of the East German police, which many see as one of the most obvious manifestations of a repressive state, he said: “They were actually pretty good criminalists — in many ways equal to those in West.”

May 1 — formally known as the “International Day of Struggle of the Working Class and the Oppressed Peoples of the World” — was one of the most important dates on the socialist calendar. Though it was a public holiday and nobody had to work, attendance at state-organized parades was mandatory, and civilian brigades of factory workers, socialist youth groups and politicians were expected to march with signs celebrating progress and socialism.

Waiting in line to board a carefully maintained bus from 1958 that would take him on a tour of Pirna, Thomas Herzog, 62, remembers the requirements of that era well. “I’m here because no one is forcing me to be here,” he said with a laugh.

Among those in Pirna celebrating this May Day, 35 years after East Germans last celebrated it in a functioning communist state, many said the era had been rife with problems, including restrictions on speech and travel, with citizens living under the yoke of one of the most restrictive state security systems behind the Iron Curtain.

But as that time recedes into the past, memories of the communist country have become more attractive for many, especially as discontent with the current system grows.

According to a poll from December, 82 percent of Germans nationwide are at least somewhat unsatisfied with the government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Given that level of discontent, it’s unsurprising some people are looking backward.

In eastern Germany, where the disaffection is often more pronounced, many look toward the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, for solutions. In Pirna’s state, Saxony, where voters head to the polls in September, the AfD polls at 30 percent, more than any other party on the ballot.

Conny Kaden, 60, the founder of the G.D.R. Museum, said that despite the benefits reunification brought, there were downsides.

The socialist state, he noted, in addition to offering jobs at state-run enterprises, had fostered a sense of community through mandatory meetings in youth, worker and community clubs. “I’m not saying this is about raising the G.D.R. flag,” Mr. Kaden said. “But we lost something, we lost the cohesion.”

Mr. Kaden built his museum dedicated to all things G.D.R. in 2005 and said ticket sales have been trending up.

The May Day car meet has also become more popular. This year, he estimated he had welcomed up to 3,500 visitors and hundreds of cars, likely breaking last year’s record.

The meet featured some Western cars, too. Two custom stretch limousine Volvos, used by the East German regime’s leaders, were parked in a prominent corner. Over the enormous radio inside of one, a tape of police chatter illegally recorded in 1989 played on a loop.

Mr. Röckler, who played the fake policeman handing out fake tickets, grew up in what had been West Germany, where his family moved after they had lost their jobs following reunification. As an adult, he returned to the former East Germany, in part because he said his hobby of dressing up as a Communist policeman was misunderstood in the West.

He was not sure it would have been completely understood by his late father, either.

Gesturing to his carefully pressed suit, he said, “I wonder what my dad would say if he could see me wearing this.”

Amateur Historians Heard Tales of a Lost Tudor Palace. Then, They Dug It Up.

For generations, residents of Collyweston — a village in central England snuggled up against the River Welland — passed down stories of a grand Tudor palace, of royal processions through the valley below, of the mother of a king who had called it home.

Over hundreds of years, the stories persisted, even as memory of the palace’s whereabouts faded. But the lore suddenly came to life when a handful of amateur historians unearthed portions of the long-lost palace, buried under a few feet of soil. Historians from the University of York have verified their findings.

“We are a small village with a small group of enthusiasts, and what we’ve basically achieved here is nothing short of a miracle,” said Chris Close, 49, the chairman of the Collyweston Historical and Preservation Society. “You know, it’s not every day you get to dig up a part of your country’s past.”

Mr. Close, soft-spoken and warm with a dimpled smile, was raised in Collyweston, with family roots that go back 400 years here. He remembers hearing stories of the palace as a young boy. It belonged to Lady Margaret Beaufort, who played a major role in the Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars for the English throne. She acquired it in 1487, two years after her son was crowned king as Henry VII. He, his son Henry VIII, and Elizabeth I all walked the palace halls.

After the Tudor era, which ended in 1603, the palace fell into disrepair. Its contents were sold, portions knocked down or repurposed, and new buildings went up. The palace slowly faded into history, disappearing into the dirt. Almost.

Fast forward to 2017, when Mr. Close became chairman of the historical society — somewhat by chance. History had never been his passion, but he had promised his great-uncle, who once led the group, to help keep it going. A year after his great-uncle’s death, he made good on his promise.

Mr. Close — who, by day, works for a British company that builds new homes — took over the top job at the society at a precarious time. The group’s membership, then mostly retirees, had dwindled, and it had just 500 pounds, about $635, in the bank. Meetings were spent poring over old Collyweston records with little mission, and the few members were considering wrapping things up. Mr. Close knew he needed to inject some energy into the proceedings.

He shifted the society’s newsletter to email, from print. He set up social media accounts. And crucially, he asked members what they really wanted to focus on. The response was clear: They wanted to find the Tudor palace.

The villagers suspected that remnants were hidden under the soil, but with limited expertise and even less money, they did not have much to go on.

“It was our naiveté that’s kind of got us through this, really,” Mr. Close said with a chuckle.

First, they relied on what little they did know about the palace’s history — including local lore that had percolated for years.

Nowadays, Collyweston, population 564, is little more than a few pretty stone houses with picturesque views over sprawling fields. But glimpses of the royal history were visible to anyone who looked carefully, said Sandra Johnson, 68, a retired real estate agent who now does research full time for the historical society — as well as helping take care of her grandchildren.

She noted that local residents had long referred to a walled garden in the area as the “palace gardens,” and that some terraces and fish ponds could still be seen carved into the landscape.

“We knew it was here,” she said, a broad smile growing on her face. “It was just a question of getting the evidence to prove it.”

Over several months, the group trawled through old maps and records. That took them only so far.

Around that time, the group connected with Rachel Delman, now a historian at the University of Oxford who was then doing research on the palace. Her work provided detailed descriptions of palace buildings that she had found in various historical archives.

The research was “a little bit of a light that got shone into the project,” Mr. Close said.

But the amateur historians soon realized that archaeology had become a high-tech pursuit and that they needed to embrace technology, too. They applied for grants and got enough money to hire a company to do a drone survey and geophysical scan of the village. The growing buzz in Collyweston around their activities helped attract new members.

The real breakthrough came from ground-penetrating radar scans in 2021 and 2022 that revealed human-made material under the soil. This guided them on where to dig.

Last May, they found the first evidence of the palace walls: portions of the clearly defined base of a thick wall and a foundation that experts later verified.

The goal is to eventually find enough artifacts to analyze and date. The group hopes to create a digital model of the palace to be displayed in a tiny museum that Ms. Johnson curates in the nave of the village church.

While finds from this era are not particularly unusual in Britain, historians have hailed the discovery because of the significant role the palace played in its time — and because it was found by an amateur group.

Prof. Kate Giles, a historian at the University of York, pointed out that Britain has a wealth of local history societies but that in the case of Collyweston, “the fact that it has a Tudor palace on the doorstep makes its work particularly interesting and exciting.”

Dr. Delman, whose research helped kick-start the hunt, said the discovery had the potential to enrich public knowledge about a onetime royal power base, commissioned by a Tudor woman, “making it a site that is nationally and internationally significant.”

In early February, volunteers took out their shovels for a two-day dig, one of several planned this year, to better understand what the palace looked like.

Down a lane on a small patch of grass, a dozen residents — including young professionals, parents, a former prison guard and several retirees — dug in four small roped-off trenches under the watchful eye of Jennifer Browning, 50, an archaeologist from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services who was hired to lead the dig that day.

In one trench, dirt was carefully brushed from what appeared to be a flagstone floor and foundation stones. In another, part of a wall had begun to emerge.

“We just don’t know exactly what it is, but they are meant to be there,” Ms. Browning said, standing over a 3-foot-by-5-foot trench and pointing at three large stones in a neat line about two feet down. “The problem is, in a small trench like this, you only ever get a little snapshot.”

The excavations so far have been on private land, and although the site is considered a historical monument, under English law that doesn’t give the public a right to gain access to it. The group had permission from the property owners to explore with trenches and then refill, but they had a tight weekend-long window because the owners planned to soon pave over this grassy stretch.

“It’s just interesting to see how this will all piece together,” said James Mabbitt, 42, a volunteer who has lived in Collyweston for the past decade, as he stood in a trench, measuring stones possibly from Tudor times.

His wife, Melissa, 43, and their young daughter wandered by, along with other villagers curious about the work. “For a tiny place, it’s got this amazing history,” Ms. Mabbitt said, excitement in her voice. She noted that ancient Roman ruins had also recently been found nearby. “I think it has captured the local community spirit.”

By late afternoon, the volunteers paused for snacks and cups of tea as they chatted about their finds. Mr. Close congratulated them on uncovering the “clearest evidence to date” of palace buildings.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Why do you get involved in something like this?’” he said. “Look, one day, when everybody departs this world, you can say that you helped to find a Tudor palace.”

When a Tale of Migration Is Not Just Fiction


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Reporting from a movie screening in Guédiawaye, a suburb of Dakar, Senegal.

The two teenagers on the screen trudging through the endless dunes of the Sahara on their way to Europe were actors. So were the fellow migrants tortured in a bloodstained Libyan prison.

But to the young man watching the movie one recent evening in a suburb of Dakar, Senegal’s capital, the cinematic ordeal felt all too real. His two brothers had undertaken the same journey years ago.

“This is why they refused to send me money to take that route,” said Ahmadou Diallo, 18, a street cleaner. “Because they had seen firsthand how dangerous it is.”

Critics in the West have praised the film “Io Capitano” — nominated for the 2024 Academy Award for best international feature film — noting its visceral yet tender look at migration to Europe from Africa. It is now showing in African countries, and is hitting close to home in Senegal. That’s where the two main characters in the movie embark on an odyssey that epitomizes the dreams and hardships of countless more hoping to make it abroad.

Last month, the film’s crew and its director, Matteo Garrone, took “Io Capitano” to a dozen places in Senegal where migration isn’t fiction. They screened it in youth centers, in schools, even on a basketball court turned outdoor movie theater in Guédiawaye, a suburb of Dakar, where Mr. Diallo and hundreds of others watched it at sunset on a big screen.

“Io Capitano” tells the story of Seydou and Moussa, two endearing cousins who leave Dakar after months of planning, spending all of the savings they earned through straining work on a construction site.

But what begins as an exciting road trip quickly turns into a perilous expedition as the teenagers find themselves in the hands of careless smugglers, then under the control of armed robbers and cruel jailers, before they reach the deadliest step of their travels, the crossing of the Mediterranean.

Seydou, the lead character, ends up captaining the ship taking them and hundreds of other migrants to Italy. The movie never shows them reaching the shore, but when a helicopter from the Italian coast guard hovers over the boat, the viewer is tempted to believe that they will be rescued and that part of their troubles are over.

On the basketball court, some gasped in horror when bandits opened fire on a group of migrants on the screen. Others hid their eyes with their head scarves during scenes of torture.

“People know there’s a risk to lose their lives” in seeking to migrate to Europe, Mr. Garrone said. “But they haven’t seen what it’s like.”

Senegal’s youth make up the majority of its 17 million people, but its fast-growing economy has struggled to offer them jobs with decent pay. Thousands leave every year through the Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean, and deadly accidents are frequent. Increasingly, those who can afford it fly to Central America, hoping to reach the United States that way.

Senegal’s new president, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, has promised to improve the economy by financing small businesses and strengthening traineeships in farming, fishing and industrial jobs. Natural gas and oil reserves are expected to turn the tiny coastal country into a hydrocarbon power in Africa.

But in Guédiawaye, where newly built houses sit on sandy streets next to crumbling shelters filled with flies and no access to running water, many young men said they weren’t expecting major changes.

Mr. Diallo, the street cleaner, said he wanted to join his brothers in Paris. He showed videos on his phone of himself and dozens of others in the Atlantic last summer, during one of his two previous — and unsuccessful — attempts to reach Europe.

A few feet away, Barra Gassama, 18, watched “Io Capitano” with sometimes teary eyes. A decade ago, he said, he picked up the phone at home to hear from a stranger that his older brother had died on his way to Spain. “That call changed our lives,” he said in a whisper. “This reminds me so much of him,” he added, staring at the screen.

Despite his brother’s death, Mr. Gassama’s mother later encouraged him to try to leave, too. But he said he had instead chosen to try to make it at home, working hard as a baker, earning up to $6 a day, six days a week.

In the movie, Seydou and Moussa leave Dakar without telling their families. But some of those watching the film said they were having open conversations with their relatives about migration.

Pape Alioune Ngom, 18, a welder, said a few hours before the screening that he was trying to persuade his parents to let him go to Europe. He swore that he wouldn’t leave without their blessing. “What’s there for us here?” he asked. “We all have migration in mind.”

Studies have shown that people aspiring to migrate often ignore warnings about the dangers of trying to enter countries illegally. But Mr. Garrone, the director, said the movie wasn’t intended to persuade people not to undertake the trip.

“I’m mostly hoping to help young people in Senegal realize that once they’ve left their home, they become part of a system that they can’t really get out of,” he said.

To depict the system of smugglers and exploitation, Mr. Garrone worked with Mamadou Kouassi, a social worker now working with migrants in Italy, who spent three and a half years trying to reach Europe from his native Ivory Coast. Mr. Kouassi’s experiences inspired most of Seydou’s and Moussa’s story line in the movie.

Mr. Kouassi also attended the screening, where he stared at the spectators who were laughing at the two young heroes trying to hide cash inside their bodies before beginning their trek through the Sahara.

“They have no idea how Europe and Italy are treating us on the other side,” Mr. Kouassi said.

The first tragedy in the movie followed shortly after, when a migrant fell off a pickup truck and the driver kept racing in the desert, to the horror of the other passengers grabbing onto wooden sticks to avoid meeting the same fate.

The audience fell silent.

Seydou Sarr, 19, and Moustapha Fall, 20, the two actors who play the cousins in the movie, have been touring film festivals in the West, wearing designer clothes at the Oscars and chilling in luxury hotels across Europe, a world away from the lives in Senegal they themselves left a few years ago. Their journey was a little different; they were cast in the film in Dakar, and later moved to Italy, where Mr. Garrone lives.

Mr. Sarr, who won the best young actor award at the Venice Film Festival, said he wanted to continue acting.

For now, they both live in Rome with Mr. Garrone’s mother, and Mr. Garrone said he worried about them. “They get up at 3 p.m., and my mother does the cooking and everything for them,” he said. “They’re kids.”

After the screening, Ndeye Khady Sy, the actress starring as Seydou’s mother, urged the audience to stay in Senegal. “You can succeed here,” she said.

But Mr. Ngom, the welder, had left the basketball grounds.

So had Mr. Diallo, the street cleaner, who said he would try reaching Europe for the third time this summer.

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Dancing Past the Venus de Milo

Reporting from Paris and dancing through the Louvre

I fell in love with the Louvre one morning while doing disco moves to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” in the Salle des Cariatides.

The museum, a former medieval fortress and then royal palace, had not yet opened, and I was following instructions to catwalk and hip bump and point in the grand room where Louis XIV once held plays and balls.

The sun cast warm light through long windows, striping the pink-and-white checkered floor and bathing the marble arms, heads and wings of the ancient Grecian statues around me.

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Meet the One Man Everyone Trusts on U.K. Election Nights

When Britain votes in a general election on July 4, one person will likely know the outcome before anyone else.

John Curtice, a professor of political science at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, will spend Election Day with his team, honing the findings of a national exit poll. At 10 p.m., before any results have been counted, he will make a big, bold prediction that will be announced on national television: the winner.

“The lovely thing about the period between 10 o’clock and 11.30 p.m. is that nobody knows!” said Professor Curtice with a grin, raising his hands into the air. “It’s that moment when we don’t really have a government.”

While he is right that no one will know the final tally until results roll in from Britain’s 650 constituencies, in the past six general elections his team’s exit poll has proved strikingly accurate, correctly predicting the largest party every time. In five of the six, the margin of error for that forecast was five parliamentary seats or fewer.

That record is part of what has made this 70-year-old professor, with his formidable intellect, unruly tufts of white hair and infectious enthusiasm, an unlikely media star. But his beloved status in Britain goes deeper. He’s frank and scrupulously nonpartisan, making him a rarity in an age of polarization — a trusted source of information across the political spectrum.

“I try to speak in human. I am trying to speak in ways that the general public will understand,” he told The New York Times over a frugal tuna sandwich lunch in the atrium beneath the BBC’s Westminster studios.

“Sometimes I kick one party and other times I kick the other,” he said. “And usually I kick both of them.”

In February, as broadcasters awaited the results of special elections in two parliamentary districts, Professor Curtice was in front of the TV lights at 10 p.m. as a BBC News producer adjusted his earpiece.

His analysis was characteristically fluent, as were the 20 or so other interviews he completed through a night of TV appearances that stretched into breakfast time the following day.

Fueled by coffee and a bowl of porridge consumed around 6 a.m. in the BBC cafeteria, he then strode off to the broadcaster’s radio studios, continuing a media blitz that ended at 4 p.m. It was an exhausting, exhilarating stint of 18 hours.

“You don’t have time to think about going to sleep — it’s adrenaline, it’s intellectual excitement, it’s an intellectual challenge,” he said.

He comes prepared, however, his laptop brimming with data from previous elections, records that may or may not be broken, and his thinking for how he can summarize the most likely scenarios.

Professor Curtice’s first political memory is of the election of Harold Wilson as leader of the opposition Labour Party in 1963. He was 9 years old. A year later, he was allowed to stay up late on general election night, when Mr. Wilson won a small majority, bringing Labour to power for the first time in 13 years.

“Don’t ask me why, I just found it interesting,” he said.

He was raised in Cornwall, on the rugged coastline of southwest England. His father worked in construction, his mother a part-time market researcher and the family was prosperous enough to own a detached house with a large garden (but no central heating).

At Oxford University, where he studied politics, philosophy and economics, Professor Curtice was a contemporary of Tony Blair, who went on to become prime minister, but their paths did not cross. While Mr. Blair played in a rock band called Ugly Rumours, a young Professor Curtice was a choral scholar who spent two hours a day at evensong.

As a postgraduate, he was urged to become “statistically literate” by his mentor, David Butler, a towering figure in British political science who ran the nation’s first exit poll in 1970.

His first TV election night appearance was in 1979, the night Margaret Thatcher came to power. Armed with a calculator he had programmed himself, he provided Professor Butler with statistical backup in case the BBC’s mainframe computer went down.

It was exit polls, however, that really made Prof. Curtice’s name. His first involvement was in 1992, which he later told The Guardian was “not a happy experience” because the poll predicted a hung Parliament instead of the modest majority of 21 that John Major won for the Conservatives.

Since 2001, a new model he created with David Firth, another academic, has improved the accuracy of the forecasts, sometimes to the discomfort of politicians. In 2015, Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, promised to eat his hat if the exit poll prediction that his party would retain only 10 of its nearly 60 seats proved correct. In fact it won fewer. On a TV show the following night, Mr. Ashdown was handed a hat-shaped chocolate cake.

These days, the exit poll is jointly commissioned by three national broadcasters — the BBC, ITV and Sky News. On July 4, tens of thousands of voters around the country will be handed a mock ballot paper on their way out of polling stations and asked to mark in private how they voted.

In 2017, the poll correctly predicted that, instead of increasing her majority in Parliament, as she and many analysts expected, Theresa May had lost it. In 2019, the projected size of Boris Johnson’s majority was off by just three seats.

Professor Curtice is not complacent, however, and notes that upsets are always possible — as in 2015, when the exit poll projected a hung Parliament, but David Cameron scraped a thin majority. “People think there is some magic, but we are only as good as the data,” Professor Curtice said.

Exit polls are trickiest when elections are close. This time, the Conservative Party, which has held power for 14 years, has lagged the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls by about 20 points for 18 months. While such leads usually narrow in the final weeks of a campaign, the Conservatives would need to make modern electoral history to win.

Professor Curtice puts their chances of forming the next government at less than 5 percent — “the point at which statisticians go: it’s very, very highly improbable.” He adds that this is partly because, even if the Conservatives beat expectations and the outcome is a hung Parliament, they lack allies who would keep them in power as a minority government.

Honored with a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017, Professor Curtice is now famous enough that strangers greet him in the street. His name trends on social media on election nights, and there’s a tribute account on X dedicated to tracking his media appearances called, “Is Sir John Curtice On TV?” (Right now, the answer is often “Yes.”)

Could this be his last general election TV appearance? That, he said, is something he will consider after the vote. “If the next election is in five years, I will be 75, and who knows?”

He has other interests: a passion for classical music, church, family and tending a community garden in Glasgow.

But for now, the country needs him. “There are a lot of experts who know a lot but can’t translate that in a way that is clear to the audience,” said BBC News anchor Nicky Schiller after interviewing Professor Curtice on the night of the February special elections. And, he added, “He’s a joy to work with.”

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The Architect Who Made Singapore’s Public Housing the Envy of the World

The high-rise apartments — some with panoramic views of Singapore’s tropical cityscape — are airy, light-filled and spacious enough to comfortably raise a family. They are also public housing units, and for decades, were emphatically affordable, giving Singapore an enviable rate of homeownership.

Now, however, at least a few of the apartments are being sold at a price that would have been unthinkable not long ago: more than $1 million.

“I’m sad to see that — because public housing must equal affordability,” said Liu Thai Ker, the urban planner who gets much of the credit for creating the country’s widely lauded approach to housing its citizens.

Now 86, Mr. Liu is considered the architect of modern Singapore because of his role overseeing the development of about half of the more than one million apartments that make up public housing in the small and exceptionally prosperous city-state of 5.6 million people.

But in the 1960s, the country’s economic standing was starkly different. Three out of four residents lived in overcrowded and filthy slums, in ramshackle houses with tin walls known as “squatters.”

At that time, Mr. Liu was working in the New York office of the architect I.M. Pei. He had recently graduated from Yale University with a master’s degree in city planning.

“After four years, I felt that America really did not need me, they had way too many architects,” he said. “So I started thinking about coming back.”

He returned in 1969, accepting a job as head of the design and research unit at Singapore’s Housing and Development Board.

One of his main jobs was to create “new towns,” or planned urban centers, for Singapore, even though no could explain how that would look. So he had to figure it out.

With some research, he decided the new Singapore would include highly self-sufficient neighborhoods with schools, shops, outdoor food stalls and playgrounds.

Mr. Liu also wanted to avoid the kind of public housing he had seen in the United States and Europe, where apartments face one another with a central corridor with little light. People with low incomes were living cheek by jowl, creating what he called “ a concentration of poverty.”

He also wanted to spur a sense of community among residents. To figure out how to do that, he asked sociologists to estimate how many families should live in proximity to maximize social interactions. Six to eight was the answer, so each corridor would share six to eight units; that way, neighbors could mingle.

As the public housing following his vision began to be built — and its success to be recognized — Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister, gave Mr. Liu an ambitious goal: resettle everyone still living in the slums by 1982.

By 1985, virtually every Singaporean had a home.

“He used to tell me that the symptoms of a backward city are: one, homeless people; two, traffic jams; three, flooding; and four, polluted air,” Mr. Liu said of Mr. Lee, Singapore’s founding father.

In the Singapore led by Mr. Lee — who was both criticized for suppressing freedoms and celebrated for transforming the country into a global economic power — public housing was about furthering his government’s agenda, as well as putting a roof over people’s heads.

The government linked these affordable flats to its pro-family policies; to support for the ruling People’s Action Party; and to further integration.

In 1989, a year before he stepped down as prime minister, Mr. Lee’s government enacted a policy requiring each block or neighborhood to have a balanced mix of the main ethnic groups in the city — Chinese, Malay and Indian. The goal was to prevent racial enclaves.

Mr. Liu said he supported the idea of integration because of the violent racial conflicts that had occurred around the time Singapore became independent, in 1965.

“In the West, the experts condemned it as social engineering because you’re interfering with the freedom of individuals,” Mr. Liu said. “But we did that — and succeeded.”

Mr. Liu was 6 when he arrived in Singapore in 1944 from Malaysia. His father, Liu Kang, was an accomplished artist in Shanghai who fled to Malaysia during World War II.

After his mother asked him to study architecture to help the family earn money, Mr. Liu obtained a scholarship and enrolled in a part-time course at the University of New South Wales in Australia, where he worked and studied at the same time. He graduated with first-class honors.

Mr. Liu then headed to Yale, where after graduation he was offered a choice to go to Harvard to further study urban design or to work with I.M. Pei. He chose the latter.

It was a crucial milestone in his life. From Mr. Pei, Mr. Liu learned the importance of “flow” and “harmony” in designing buildings, he said, concepts that he put into practice in Singapore.

From 1989 to 1992, Mr. Liu was chief executive and chief planner of Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority. In 1991, he created the “Concept Plan,” dividing Singapore into five regions, making each one a small city unto its own, so people didn’t have to leave an area to go shopping or see a doctor.

“The level of convenience that we experience in Singapore today is largely due to Dr. Liu and his team,” said Heng Chye Kiang, the provost’s professor at the College of Design and Engineering at the National University of Singapore.

After leaving the public sector, Mr. Liu did urban planning work in roughly 60 Chinese cities, including Fuzhou, where he met the highest ranking local official, a man by the name of Xi Jinping. Mr. Xi asked him to design the Fuzhou airport, a project that Mr. Liu initially turned down because he had not done an airport before.

Several months later, Mr. Xi, China’s future leader, came to Singapore and asked Mr. Liu to reconsider, according to Mr. Liu. This time, he agreed.

At 79, Mr. Liu started his own consultancy and is now advising Fiji and the governments of Sichuan and Guangdong in China on urban planning. He works five days a week, which, he says, “slows down the aging process of my brain and my body.”

Mr. Liu said one of his main tasks when working for the government on public housing was ensuring that prices would “rise, but slowly,” so homeowners felt they were “in possession of something with commercial value.” But he also wanted to make sure that prices not rise too fast to “make public housing unaffordable.”

Even though record prices on the secondary market have heightened anxiety about the rising costs of living in Singapore, one of the world’s most expensive cities, public housing remains broadly affordable — at least for those who qualify for government subsidies to buy units.

Today, close to 80 percent of Singapore’s residents live in public housing, and about 90 percent of the units are owned on a 99-year lease.

In a statement, Singapore’s Housing and Development Board said: “The government remains committed to ensuring that public housing remains affordable to Singaporeans.” The million-dollar apartments sold on the secondary market, government officials have said, make up a minuscule fraction of total transactions; as of May, 54 such apartments have sold for more than $1 million.

Families buying in the secondary market are given housing grants of up to roughly $140,000 but they have to meet an income ceiling.

Starting in the second half of this year, singles 35 and older will be eligible to buy a one-bedroom apartment from the government in any location; before the new rule, they had been restricted to certain areas.

Mr. Liu said Singapore’s model could be replicated in other countries, but he acknowledged that his path was smoothed by the government enforcing a law allowing it to buy land at market prices, which made it easier for him to obtain plots for development.

“Most other democratic countries will have difficulty to do that because the landowners will protest,” Mr. Liu said.

Asked about any regrets, Mr. Liu mentioned two: He should have created bicycle paths for the city, he said, and “preserved a few hectares of the squatter huts with the dirt roads and so on for the younger generation to see.”

He added: “Then they would really know how far we’ve traveled.”

First, He Conquered Paris. Now, a Japanese Chef Wants to Become a Brand.

In cooking, timing is everything. So much so that if the chef Kei Kobayashi spots diners heading to the restroom as he sends a dish out from the kitchen, he stops them. Nature’s call can wait; his culinary offerings should be tasted at peak flavor.

Such imperiousness and exactitude align with what Mr. Kobayashi, the first Japanese chef to earn three Michelin stars for a restaurant in Paris, said he had learned from one of his earliest mentors in France: The chef is king.

“Unless you commit to your worldview to this extent, you won’t be able to be a chef,” Mr. Kobayashi, 46, said during a recent interview in Tokyo.

Having earned his third star — the maximum — for his Restaurant Kei in Paris in 2020, he has now expanded his ambitions back to Japan, where he has opened four restaurants over the past two years.

The goal, Mr. Kobayashi said, is to become a brand. In that sense he seems to be emulating Alain Ducasse, at whose now-closed Paris restaurant, Plaza Athénée, Mr. Kobayashi worked before opening his own in 2011.

He also joins a line of creative Japanese — including the artists Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami — who first found fame outside their homeland.

Mastering the art of French cooking has become something of a Japanese specialty. In Tokyo, which has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world, four of the dozen restaurants awarded three stars feature French cuisine.

Mr. Kobayashi wants to show how French food can evolve with seasonal Japanese ingredients, he said in the interview, just hours before the official opening of Kei Collection Paris, his new restaurant on the top floor of the Toranomon Hills Station Tower in Tokyo.

At Kei Collection, he has sneaked some classic Japanese comfort dishes onto the menu, including curry and breaded beef cutlet, alongside fancier items like butter-roasted large clams, smoked bonito with white cheese foam, or delicate hand rolls of tuna and caviar.

Scenes from Kei Collection Paris. Clockwise, from top left, snow crab; preparing a place setting; smoked blue lobster; and Akagi wagyu fillet. Credit…Noriko Hayashi for The New York Times

For the restaurant’s opening, Mr. Kobayashi, his hair dyed platinum blonde, wore a traditional chef’s double-breasted white coat embroidered with three Michelin stars over black trousers and green suede New Balance sneakers. An Audemars Piguet watch was strapped to his wrist.

He spoke modestly, rejecting descriptors like “first class” or “genius” and saying he never allowed himself to think he had reached the pinnacle of cooking. But Mr. Kobayashi appeared coiled and a little aloof, belying his humble words.

His uncompromising approach is embodied by what he said was his favorite French phrase: “aller plus loin” — go further.

“If you make a compromise, or think ‘OK, this is good,’ then it is time to quit,” he said.

His attention to detail extends beyond the food. “He cares about the furniture selection and the interior, the softness of the sofa,” said Tadashi Nobira, manager of Esprit C. Kei Ginza, another one of Mr. Kobayashi’s new restaurants in Tokyo. “He cares to the last centimeter.”

Just minutes before a guest arrived for a solo lunch with the chef on opening day at Kei Collection earlier this spring, Mr. Kobayashi was adjusting the volume of a curated jazz collection playing in the dining room.

Mr. Kobayashi grew up in Nagano in central Japan, where his father worked as a chef. His mother cooked homemade meals every night, including his favorite, curry rice. But Mr. Kobayashi said he did not learn to cook from either of them.

Instead it was a documentary about the French chef Alain Chapel that first captivated Mr. Kobayashi, who envied the chef’s crisp white jacket. Forgoing high school, he took a job at a local French restaurant, where, as he recalled, he spent four years in which “the chef just kept getting mad at me.”

At 19, Mr. Kobayashi moved to Tokyo to work for Ikuo Shimizu, a mostly self-taught chef who gave his apprentice basic training in how to work with meat and fish.

“He was very mischievous, but he had a strong backbone,” Mr. Shimizu said in an interview at his eight-seat restaurant in a quiet neighborhood in Tokyo, where he serves rustic French meals. “I thought he was really an artisan. He was particular about the details, like the shape of the knives and how to sharpen them.”

Having fixated on French cuisine, Mr. Kobayashi decided he needed to move to France. An acquaintance helped him land a job at Auberge du Vieux Puits in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, where he worked for four years under the tutelage of the chef Gilles Goujon, who has also earned three Michelin stars.

In a video interview, Mr. Goujon said he was immediately struck by the young cook with bleached hair.

With a touch of stereotyping about Japanese prowess, Mr. Goujon first assigned Mr. Kobayashi to the fish station, instructing him with gestures and cookbook illustrations. Even on days off, “he wanted to come and work,” Mr. Goujon said. “So we had to lock the restaurant so he could go and rest.”

After two seasons at the fish station, Mr. Kobayashi tried to convince his boss that he had developed allergies and needed to switch to meat and game. Mr. Goujon was amused, and he eventually moved Mr. Kobayashi to the meat station to learn how to debone birds, deer and wild boar.

Mr. Kobayashi also worked briefly at a patisserie in Provence and at a restaurant in Brittany. The latter didn’t go well, he said. “At the time, there was a movement to make French cuisine more scientific, and I didn’t agree with that,” he said. “I went to learn Breton cuisine, not science.”

He worked at Mr. Ducasse’s Plaza Athénée for seven years before going out on his own, buying a restaurant whose chef was retiring.

“Maybe I was stupid,” he said, “but I figured the cooking would work itself out.” He was worried, however, about whether he could support the staff he was hiring, who “were putting their lives on the line.”

Within a year, he earned his first Michelin star; the second came five years later. After the third, he decided to make the move back to Japan.

In addition to Kei Collection Paris and Esprit C. Kei Ginza, Mr. Kobayashi has opened a restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Tokyo and one in Gotemba, near Mount Fuji. The Gotemba and Ginza restaurants are collaborations with Toraya, a centuries-old Japanese confectionary company.

With Mr. Kobayashi spending most of his time in Paris, he handpicked chefs to run the kitchens at the new Japanese restaurants, relying on them to develop dishes based on local ingredients.

Teruki Murashima, 50, the chef de cuisine at Héritage by Kei Kobayashi at the Ritz, said he talked frequently by phone with Mr. Kobayashi and sent him photos of dishes and lists of ingredients.

“We both may make completely different dishes with the same ingredients,” Mr. Murashima said in an interview at the Ritz. “But we know that about each other, and we respect each other.”

Still, Mr. Murashima said, Mr. Kobayashi is “very particular about certain things, and really gets quite angry if things don’t reach his standards.”

At times, Mr. Kobayashi is prone to remind customers of those standards. If a diner takes out a cellphone to snap a picture of a dish, said Mr. Nobira, the Ginza restaurant manager, Mr. Kobayashi might appear at the table, encouraging the customer to take a bite right away instead.

Is he, then, a king? “I might be close to one,” he said.

Ségolène Le Stradic contributed reporting from Paris.

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After Her Sister Wed at 11, a Girl Began Fighting Child Marriage at 13

When they were children, Memory Banda and her younger sister were inseparable, just a year apart in age and often mistaken for twins. They shared not only clothes and shoes, but also many of the same dreams and aspirations.

Then, one afternoon in 2009, that close relationship shattered when Ms. Banda’s sister, at age 11, was forced to wed a man in his 30s who had impregnated her.

“She became a different person then,” Ms. Banda recalled. “We never played together anymore because she was now ‘older’ than me. I felt like I lost my best friend.”

Her sister’s pregnancy and forced marriage happened soon after her return from a so-called initiation camp.

In parts of rural Malawi, parents and guardians often send their daughters to these camps when they reach puberty, which Memory’s younger sister hit before she did. The girls stay at the camps for weeks at a time where they learn about motherhood and sex — or, more specifically, how to sexually please a man.

After her sister’s marriage, it dawned on Memory that she would be next, along with many of her peers in the village.

Strong feelings of resistance, she said, began stirring within her.

“I had so many questions,” she said, “like, ‘Why should this be happening to girls so young in the name of carrying on tradition?’”

It was a moment of awakening for the self-described “fierce child rights activist,” who, now 27, helped in a campaign that, in 2015, led Malawi to outlaw child marriage.

Despite the passage of the law against child marriage, enforcement has been weak, and it is still common for girls here to marry young. In Malawi, 37.7 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 and 7 percent are married before turning 15, according to a 2021 report from the country’s National Statistical Office.

The drivers of child marriage are multifaceted; poverty and cultural practices — including the longstanding tradition of initiation camps — are important components of the problem. When girls return from the camps, many drop out of school and quickly fall into the trap of early marriage.

In the past, almost every girl in certain rural areas of the country went to initiation camps, said Eunice M’biya, a lecturer in social history at the University of Malawi. “But this trend is slowly shifting in favor of formal education,” Ms. M’biya said.

Ms. Banda’s own grassroots activism began in 2010, when she was just 13, in her small village of Chitera in the district of Chiradzulu, in Malawi’s south.

Despite initial resistance from older women in her village, she rallied other girls in Chitera and became a leader in the local movement of girls saying no to the camps.

Her activism gained momentum when she crossed paths with the Girls Empowerment Network, a Malawi-based nonprofit that was lobbying lawmakers to address the issue of child marriage. It was also training girls in the Chiradzulu District to become advocates and urge their village chiefs to take a stance by enacting local ordinances to protect adolescent girls from early marriage and harmful sexual initiation practices.

Ms. Banda teamed up with the nonprofit on the “I will marry when I want” campaign, calling for the legal marriage age to be increased to 18 from 15. Other rights activists, parliamentarians, and religious and civil society leaders joined the ultimately successful battle.

Today, the Malawi Constitution defines any person below age 18 as a child.

Ms. Banda’s role in the push against the practice earned her a Young Activist award from the United Nations in 2019.

“Our campaign was very impactful because we brought together girls who told their stories through lived experience,” Ms. Banda said. “From there, a lot of people just wanted to be part of the movement and change things after hearing the depressing stories from the girls.”

Habiba Osman, a lawyer and prominent gender-rights advocate who has known Ms. Banda since she was 13, describes her as a trailblazer. “She played a very crucial role in mobilizing girls in her community, because she knew that girls her age needed to be in school,” she said. “What I like about Memory is that years later, after the enactment of the law, she’s still campaigning for the effective implementation of it.”

In 2019, with the support of the Freedom Fund, an international nonprofit dedicated to ending modern slavery, Ms. Banda founded Foundation for Girls Leadership to promote children’s rights and teach leadership skills to girls.

“I want children to understand about their rights while they are still young,” Ms. Banda said. “If we want to shape a better future, this is a group to target.”

Though her nonprofit is still in its infancy, it has already managed to help over 500 girls faced with child marriages to avoid that fate and stay in school or enroll again.

Last year she shared what she has been doing with Michelle Obama, Melinda French Gates and Amal Clooney during their visit to Malawi as part of the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s efforts to end child marriage.

“I’ve watched these three inspiring women from a world apart and just to be in their presence and talk to them was such a huge moment in my life,” Ms. Banda said. “I never thought I’d one day meet Michelle Obama.”

Ms. Banda was born in 1997 in Chitera. Her father died when she was 3, leaving her mother to raise two infant girls on her own.

Ms. Banda did well in school, knowing from an early age, she said, that learning was crucial for her future.

“My sister’s experience fueled the burning desire I had for education,” she said. “Whenever I was not in the first position in my class, I had to make sure that I had to be No. 1 in the next school term.”

Outspoken in class, her willingness to ask questions and express herself proved essential when her time came to go to the initiation camp. She refused.

“I simply said no because I knew what I wanted in life, and that was getting an education,” she said.

The women in Chitera labeled her as stubborn and disrespectful of their cultural values. She said she often heard comments like: “Look at you, you’re all grown up. Your little sister has a baby, what about you?” Ms. Banda recalled. “That was what I was dealing with every day. It was not easy.”

She found support from her teacher at primary school and from people at the Girls Empowerment Network. They helped convince her mother and aunts that she needed to be allowed to make her own decision.

“I was lucky,” Ms. Banda said. “I believe if the Girls Empowerment Network had come earlier in my community, things would have turned out different for my sister, as for my cousins, friends and many girls.”

Ms. Banda stayed in school, earning an undergraduate degree in development studies. She recently completed her master’s degree in project management.

She now works in Ntcheu, Malawi, with Save the Children International while running her own children’s rights nonprofit in Lilongwe. Malawi’s capital.

As much as she has accomplished, Ms. Banda is aware there is much left to do.

“Some of the girls that we have managed to pull out of early marriage, ended up getting back into those marriages because of poverty,” Ms. Banda said. “They have no financial support, and their parents cannot take care of them when they return home.”

She noted that child marriage is a multidimensional problem that requires a multidimensional solution of scholarships, economic opportunities, child protection structures at the community level and “changing the way families and communities view the problems,” she said.

Ms. Banda is currently lobbying Malawi’s Ministry of Gender to set up a “girls fund” to help provide economic opportunities to those most vulnerable to a childhood marriage.

For her sister, the first, forced marriage didn’t last. While now remarried to a man she chose as an adult, her childhood trauma disrupted her education and ended her ambitions of becoming a teacher.

Ms. Banda’s next move is to set up a vocational school for girls through her nonprofit, aimed at providing job skills to those like her sister unable to go beyond secondary school.

“All I want is for girls to live in an equal and safe society,” she said. “Is that too much to ask?”

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

Update: The portrait of King Charles III was unveiled on Tuesday.

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.

The painting, which will be unveiled at Buckingham Palace in mid-May, is the first large-scale rendering of Charles since he became king. It will likely reconfirm Mr. Yeo’s status as the go-to portraitist of his generation for Britain’s great and good, as well as for actors, writers, businesspeople and celebrities from around the world. His privately commissioned works can fetch around $500,000 each.

Painting the king’s portrait also marks a return to normalcy for Mr. Yeo, 53, who suffered a near-fatal heart attack last year that he attributes to the lingering effects of cancer in his early 20s. The parallel with his subject is not lost on him: Charles, 75, announced in February that he had been diagnosed with cancer, just 18 months into his reign.

Mr. Yeo said he did not learn of the king’s illness until after he had completed the painting. If anything, his depiction is of a vigorous, commanding monarch. But it gave Mr. Yeo deeper empathy for a man he got to know over four sittings, beginning in June 2021, when Charles was still the Prince of Wales and continuing after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and his coronation last May.

“You see physical changes in people, depending on how things are going,” Mr. Yeo said in his studio, where he had decorously turned the as-yet-unveiled painting away from the gaze of curious visitors. “Age and experience were suiting him,” he said. “His demeanor definitely changed after he became king.”

The portrait was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Drapers, a medieval guild of wool and cloth merchants that is now a philanthropy. It will hang in Drapers’ Hall, the company’s baronial quarters in London’s financial district, which has a gallery of monarchs from King George III to Queen Victoria. Mr. Yeo’s Charles will add a contemporary jolt to that classical lineup.

“What Jonny has succeeded in doing is combining the elusive quality of majesty with an edginess,” said Philip Mould, a friend and art historian who has seen the painting and called it “something of a unicorn.”

Mr. Yeo is no stranger to depicting royals. He painted Charles’ wife, Queen Camilla, who he said was a delight, and his father, Prince Philip, who was less so. “He was a bit of a caged tiger,” Mr. Yeo recalled. “I can’t imagine he was easy as a father, but he was entertaining as a subject.”

Still, a sitting monarch was a first for Mr. Yeo, whose subjects have included prime ministers (Tony Blair and David Cameron), actors (Dennis Hopper and Nicole Kidman), artists (Damien Hirst), moguls (Rupert Murdoch) and activists (Malala Yousafzai).

Mr. Yeo said there was an element of “futurology” to his work. Some of his subjects have gone on to greater renown after he painted them; others have faded. A few, like Kevin Spacey, who was tried and acquitted on charges of sexual misconduct, have fallen into disrepute. The National Portrait Gallery in Washington returned Mr. Yeo’s Spacey portrait, made when the actor played a ruthless politician in the series “House of Cards.”

Gazing back over his A-list subjects, Mr. Yeo has developed a few rules of thumb about his art. Older faces are easier to capture than younger ones because they are more lived in. The best portraits capture visual characteristics that remain relevant even as the person ages. And the only bad subjects are boring ones.

“He didn’t want me to pose, he just wanted me to talk,” said Giancarlo Esposito, the American actor known for playing elegant villains in the crime classic “Breaking Bad” and the recent Guy Ritchie TV series, “The Gentlemen.” As an actor, Mr. Esposito said, he was skilled at projecting a persona, “but there was no way to fool him.”

“It was an opportunity to be Giancarlo, unmasked,” said Mr. Esposito, who said he last posed for a portrait as a child at a county fair.

A loose-limbed figure with a quick smile and stylish eyeglasses pushed far back on his forehead, Mr. Yeo learned his appreciation for the charms and foibles of public figures by being the son of one. His father, Tim Yeo, was a Conservative member of Parliament and minister under Prime Minister John Major, whose career was undone by professional and personal scandals.

At first, the elder Mr. Yeo had little patience for his son’s artistic dreams. “My dad definitely assumed I’d need to get a proper job,” he said, giving him no money when he took a year off after high school to try to make it as a painter. Mr. Yeo’s early efforts showed his lack of formal training, and “obviously, I didn’t sell any pictures.”

Then, in 1993, at the end of his second year at university in Kent, he was struck by Hodgkin’s disease. Mr. Yeo burrowed deeper into painting as a way of coping with the disease. He got a break when a friend of his father — Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican archbishop and anti-apartheid activist — commissioned him for a portrait.

“He asked me mostly out of pity,” Mr. Yeo recalled. “But it turned out spectacularly, better than anyone expected.”

The commissions began to flow, and Mr. Yeo became sought-after for his revealing portraits of famous faces. In 2013, the National Portrait Gallery in London mounted a midcareer exhibition of his work.

“He brought the portrait back,” said Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House, a chain of private members’ clubs, which worked with Mr. Yeo to hang paintings by him and other artists on its walls. “Portraits were always such severe things,” Mr. Jones said. “He was able to add layers and bring out the personality of the people.”

It helps that Mr. Yeo is well-connected, prolific and entrepreneurial. He is cleareyed about the commercial side of his art. “No matter how you dress it up,” he said, “to some extent, you’re in the luxury goods business.”

Successful but creatively restless, Mr. Yeo began experimenting. When aides to President George W. Bush contacted him to do a portrait and later dropped the project, he decided to do it anyway, but as a collage of images cut out of pornographic magazines.

The Bush portrait went viral on the web, and Mr. Yeo created collages of other public figures, including Hugh Hefner and Silvio Berlusconi. It was provocative but time-consuming work — he bought stacks of skin magazines to assemble enough raw material — and his supply dried up when, he said, “the iPad killed the porn-magazine industry.”

Mr. Yeo also became drawn to the uses of technology in art. He worked on design projects at Apple. He painted the celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, via FaceTime during the pandemic. And he created an app that offers a virtual-reality tour of his studio, a well-appointed space in an old workshop that once turned out organs.

But on a Sunday night in March 2023, Mr. Yeo’s busy life came to a terrifying halt. He went into cardiac arrest — his heart stopping for more than two minutes. Mr. Yeo said he believes the crisis was linked to his cancer treatment decades earlier. While he did not see a bright light at the end of a tunnel, as others with near-death experiences have described, he recalled a palpable sensation of floating outside his body.

Mr. Yeo, who is married and has two daughters, clung to life. After recuperating, he found that his vocation as a painter — temporarily diverted by his detours into technology and other pursuits — had been rekindled. Soon, he was immersed in the portraits of Charles, Mr. Esposito and Mr. Attenborough.

“It definitely makes you feel, ‘Let’s not mess around anymore,’” Mr. Yeo said. “It’s like dodging a bullet.”

The Capital of Women’s Soccer

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A little more than an hour before the game begins, the gates outside the Johan Cruyff Stadium swing open and a thousand or so fans rush inside. Some scurry to the turnstiles. Others wait patiently at the merchandise stalls, anxious to buy a jersey, a scarf, a commemorative trinket.

The busiest and longest line, though, forms outside a booth offering fans the chance to have a photo taken with their heroes. Within a couple of minutes, it snakes all the way back to the entrance, populated by doting parents and spellbound preteens hoping they arrived in time.

They have come to see the most dominant women’s soccer team on the planet. Barcelona Femení has been Spanish champion every year since 2019. It has not lost a league game since last May, a run during which eight of its players also lifted the Women’s World Cup. On Saturday, the team can win its third Women’s Champions League title, which crowns the best professional team in Europe, in four seasons.

That success has turned the team’s standouts into global stars and the club into what often seems like a juggernaut. It has also transformed Barcelona, and the broader region of Catalonia, into the global heartbeat of women’s soccer, a case study in what happens when the women’s game wins the same prominence as the men’s.

On the city’s streets, jerseys bearing the name of Alexia Putellas or Aitana Bonmatí, Barça Femení’s biggest stars, are just as common as those with the names of an icon of the men’s team. And on the region’s soccer fields, a boom is playing out, with what was once a male-dominated space now awash in women and girls.

The number of registered female soccer players in Catalonia has doubled in the past six years, and it is expected to grow exponentially in the decade to come. There are more coaches, more clubs, more teams, more games, more leagues.

The young fans queuing for a photo were not hoping for a picture with a distant hero. They were hoping, instead, to be close enough to touch the women who have helped make all of that real.

From the age of 11 until she was 14, Marta Torrejón said, she never played soccer against another girl. She had, in her younger days, when she was representing neighborhood teams. But from the moment she joined Espanyol — the smaller of the two professional soccer clubs in Barcelona — her teammates, and her opponents, were all boys.

At times, being the only girl among talents who would grow up to play in Spain’s top league made her feel “out of place,” she admitted, but for the most part she was just thankful.

Torrejón’s first steps in soccer were both typical and not. Typical because she started playing in the late 1990s, when opportunities for girls to do so — in Barcelona, in Spain, in Europe — were scant and when those who joined boys sides were not always welcomed.

“My mother has told me that there were parents asking if she knew there were girls’ teams in some villages,” Torrejón said. “My mother would say, ‘That’s great, but she’s here.’”

And not typical because Torrejón was not only courageous enough to withstand it, but also talented enough to make it. She only rejoined a girls’ team at the age of 14, when Spanish law required her to do so. A few months later, she was in Espanyol’s first team. She won a Spanish title there, and then added another six with Barcelona Femení.

Now, though, her experience feels anachronistic. Despite Spain’s World Cup win last year being clouded by the sight of Luis Rubiales, president of the country’s soccer federation at the time, forcibly kissing Jennifer Hermoso, one of its most celebrated players, on the rostrum — an incident that ultimately led a charge of sexual assault — the exponential growth of women’s soccer in Barcelona is unchecked.

Over the past three years, Barcelona’s women’s team has tripled the money it brings in through sponsorships, merchandise and ticketing. It now earns $8.5 million a season from its sponsors alone. Its stadium is packed. In 2023, the year that brought the World Cup title for Spain, the club’s online sales of women’s apparel increased roughly 275 percent.

For the club, the success of the women’s team has been more than an economic stimulus: At a time when corruption allegations, financial mismanagement and flagging performances have swirled around the men’s team, executives privately admit that the women’s side has proved a welcome tonic for the club’s self-esteem.

Far more significant, though, are the opportunities it has created. Two decades since Torrejón blazed a lonely path, girls hopeful of following in her footsteps have an abundance of choice.

One illustrative example: In 2019, Sant Pere de Ribes, a club on the city’s fringes where Bonmatí started her career, had a single girls’ team, and it had only nine players. Now there are 10 girls’ squads, as well as a senior women’s side.

“We have a lot of girls joining because it’s the team where Aitana played,” Tino Herrera, the club’s president, said.

That growth has been mirrored elsewhere, forcing the body that oversees soccer in Catalonia — the Catalan Football Federation — to modernize, and quickly, to make sure all of the girls who want to play have a place to do so.

To Torrejón, with her memories of being told soccer was not a place for girls, that is a source of immense “pride and satisfaction.”

“What you do creates an impact on other people and a change that wasn’t there before,” she said. “The girls coming now have those references that we didn’t have. They see something in the future of this profession.”

Laura Cuenca tried everything. She took her daughter dancing. Tried ice-skating. Offered cross-country running. But Sonia was adamant: She wanted to play soccer.

Her hesitation was purely logistical. She knew soccer would mean a demanding schedule of training during the week, and weekends eaten up by games. “You can’t ever go away to the beach, for example,” Ms. Cuenca said, just a little ruefully.

Sonia was insistent, though. She loves soccer, and her mother loves her, so surrender was inevitable, really. And so now, Ms. Cuenca finds herself spending another Saturday night at the Sabadell Sports Center, watching as Sonia takes the field. There will be another game tomorrow, an hour or so away in Barcelona. Next week will bring three more training sessions.

It is a lot for Ms. Cuenca, but even more for her daughter. “She’s 16, so there is schoolwork, obviously,” her mother said. “Then there are her friends, her job, her love life. It’s a lot for her to balance.”

Like everywhere else, Sabadell has seen a surge of girls wanting to play: 206 players this year, up from the 84 who registered in 2020, according to Bruno Batlle, president of the center.

Logistically, that is a challenge — there are only four fields, and many more teams demanding to use them — and it leads to certain iniquities that, for parents like Ms. Cuenca, are a reminder that soccer remains a more challenging place for girls than for boys.

At Sabadell, for example, it is the girls’ teams that often must make do with the worst training slots. “Sometimes they do not finish until 11 p.m.,” Ms. Cuenca said. “So Sonia does not get to bed until very late, which means she’s tired for school.”

And while talented players on the boys’ teams might have their registration fees or travel costs subsidized, the girls all have to pay their own way. The revolution, Ms. Cuenca noted, is not yet complete.

The fact that there are battles still to be fought, though, does not mean that the war is not being won. Ms. Cuenca is not sure what percentage of that can be attributed to Barça Femení — there has, she said, been a broader social change that has all but extinguished the “idea that soccer is not for girls.”

She has no doubt, though, that her daughter has been inspired by seeing what is possible, playing out just an hour down the road.

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The Premier League’s Asterisk Season

With five minutes left in his team’s penultimate game of the Premier League season, Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola found the tension just a little too much. As a rival striker bore down on his team’s goal, Guardiola — crouching on his haunches on the sideline — lost his balance and toppled over onto his back.

Lying on the grass and expecting the worst, he missed what may yet prove to be the pivotal moment in the Premier League’s most enthralling title race in a decade.

But the striker did not score. His effort was parried by goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, sending Manchester City above its title rival Arsenal in the standings and positioning it, if it can win again on Sunday, to become the first English team to win four consecutive championships.

“Ortega saved us,” Guardiola said afterward. “Otherwise, Arsenal is champion.”

That the destiny of the championship should have been determined only so late in the season seems fitting for what has, on the surface, been a vintage Premier League campaign.

All of that drama, though, comes with a figurative asterisk. This season’s Premier League has been defined as much by turbulence off the field — points deductions, internecine bickering, legal disputes, fraud accusations and the looming threat of government intervention — as it has been by City’s (eventual) smooth sailing through it.

For the first time, the Premier League this season was forced to strip points in the standings from two of its member clubs for breaches of financial regulations. One of them, Everton, was punished twice, prompting outrage from its fans. Appeals then kicked off a long, opaque legal process that left not just those teams but also their rivals mired in months of uncertainty.

Behind the scenes, the uneasy peace between the 20 clubs that act as the league’s owners and operators has essentially shattered, shaking the foundations that allowed the competition to grow so popular that it is now, arguably, Britain’s most powerful cultural export.

There have been fierce disagreements about financial rules, about how much of the Premier League’s wealth should be shared with the rest of English soccer, about the legitimacy of some teams’ commercial revenue.

That has led to growing intramural lawfare: Manchester City has threatened legal action over sponsorships by companies affiliated with the club’s Emirati owners, and Burnley has sought legal advice as it contemplates a claim for tens of millions of dollars in compensation for its costly relegation during the period when Everton was in breach of financial regulations.

More troubling still, to fans and clubs alike, is that it has been 15 months since Manchester City was accused of 115 violations of the league’s financial rules over a series of title-winning seasons.

Manchester City has always declined to discuss the Premier League’s charges, which it has labeled an “organized” attempt to smear its reputation, and has repeatedly said it has a “comprehensive body of irrefutable proof” of its innocence.

The Premier League declined to respond this week, pointing to its longstanding policy of not commenting on ongoing cases involving its members, but those fights have become an expensive endeavor: Its legal costs, for multiple cases, now run into the double-digit millions.

Casting a shadow above it all, at least as far as the Premier League is concerned, is an effort by the British government to introduce a soccer regulator to ensure that clubs are run sustainably by reliable, reputable owners.

When the idea was first proposed three years ago, in the aftermath of an attempt by some leading clubs to form a breakaway European Super League, the Premier League offered a cautious welcome. It engaged with lawmakers as they sought ideas on what form a regulator might take.

That stance has changed substantially. The league has lobbied consistently to try to limit the role of the regulator, advertising frequently in a suite of political newsletters. Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, recently suggested that any government regulation threatened to “undermine the Premier League’s global success” by deterring potential investors in the game.

In an open letter to The Times of London, he suggested that regulation might wound “the goose that provides English football’s golden egg.”

“The big fear is that investment will dry up,” said Christina Philippou, a lecturer in sports finance at the University of Portsmouth who has advised lawmakers drafting the regulator’s role. “A regulator does make a certain type of investment less likely. But making it more sustainable, limiting losses, makes another — maybe better — type of investment more likely.”

Whether the Premier League is sufficiently unified to meet all of the challenges it faces, though, is up for debate. The league is run as a collective: Each club has a single vote, regardless of its size or longevity, and for any motion to pass, it must attract the support of 14 of the 20 clubs.

For years, that led to what Dr. Philippou characterized as a “clear split” between the so-called Big Six — Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchesters City and United, and Tottenham, whose interests ordinarily aligned — and everyone else. The picture now is far more complex. “There are lots of cliques and a lot of tension,” she said.

Though the league has been able to reach unanimity on certain issues — the need for a new set of financial regulations and improvements to video refereeing — the atmosphere at its meetings is now more charged, according to several executives who attend the gatherings but declined to be named while discussing private conversations.

What were once relatively cordial rivalries have calcified into something more vitriolic, those executives said. The authority of the league itself, formerly absolute, is now frequently challenged. And some teams, they said, now routinely reserve one of the two seats each is assigned at the meetings for an in-house lawyer.

Most attribute that to the seismic, divisive issues the league has had to face in recent years, ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to a number of breakaway proposals and the spate of financial cases.

Others, though, believe that the shifting makeup of the league’s ownership group has played a role: Sovereign wealth funds and private equity groups are more willing to tolerate losses and less concerned with the overall health of the game than their predecessors.

“It will only get worse,” said Trevor East, a former television executive who was an architect of the original vision for the Premier League. “The integrity of the league is all-important, but they are going to be challenged at every opportunity in the future.”

The competitive spirit of the league has become a problem, too. Part of the controversy over the points deductions for Everton and another club, Nottingham Forest, was that the league did not have set penalties for financial offenses: Everton was initially stripped of 10 points, later reduced to six, but Forest only four.

That, though, was deliberate: In 2020, Premier League clubs voted not to enshrine specific tariffs in the league’s regulations, partly in the hope that uncertainty might act as a deterrent and partly out of a belief that certain teams would come to regard them merely as the cost of doing business.

That sort of short-term analysis, Dr. Philippou said, is typical of the thinking that has brought the Premier League to a point where the government can reasonably propose regulation. “It has always had a habit of concentrating on certain, immediate things,” she said of the league, “rather than looking at the actual problems and seeing what it needs to do to have competitive balance.”

That the league has shown itself willing to use its powers to punish its members can, to some executives, be seen as proof that the regulations have teeth: an administrative version of Voltaire’s observation that in England “it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others.”

Speaking to lawmakers this week, Mr. Masters acknowledged that this “has been a difficult period for the league” and that seeing their teams punished has been difficult for fans. “But if we have financial rules, we have to enforce them,” he said.

Few in soccer worry that the Premier League’s troubles will dim its appeal. Even the specter that Manchester City’s achievements may be tarnished might, in time, become just another compelling story line in a global soap opera.

The turbulence, though, seems likely to continue. Last month, Leicester City was promoted back to the Premier League after a season away. The club has already been charged with breaching financial rules during its last stay. It, too, is in line for a points deduction.

Andrew Das contributed reporting from London.

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Soccer’s Governing Body Delays Vote on Palestinian Call to Bar Israel

FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, on Friday postponed a decision to temporarily suspend Israel over its actions during the conflict in Gaza, and in the West Bank, saying it needed to solicit legal advice before taking up a motion submitted by the Palestinian Football Association.

The motion calling for Israel’s suspension referred to “international law violations committed by the Israeli occupation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza,” and cited violations of FIFA’s human rights and discrimination statutes.

Responding to emotionally charged addresses at FIFA’s annual congress by the head of the Palestinian soccer body, Jibril Rajoub, FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, said the urgency of the situation meant he would convene an extraordinary meeting of FIFA’s top board on July 25.

Before that meeting, he said, FIFA will ask experts to analyze whether Israel’s actions breach the governing body’s regulations. By contrast, in 2022, FIFA acted quickly to bar Russian teams and clubs from competitions after the country’s forces launched a full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Mr. Rajoub has for years pursued sanctions against Israel and its teams over a variety of issues, including freedom of movement for Palestinian players and for allowing teams based in territory overseen by the Palestinian soccer federation to play in Israel’s domestic leagues. Since Israeli forces invaded Gaza last October in retaliation for the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, all soccer infrastructure in the territory, including a historic stadium, has been destroyed, Mr. Rajoub said.

Israel’s soccer chief, Moshe Zuares, called the Palestinian motion “cynical.” But the possibility of even a temporary ban on its teams could have immediate consequences: Israel is set to compete in the men’s tournament at the Paris Olympics around the time of the FIFA meeting in July, and to begin qualifying for the 2026 men’s World Cup later this year.

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials had used the run-up to Friday’s congress to lobby officials from other national federations. A day earlier, at a meeting of Asian soccer’s governing body, members were shown a video showing the effects of the war in Gaza and then unanimously approved a decision to back the Palestinian federation’s motion.

Palestinian officials addressed FIFA’s 211 members twice during Friday’s meeting, and were followed by an official from Jordan who demanded action from FIFA.

While acknowledging the urgency of the matter, Mr. Infantino declined to call a vote. Instead, he said, the organization’s 37-member governing council would decide what to do in two months.

“FIFA will mandate as of now an independent legal expertise to assess the three requests made by the Palestinian Football Association and make sure that the status and regulations of FIFA are applied in the correct way,” he said.

Scandal Brought Reforms to Soccer. Its Leaders Are Rolling Them Back.

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The 12-page report was intended to save soccer’s governing body, FIFA, in its moment of existential crisis.

Filled with reform proposals and drawn up by more than a dozen soccer insiders in December 2015, the report was FIFA’s best chance to show business partners, U.S. investigators and billions of fans that it could be trusted again after one of the biggest corruption scandals in sports history.

In bullet points and numbered sections, the report championed high-minded ideas like accountability and humility. It also proposed concrete and, for FIFA, revolutionary changes: transparency in how major decisions were reached; term limits for top leaders and new limits on presidential power; and the abolition of well-funded committees widely viewed as a system of institutional graft.

And there on the report’s final page, deep down a list of its authors, was the name of the man positioning himself as FIFA’s savior: Gianni Infantino.

Mr. Infantino, an administrator at European soccer’s governing body, had been enlisted to help sketch out the overhauls. By the time they were announced, he was a candidate for FIFA president. Presenting himself as a clean break from the past, he swept into office a few months later and quickly began enacting many of the changes. The sport’s six regional confederations promised to clean up their acts, too.

Less than a decade later, soccer’s appetite for reform appears to have waned. An outside audit of African soccer’s governing body, commissioned after FIFA took control of the organization, suggested tens of millions of dollars in misappropriated funds. The governing bodies for Europe and for North and Central America have backed away from reforms or ignored promised ones altogether, according to a comparison of public pledges and concrete actions. The Asian soccer confederation will vote this week on scrapping term limits for its senior leadership.

And on Friday in Bangkok, Mr. Infantino and FIFA will ask its members to approve a slate of changes to its statutes that would roll back yet more of the changes he once embraced, and restore structures that he had sought to sweep away.

Critics argue that would move soccer away from sound principles of good governance it adopted amid scandal. “FIFA,” the organization said in response, “does not agree with this sentiment at all.”

FIFA the institution, as well as Mr. Infantino personally, frequently invokes a powerful endorsement of its overhauls whenever questions about corporate probity are raised. While Mr. Infantino rarely grants interviews, FIFA said in response to questions about the undoing of reforms that the changes made since the scandals of 2015 have transformed it “from a toxic institution to a respected, trusted and modern governing body.”

That pivot to model governance, it said, has been “acknowledged by several external organizations, including the United States Department of Justice.”

But American officials said last week that they had never reviewed FIFA’s rules or governance standards, and the prosecutor’s office that brought many of the corruption cases declined to stand behind the federation’s changes.

“Our office has not endorsed the effectiveness of any of FIFA’s current reform efforts,” said John Marzulli, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.

FIFA, along with two of its regional confederations, has been granted victim status by the Justice Department, reflecting a conclusion that it had been harmed by its own leaders. That designation could allow it to claw back tens of millions of dollars seized from defendants in the case.

But in a signal of the Justice Department’s reticence to endorse FIFA’s claims of being a changed institution, U.S. officials declined to pay $201 million in restitution funds it has awarded to FIFA or its related federations directly. Instead, they took the unusual step of requiring the creation of a U.S.-based bank account for a special fund that received the proceeds.

At the same time, FIFA has moved to alter statutes revised after the scandal. In the 2015 study, for example, Mr. Infantino and fellow report authors called for a dismantling of a bloated committee system that had for years been one of FIFA’s worst excesses: a program of patronage assignments in which soccer officials from around the world could enjoy luxury air travel, five-star accommodations and hefty annual salaries, all at FIFA’s expense, in return for their loyalty, and their votes.

FIFA had 26 such standing committees at the time. The 2015 report recommended a reduction to nine “to improve efficiency.” Currently, there are only seven.

But as part of the proposed rules changes being considered this week in Bangkok, Mr. Infantino will ask members to approve a fivefold increase, to 35 panels, and also for the power to create new ones — and appoint members — when he sees fit.

FIFA said it needed the extra committees because it had significantly expanded its functions and suggested that the roles would create more positions for women. Some meetings, it said, would be held by teleconference. It did not say how appointees to the committees would be chosen, but there is already interest in the roles.

One sports official, who works for another major sporting body but who has served on FIFA committees in the past, smiled when told about their being restored. He asked not to be named because he still has a relationship with the organization. But he said he hoped to be offered a position since the perks traditionally have included access to prized World Cup tickets.

Region by region, promises of change have already been watered down. The Asian soccer confederation’s vote this week to abolish term limits will allow its president and board members to stay on indefinitely. (The A.F.C. said four of its member associations had requested the change.) An effort by the European soccer’s president to stay beyond his 12-year term limit was approved but rendered meaningless when he said he would not run. (He said he had not planned to extend his term but wanted to test members’ loyalty.) And the North American soccer body, Concacaf, which was nearly brought down by the 2015 corruption scandal, has failed to follow through on promised changes like hiring independent board members. (It did not reply to a request for comment on Tuesday.)

At the same time, the cultures of well-paid sinecures and all-powerful presidents have in some ways been enhanced. Members of FIFA’s top board, known as the Council, earn $250,000 to $350,000 annually for a job that can require attendance at as few as three meetings a year. Mr. Infantino has seen his salary more than double since he took office, to nearly $5 million, and he recently oversaw a term-limits modification — specific to him — that could allow him to stay in his position for 15 years instead of the 12 allotted in FIFA’s statutes.

Miguel Maduro, the first FIFA governance head appointed by Mr. Infantino after his election, blamed the culture of the organization for the slide back to old ways. “It’s not enough to take down a few bad apples,” he said, “if the trees that produced them remain in place.”

Mr. Maduro, who left the governance post in 2017, called the weakening of guard rails “a formalization of the reversal away from the reforms.” He labeled the latest changes “confirmation” of a process informally underway for years.

As Mr. Infantino has cemented his position, he has simultaneously rolled back changes intended to reduce the influence of his office. Under the proposed reforms, the president was to become an “ambassador” for the sport, and greater authority was to be transferred to FIFA’s top administrator, the secretary general — a post that was remade to more resemble that of a chief executive.

Yet for most of Mr. Infantino’s tenure, his handpicked choice for secretary general, Fatma Samoura, was rarely involved in major matters. Instead, the most important decisions were increasingly consolidated into fewer and fewer hands, and controlled by a group known as the bureau.

In meetings held behind closed doors, the bureau’s members — soccer’s six regional presidents and Mr. Infantino — have bartered among themselves for top events. In October, they presented the FIFA Council with a plan that reduced the bidders for the men’s World Cup in 2030 to just one choice, a three-continent offer that will take place in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as in Morocco, Portugal and Spain.

That choice, in limiting the field of bidders for the next World Cup to only those from Asia and Oceania, effectively awarded the 2034 World Cup to Saudi Arabia before bidding had begun. Within 24 hours, it had lined up the backing of both Asia’s soccer confederation and Mr. Infantino.

FIFA’s membership still must vote to confirm the hosts for the 2030 and 2034 events. But with just one candidate bidding for each tournament, and Mr. Infantino’s preferred outcome clear, those votes appear to be a fait accompli.

And with Ms. Samoura having recently departed FIFA, the diminishing of her old job is likely to be formalized in Bangkok, too. According to the new draft statutes, any reference to the secretary general’s serving as FIFA’s chief executive will be deleted. Instead, the post, which previously reported to the council, will now also report directly to the president.

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Ahead of Olympics, World Anti-Doping Agency Faces a Trust Crisis

Two months before the Olympics are scheduled to begin in Paris, the global agency tasked with policing doping in sports is facing a growing crisis as it fends off allegations it helped cover up the positive tests of elite Chinese swimmers who went on to compete — and win medals — at the last Summer Games.

The allegations are particularly vexing for the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has long billed itself as the gold standard in the worldwide movement for clean sports, because they raise the specter that the agency — and by extension the entire system set up to try to keep the Olympics clean — cannot be trusted.

Athletes are openly questioning whether WADA can be relied upon to do its core job of ensuring there will be a level playing field in Paris, where some of the same Chinese swimmers are favorites to win more medals.

And in recent days, pressure on WADA has increased significantly, particularly from the United States, which is one of the agency’s chief funders, and as new questions have emerged about WADA’s appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate the allegations, and whether WADA has provided an accurate account to the public about the appointment, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration’s top drug official — who is also a member of WADA’s executive committee — sent a stinging letter to the antidoping agency laying out how it needs to appoint a truly independent commission to investigate how the positive tests were handled and demanding that its executive board hold an emergency meeting within the next 10 days.

“Let me underscore the extreme concern I have been hearing directly from American athletes and their representatives on this issue,” the official, Dr. Rahul Gupta, wrote in the letter, which was sent on Biden administration letterhead. “As I have shared with you, the athletes have expressed they are heading into the Olympic and Paralympic Games with serious concerns about whether the playing field is level and the competition fair.”

That same day, the senator in charge of the subcommittee that provides funding to WADA, Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, said, “We need answers before we support future funding.” (The United States contributes more to WADA’s budget — pledging more than $3.6 million this year — than any nation.)

Then on Friday, a congressional aide said that a bipartisan House committee investigating the Chinese Communist Party had begun looking into the positive tests.

Lilly King, a two-time Olympic gold-medalist and a member of U.S.A. Swimming’s Athletes’ Advisory Council, said that she no longer trusts that WADA is doing its job to keep athletes who violate antidoping rules out of the Games.

“I am not confident when I get up on the blocks that the people to my right and my left are clean,” Ms. King said in a telephone interview on Friday. “And that’s really unfortunate, because that’s not something I should have to focus on while racing at the Olympics.”

The mounting pressure and growing concerns about the credibility of Olympic competitions have been met with silence from the two groups that account for a major portion of the International Olympic Committee’s revenue: its chief broadcaster and sponsors.

NBC, whose broadcast rights payments comprise a significant portion of the I.O.C.’s total budget, did not respond to a question about whether it was confident it would be broadcasting an Olympics in which viewers could trust that the athletes they were watching would be clean.

The multimillion-dollar Olympic sponsors — Visa, Airbnb, Coca-Cola and Intel — did not respond to messages seeking comment on whether they were concerned about linking their brands with a Games in which athletes have expressed concerns about cheating. Allianz, a German financial services company, also declined to comment.

The Times reported last month that WADA failed to follow its own rules after 23 elite Chinese swimmers all tested positive for the same banned drug in 2021, months before the last Summer Olympics. The drug — trimetazidine, known as TMZ — is a prescription heart medication, but it is popular among athletes looking for an advantage because it helps them train harder, recover faster and quickly moves through the body, making it more difficult to detect.

Two days after the Times article was published, WADA’s president, Witold Banka, and other top officials from the agency held a news conference during which they said they had no choice but to accept the explanation provided by China’s antidoping agency for the positive tests. The Chinese agency claimed that all of the swimmers had inadvertently ingested the drug because they ate food from a kitchen contaminated by TMZ.

In the days that followed, WADA published a lengthy document that again tried to explain its decision.

But neither move satisfied athletes, sports officials and antidoping officials perplexed by WADA’s apparent unwillingness to pursue its own investigation of the positive tests. Within days of the news becoming public, however, WADA appointed a special prosecutor, Eric Cottier, to review its handling of the case.

That decision, too, quickly drew criticism.

Mr. Cottier is a former attorney general of Vaud, a Swiss region that has become the center of international sports, and that is home to several sports organizations, including the I.O.C. But interviews showed that Mr. Cottier had been nominated to lead the investigation by the official who was in charge of auditing the agency’s intelligence and investigations department at the time the Chinese swimmers tested positive.

The auditor, Jacques Antenen, served as Vaud’s police chief under Mr. Cottier when he was Vaud’s attorney general. In a telephone interview on May 3, Mr. Antenen said he had contacted Olivier Niggli, WADA’s most senior administrator, in the days after the disclosure of the positive tests to suggest that Mr. Cottier might be a good choice to lead the investigation.

“I didn’t recommend him; I just said if you need someone, it’s a good choice,” Mr. Antenen said. He said he did not know if others had been considered for the role.

Regardless of Mr. Cottier’s abilities and qualifications, his physical proximity to figures close to WADA, the I.O.C. and the sports movement are problematic, governance experts said.

Mr. Cottier and Christoph de Kepper, the I.O.C.’s director general, were among the people who celebrated Mr. Antenen’s retirement from the police force at a party in 2022. The I.O.C. contributes half of WADA’s annual $40 million budget.

The celebration, which was featured in the police service’s in-house magazine, was first reported by The Associated Press. A caption with a picture of two of the men in the magazine reads, “Attorney General Eric Cottier came to greet his old friend Jacques Antenen.”

A WADA spokesman, James Fitzgerald, said his agency had, in fact, contacted Mr. Antenen first, to ask “if he knew of someone with the requisite credentials, independence and availability to carry out a thorough review of WADA’s handling on this case.”

“These attempts to slur the integrity of a highly regarded professional just as he begins his work are getting more and more ridiculous and are designed to undermine the process,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

There are also new questions about WADA’s public statements related to the appointment of Mr. Cottier. In a statement to The Times, WADA said it had discussed Mr. Cottier’s appointment with its board before formally appointing him to the role.

But Dr. Gupta’s Office of National Drug Control Policy said in a statement that shortly before the formal announcement of Mr. Cottier’s hiring in April, WADA told its board an investigator had already been chosen.

Dr. Gupta said in his letter to WADA that he was “deeply concerned” that the executive committee “was not adequately briefed with essential information throughout this process.”

Current and former athletes are now asking for more testing worldwide heading into the Paris Games, but they acknowledged that their concerns about the global antidoping regulator are unlikely to be allayed in time for the opening ceremony.

Ms. King, the American swimmer, said that when she learned of the undisclosed positive tests, she felt as if this were a replay of her experience from the 2016 Rio Olympics, when she won a gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke over a Russian swimmer, Yulia Efimova, who had failed a drug test earlier that year but was allowed to compete after the result was overturned on appeal.

Katie Meili, an athlete representative on U.S.A. Swimming’s board of directors and the bronze medalist in that race behind Ms. King and Ms. Efimova, said athletes had “put a ton of faith in WADA.”

“Yes, the positive tests are a concern, and that’s a bad thing,” she said. “But even more concerning to me is that the international regulator is not doing their job.”

Amy Chang Chien contributed research.

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Más de 400.000 personas sin electricidad en Santiago de Chile

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Los proveedores de electricidad en Santiago, la capital de Chile, se apresuraron a restablecer el servicio temprano el jueves después de un corte que dejó a cientos de miles de clientes sin energía, dijeron las autoridades.

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

Alrededor de la medianoche, un árbol cayó sobre una torre de transmisión de alta tensión propiedad de una empresa privada, dijo en un comunicado el Servicio Nacional de Prevención y Respuesta ante Desastres de Chile. Enel Distribución, la empresa distribuidora de electricidad del país, también confirmó el corte. La torre dañada se encuentra en la zona sureste de la ciudad.

El apagón provocó una pérdida equivalente a alrededor del 10 por ciento de la demanda de energía de Santiago, o 260 megavatios, dijo el Coordinador Eléctrico Nacional, el operador de la red, en un comunicado. La energía se cortó en cuatro subestaciones en el sureste de Santiago, dijo.

Videos en las redes sociales mostraron una gran parte de la ciudad sumida en la oscuridad poco después de la medianoche. Al menos 428.000 clientes en varias partes de la ciudad, o alrededor del 6 por ciento de la población del área metropolitana de Santiago, estaban sin electricidad, dijo el Servicio Nacional de Prevención y Respuesta ante Desastres de Chile en otro comunicado.

Enel Distribución dijo que estaba trabajando con las empresas de transmisión para restablecer la energía.

Noticia en desarrollo.

John Yoon es un reportero del Times afincado en Seúl que cubre noticias de última hora y de tendencia. Más de John Yoon

Israel organizó una campaña de influencia secreta sobre la guerra en Gaza

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Israel organizó y pagó el año pasado una campaña de influencia dirigida a los legisladores y al público estadounidense con mensajes a favor de Israel, con el objetivo de fomentar el apoyo a sus acciones en la guerra contra Gaza, según funcionarios implicados en el esfuerzo y documentos relacionados con la operación.

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La campaña encubierta fue encargada por el Ministerio de Asuntos de la Diáspora de Israel, un organismo gubernamental que conecta a las personas judías de todo el mundo con el Estado de Israel, dijeron cuatro funcionarios israelíes. El ministerio asignó unos 2 millones de dólares a la operación y contrató a Stoic, una empresa de marketing político de Tel Aviv, para llevarla a cabo, según los funcionarios y los documentos.

La campaña comenzó en octubre y sigue activa en la plataforma X. En su punto álgido, utilizó cientos de cuentas falsas que se hacían pasar por estadounidenses reales en X, Facebook e Instagram para publicar comentarios a favor de Israel. Las cuentas se centraban en legisladores de EE. UU., especialmente quienes son personas negras y demócratas, como el representante Hakeem Jeffries, líder de la minoría en la Cámara de Representantes de Nueva York, y el senador Raphael Warnock, de Georgia, con mensajes que los instaban a seguir financiando el ejército de Israel.

Para generar muchos de los mensajes se utilizó ChatGPT, un chatbot dotado por la inteligencia artificial. La campaña también creó tres sitios falsos de noticias en inglés con artículos proisraelíes.

La conexión del gobierno israelí con la operación de influencia, que The New York Times verificó con cuatro miembros actuales y anteriores del Ministerio de Asuntos de la Diáspora y documentos sobre la campaña, no se había reportado anteriormente. FakeReporter, un organismo israelí de vigilancia de la desinformación, identificó la operación en marzo. La semana pasada, Meta, propietaria de Facebook e Instagram, y OpenAI, que fabrica ChatGPT, dijeron que también habían descubierto y desbaratado la operación.

Esta campaña secreta pone de manifiesto hasta dónde está dispuesto a llegar Israel para influir en la opinión estadounidense sobre la guerra en Gaza. Estados Unidos ha sido durante mucho tiempo uno de los aliados más firmes de Israel, y el presidente Joe Biden firmó recientemente un paquete de ayuda militar de 15.000 millones de dólares para el país. Pero el conflicto ha sido impopular entre muchos estadounidenses, quienes han pedido a Biden que retire su apoyo a Israel ante la creciente muerte de civiles en Gaza.

La operación es el primer caso documentado del gobierno israelí organizando una campaña para influir en el gobierno de EE. UU., según los expertos en redes sociales. Aunque las campañas coordinadas con apoyo gubernamental no son infrecuentes, suelen ser difíciles de demostrar. Se cree que Irán, Corea del Norte, China, Rusia y Estados Unidos respaldan iniciativas similares en todo el mundo, pero a menudo enmascaran su participación subcontratando el trabajo a empresas privadas o dirigiéndolas a través de un tercer país.

“El papel de Israel en esto es imprudente y probablemente ineficaz”, dijo Achiya Schatz, director ejecutivo de FakeReporter. Que Israel “dirigiera una operación que interfiere en la política de EE. UU. es extremadamente irresponsable”.

El Ministerio de Asuntos de la Diáspora de Israel negó su implicación en la campaña y dijo que no tenía ninguna relación con Stoic. Stoic no respondió a las peticiones de comentarios.

La campaña no tuvo un impacto generalizado, dijeron Meta y OpenAI la semana pasada. Según FakeReporter, las cuentas falsas acumularon más de 40.000 seguidores en X, Facebook e Instagram. Pero muchos de esos seguidores pueden haber sido bots y no generaron una gran audiencia, dijo Meta.

La operación comenzó a las pocas semanas del inicio de la guerra, en octubre, según funcionarios israelíes y los documentos sobre el esfuerzo. Decenas de empresas emergentes tecnológicas israelíes recibieron ese mes correos electrónicos y mensajes de WhatsApp en los que se les invitaba a participar en reuniones urgentes para convertirse en “soldados digitales” de Israel durante la guerra, según los mensajes vistos por el Times. Algunos de los correos electrónicos y mensajes fueron enviados por funcionarios del gobierno israelí, mientras que otros procedían de empresas tecnológicas emergentes e incubadoras.

La primera reunión se celebró en Tel Aviv a mediados de octubre. Al parecer, se trataba de una reunión informal en la que los israelíes podían ofrecer voluntariamente sus conocimientos técnicos para ayudar al esfuerzo bélico del país, según tres de los asistentes. También, dijeron, participaron miembros de varios ministerios.

A los participantes se les dijo que podían ser “guerreros por Israel” y que se podían llevar a cabo “campañas digitales” en nombre del país, según las grabaciones de las reuniones.

El Ministerio de Asuntos de la Diáspora encargó una campaña dirigida a Estados Unidos, dijeron los funcionarios israelíes. Se fijó un presupuesto de unos 2 millones de dólares, según un mensaje visto por el Times.

Stoic fue contratada para llevar a cabo la campaña. En su página web y en LinkedIn, Stoic dice que fue fundada en 2017 por un equipo de estrategas políticos y empresariales y se autodenomina una firma de mercadotecnia política e inteligencia empresarial. Otras empresas pueden haber sido contratadas para ejecutar campañas adicionales, dijo un funcionario israelí.

Muchas de las cuentas falsas de la campaña en X, Instagram y Facebook se hacían pasar por estudiantes estadounidenses ficticios, ciudadanos preocupados y electores locales. Las cuentas compartían artículos y estadísticas que respaldaban la posición de Israel en la guerra.

La operación se centró en más de una decena de miembros del Congreso, muchos de ellos personas negras y demócratas, según un análisis de FakeReporter. El representante Ritchie Torres, demócrata de Nueva York, quien ha manifestado abiertamente sus opiniones a favor de Israel, fue uno de los objetivos, además de Jeffries y Warnock.

Algunas de las cuentas falsas respondieron a mensajes de Torres en X comentando sobre el antisemitismo en los campus universitarios y en las principales ciudades de EE. UU. En respuesta a una publicación del 8 de diciembre de Torres en X sobre seguridad contra incendios, una cuenta falsa respondió: “Hamás está perpetrando el conflicto”, refiriéndose al grupo militante islamista. La publicación incluía una etiqueta que decía que se perseguía a los judíos.

En Facebook, las cuentas falsas publicaron en la página pública de Jeffries preguntándole si había visto un informe sobre la contratación que las Naciones Unidas hacían de miembros de Hamás en Gaza.

Torres, Jeffries y Warnock no respondieron a las solicitudes de comentarios.

La campaña también creó tres sitios de noticias falsas con nombres como Non-Agenda y UnFold Magazine, que robaron y reescribieron material de medios como CNN y The Wall Street Journal para promover la postura de Israel durante la guerra, según el análisis de FakeReporter. Luego, cuentas falsas de Reddit enlazaban los artículos de los supuestos sitios de noticias para ayudar a promocionarlos.

El esfuerzo fue descuidado. Las fotos de perfil utilizadas en algunas cuentas a veces no coincidían con los personajes ficticios que creaban, y el lenguaje utilizado en los mensajes era poco natural.

En al menos dos casos, cuentas con fotos de perfil de hombres negros publicaron que eran “mujeres judías de mediana edad”. En 118 mensajes en los que las cuentas falsas compartían artículos proisraelíes, aparecía la misma frase: “Tengo que reevaluar mis opiniones debido a esta nueva información”.

La semana pasada, Meta y OpenAI publicaron informes que atribuían la campaña de influencia a Stoic. Meta dijo que había eliminado 510 cuentas de Facebook, 11 páginas de Facebook, 32 cuentas de Instagram y un grupo de Facebook vinculados a la operación. OpenAI dijo que Stoic había creado personajes y biografías ficticios para sustituir a personas reales en servicios de redes sociales utilizados en Israel, Canadá y Estados Unidos para publicar mensajes antiislámicos. Muchos de esos mensajes permanecen en X.

X no respondió a la solicitud de comentarios.

En su página de LinkedIn, Stoic ha promocionado su capacidad para llevar a cabo campañas respaldadas por la inteligencia artificial. “De cara al futuro, está claro que el papel de la inteligencia artificial en las campañas políticas está listo para dar un salto transformador, reconfigurando la forma en que se diseñan, ejecutan y evalúan las campañas”, escribió.

El viernes, Stoic había eliminado esas publicaciones de LinkedIn.

Sheera Frenkel es una periodista que vive en el área de la Bahía de San Francisco y cubre las formas en que la tecnología afecta la vida cotidiana, enfocándose en las empresas de redes sociales como Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Telegram y WhatsApp. Más de Sheera Frenkel

Claudia Sheinbaum hace historia al convertirse en la primera mujer que liderará México

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Claudia Sheinbaum, científica medioambiental y exjefa de gobierno de Ciudad de México, ganó las elecciones de su país el domingo, en una victoria arrasadora que significó dos momentos trascendentales: se convirtió en la primera mujer y la primera persona judía en ser electa a la presidencia de México.

El conteo rápido indicaba que Sheinbaum, de 61 años, se impuso en lo que las autoridades electorales indicaron que era la mayor votación en la historia del país, en la que han participado la cantidad más numerosa de electores y se han disputado la mayor cantidad de cargos.

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Fue un cierre destacable para unas votaciones trascendentales en las que no una, sino dos mujeres se enfrentaron para liderar uno de los países más grandes del hemisferio. Y pondrá a una líder judía a la cabeza de uno de los países más poblados que son predominantemente católicos.

Sheinbaum, de izquierda, hizo campaña con la promesa de continuar el legado de su mentor y actual presidente de México, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, lo que complació a las bases de su partido, pero generó inquietud entre sus detractores. Se consideraba ampliamente que los comicios eran un referéndum sobre su liderazgo y la victoria de Sheinbaum se percibe como un claro voto de confianza para López Obrador y el partido que fundó.

López Obrador ha remodelado por completo la política mexicana. Durante su sexenio, millones de mexicanos salieron de la pobreza y el salario mínimo se duplicó. Pero también ha sido un presidente profundamente polarizador a quien se le ha criticado por la incapacidad de controlar la violencia de los cárteles, perjudicar al sistema nacional de salud y socavar persistentemente las instituciones democráticas.

Aun así, López Obrador sigue contando con una amplia popularidad y su atractivo sostenido impulsó a la sucesora que eligió. Y, a pesar de todos los desafíos que aquejan al país, la oposición no logró persuadir a los mexicanos de que su candidata era una mejor opción.

“La queremos. Queremos que trabaje como Obrador”, dijo Gloria María Rodríguez una mujer de Tabasco de 78 años refiriéndose a Sheinbaum. “Queremos esa presidenta como Obrador”.

Sheinbaum ganó con al menos el 58 por ciento del voto, según los resultados preliminares, que indicaron que iba al menos 29 puntos por delante de su competidora más cercana, Xóchitl Gálvez, una empresaria y exsenadora que se postuló con una coalición de partidos de oposición.

Si los resultados iniciales se mantienen, Sheinbaum habrá obtenido una porción más amplia del electorado que ningún otro candidato en décadas.

En un discurso pasada la medianoche del lunes, Sheinbaum prometió trabajar por todos los mexicanos, reafirmó el compromiso de su partido y celebró su ascenso sin precedentes al cargo más alto de la nación.

“Agradezco también, porque por primera vez, en 200 años de la República, me convertiré en la primera presidenta de México”, dijo. “Y, como lo he dicho en otras ocasiones, no llego sola, llegamos todas, con nuestras heroínas que nos dieron patria, con nuestras ancestras, nuestras madres, nuestras hijas y nuestras nietas”.

Sheinbaum dijo que había recibido llamadas de Gálvez y del candidato que obtuvo el tercer lugar, Jorge Álvarez Máynez, para felicitarla por su triunfo. Poco después del discurso de Sheinbaum, Gálvez dijo a sus partidarios que el resultado del conteo rápido “no es favorable a mi candidatura” y que las tendencias eran “irreversibles”, señalando que acababa de comunicarse con Sheinbaum.

En una entrevista previa a la votación del domingo, Gálvez había dicho que “hay un voto antisistema” contra López Obrador que podía ayudar a impulsarla a la victoria. En realidad, dio la impresión de que muchos mexicanos siguen asociando a los partidos que la respaldaron con el sistema, parte de una clase política considerada ineficaz y corrupta.

“Xóchitl Gálvez ha sido incapaz de encarnar un cambio porque los partidos con los que compite encarnan el establishment”, comentó Carlos Bravo Regidor, un analista político en Ciudad de México. “La mayoría de los mexicanos desean una continuidad del cambio que trajo López Obrador”.

Muchos votantes parecieron decantarse por Sheinbaum como alguien capaz de institucionalizar los cambios que implementó su mentor. “Necesitamos un cambio más para el país”, dijo Evelyn Román, de 21 años, estudiante de ingeniería química en Ciudad de México que apoya a Sheinbaum. “Sí se notó el progreso en estos seis años”.

Sheinbaum cuenta con una amplia experiencia: tiene un doctorado en ingeniería energética, participó en un panel de expertos de las Naciones Unidas cuyo trabajo recibió un Premio Nobel de la Paz y gobernó durante casi seis años la capital, una de las ciudades más grandes del hemisferio.

Conocida por ser una jefa exigente de comportamiento reservado, Sheinbaum ha subido en los escalafones políticos al alinearse completamente con López Obrador, quien fundó un partido en torno a su enorme personalidad. Durante la campaña, Sheinbaum respaldó muchas de sus políticas más contenciosas, como los cambios constitucionales que los críticos afirman que erosionarían severamente el sistema democrático de pesos y contrapesos.

Como resultado, Sheinbaum ha tenido que combatir la percepción, que comparten muchos mexicanos, de que será poco más que un peón de su mentor.

“Está esta idea, porque la dicen muchos columnistas, de que yo no tengo personalidad”, dijo Sheinbaum ante la prensa este año. “Que a mí me dice Andrés Manuel López Obrador, el presidente de México, todo lo que tengo que hacer; que cuando llegue a la presidencia me va a estar llamando todos los días por teléfono”.

A pesar del amplio mandato que los electores le brindaron, enfrentará desafíos significativos cuando asuma el cargo en octubre.

López Obrador se benefició “de una popularidad invencible de un líder muy carismático, cosa que Claudia no es”, dijo Paula Sofía Vásquez, una analista política basada en Ciudad de México.

La violencia de los cárteles sigue flagelando al país, desplazando masivamente a la población y avivando uno de los ciclos electorales más letales en la historia mexicana reciente: más de 36 personas que buscaban un cargo de elección popular han sido asesinados desde el verano pasado.

Carlos Ortiz, un funcionario local de 57 años, que trabaja para la alcaldía de Iztapalapa en la capital, dijo que la violencia lo había motivado a votar contra Sheinbaum.

“Quiero que todo cambie”, dijo, recordando las decenas de candidatos locales asesinados en los últimos meses. “Ya no quiero un país encendido”.

López Obrador ha dirigido la atención del gobierno hacia los factores que impulsan la violencia en lugar de declararle la guerra a las bandas criminales, una estrategia que llamó “abrazos, no balazos”.

Los homicidios han disminuido modestamente, pero siguen rondando niveles récord, mientras que los reportes de personas desaparecidas han aumentado. La inseguridad era una de las preocupaciones principales de los electores.

Sheinbaum ha prometido seguir enfocándose en las causas sociales de la violencia, pero dijo que también trabajará para disminuir las tasas de impunidad y fortalecer la Guardia Nacional.

En el plano económico, las oportunidades son claras: México es actualmente el mayor socio comercial de Estados Unidos y se está beneficiando del reciente distanciamiento respecto a la manufactura desde China. La moneda es tan fuerte que se la ha denominado el “superpeso”.

Pero también hay problemas latentes. El déficit fiscal se disparó a alrededor del 6 por ciento este año, y Pemex, la empresa petrolera paraestatal, está operando bajo una montaña de deudas, lo que pone a prueba las finanzas públicas.

“No habíamos estado desde hacía décadas en un riesgo fiscal como el que estamos corriendo en este momento”, afirmó Mariana Campos, directora de México Evalúa, un grupo de investigación de políticas públicas.

No está claro cómo es que Sheinbaum lograría cumplir una serie de promesas de campaña —desde construir escuelas públicas y nuevas clínicas de salud hasta la ampliación de los programas de bienestar— dado el estado actual de las finanzas públicas.

“El problema que yo veo es que un montón de propuestas están orientadas a gastar y no hay de dónde sacar el dinero”, dijo Vásquez, la analista política.

Otro desafío gira en torno a los nuevos poderes otorgados a las fuerzas armadas, a las cuales se les ha asignado la gestión de puertos y aeropuertos, la operación de una aerolínea y la construcción de un tren a través de la selva maya. Sheinbaum ha afirmado que “no existe militarización” en el país, mientras ha sugerido que está dispuesta a revaluar la implicación de las fuerzas militares en las empresas públicas.

Además de estos desafíos nacionales, el destino de la próxima presidenta estará entrelazado con el resultado de las elecciones presidenciales en Estados Unidos.

La reelección del presidente Joe Biden proporcionaría continuidad, pero el regreso de Donald Trump a la Casa Blanca probablemente generaría algo mucho menos predecible. Los planes de Trump de detener masivamente a personas indocumentadas y deportarlas a sus países de origen, una medida que podría afectar a millones de mexicanos que viven en Estados Unidos. Ya ha amenazado con imponer aranceles del 100 por ciento a los automóviles chinos fabricados en México.

También está el enconado asunto del fentanilo, el cual, según el gobierno de Estados Unidos, los cárteles producen en México utilizando productos químicos importados de China. Trump ha sugerido tomar acciones militares para combatir su comercio.

Sheinbaum ha dicho que México tendrá “buenas relaciones” con Trump o Biden como presidente, y su equipo de campaña ha declarado que continuará trabajando para controlar los flujos migratorios.

Manejar esa presión de Washington, incluso en forma de retórica de campaña incendiaria, podría ser complicado.

Los votantes expresaron confianza en la capacidad de Sheinbaum para enfrentar dichos retos. Daniela Mendoza, una psicóloga de 40 años que vive en Villahermosa, en el estado de Tabasco, dijo que hacía mucho que apoyaba a López Obrador, durante sus intentos anteriores e infructuosos de llegar a la presidencia.

Mendoza, complacida con los programas de bienestar social del presidente, votó por Sheinbaum.

“Claudia sigue la línea, quizás con mejores ideas”, dijo Mendoza. “Y tener una mujer presidenta por primera vez en el país es un logro”.

James Wagner colaboró con reportería desde Tepetitán, Mexico.

Natalie Kitroeff es la jefa del buró de redacción del Times en Ciudad de México, que lidera la cobertura de México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Natalie Kitroeff.

Simon Romero es corresponsal en Ciudad de México, y cubre México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Se ha desempeñado como jefe del buró del Times en Brasil, jefe del buró andino y corresponsal internacional de energía. Más de Simon Romero.

Un pueblo aislado del Amazonas se conectó a internet y cambió su vida

Jack Nicas y Victor Moriyama recorrieron más de 80 kilómetros a través del Amazonas para llegar a las remotas aldeas marubo.

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Conforme los discursos se alargaban, los ojos se empezaron a desviar hacia las pantallas. Los adolescentes navegaban por Instagram. Un hombre enviaba un mensaje de texto a su novia. Y un grupo de hombres se aglomeraban alrededor de un teléfono que mostraba un partido de fútbol mientras la primera líder mujer del grupo hablaba.

En cualquier otro lugar, una escena como esta sería usual. Pero la escena transcurría en una aldea indígena remota en una de las regiones más aisladas del planeta.

Durante mucho tiempo, el pueblo marubo ha vivido en chozas comunitarias desperdigadas por cientos de kilómetros a lo largo del río Ituí, en el corazón de la selva amazónica. Hablan en su propia lengua, consumen ayahuasca para conectarse con los espíritus de la selva y capturan monos araña para hacerlos sopa o conservarlos como mascotas.

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Han conservado este estilo de vida durante cientos de años por medio del aislamiento; llegar a algunas aldeas requiere semanas. Pero desde septiembre, los marubo han tenido internet de alta velocidad gracias a Elon Musk.

Este pueblo indígena de 2000 miembros es una de las cientos a lo largo de Brasil que súbitamente se están conectando a través de Starlink, el servicio de internet satelital de SpaceX, la compañía espacial privada de Musk. Desde su entrada a Brasil en 2022, Starlink ha conectado a la selva tropical más grande del mundo, y ha traído internet a uno de los últimos lugares de la Tierra que permanecían sin conexión.

The New York Times viajó al corazón de la Amazonía para visitar las aldeas marubo y así entender lo que sucede cuando una civilización diminuta y cerrada de pronto se abre al mundo.

“Cuando llegó, todo el mundo estaba feliz”, dijo Tsainama Marubo, de 73 años, sentada en el suelo de la maloca de su aldea, una choza de unos 15 metros de alto donde los marubo duermen, cocinan y comen juntos. Internet trajo claros beneficios, como videochats con seres queridos que están lejos y llamadas de auxilio para las emergencias. “Pero ahora, las cosas han empeorado”, dijo.

Amasaba frutos de jenipapo para hacer tinte corporal negro; portaba cordeles de joyería de conchas de caracol. En los últimos tiempos, los jóvenes han perdido el interés por hacer este tipo de tinturas y joyería, dijo. “Los jóvenes se han vuelto flojos debido a internet”, declaró. “Están aprendiendo las formas de la gente blanca”.

Luego, pausó y añadió: “Pero por favor no nos quiten internet”.

Los marubo están batallando con el dilema fundamental del internet: se ha vuelto esencial, pero a un costo.

Después de solo nueve meses con Starlink, los marubo ya están enfrentando los mismos retos que por años han cimbrado los hogares de estadounidenses: adolescentes pegados a sus teléfonos, grupos de chat llenos de chismes, redes sociales adictivas, extraños en línea, videojuegos violentos, estafas, información engañosa y menores expuestos a pornografía.

La sociedad moderna ha enfrentado estos problemas por décadas conforme internet continúa su marcha incesante. Los marubo y otros pueblos indígenas, que han resistido la modernidad por generaciones, están ahora enfrentándose con el potencial y el peligro de internet, todo al mismo tiempo, mientras debaten lo que eso significará para su identidad y cultura.

El debate ha llegado debido a Starlink, que rápidamente ha dominado el mercado global de internet satelital, brindando un servicio que alguna vez parecía impensable en zonas tan remotas . SpaceX ha hecho esto al lanzar 6000 satélites Starlink de órbita baja —más o menos el 60 por ciento de todos los artefactos activos en el espacio— para proveer velocidades más rápidas que muchas conexiones caseras en casi cualquier lugar de la Tierra, como el Sahara, las praderas de Mongolia y diminutas islas del Pacífico.

El negocio ha despegado. Recientemente, Musk anunció que Starlink ha sobrepasado los tres millones de usuarios en 99 países. Los analistas calculan que las ventas anuales aumentaron más o menos 80 por ciento desde el año pasado, lo que equivale a unos 6600 millones de dólares.

El ascenso de Starlink le ha dado a Musk el control de una tecnología que se ha vuelto una infraestructura crucial en muchas partes del planeta. La están usando tropas en Ucrania, fuerzas paramilitares en Sudán, rebeldes hutíes en Yemen, un hospital en Gaza y equipos de emergencia en todo el mundo.

Pero tal vez el efecto más transformador de Starlink está en las zonas que alguna vez estuvieron fuera del alcance de internet, como la Amazonía. Ahora hay 66.000 contratos activos en la Amazonía brasileña, lo que alcanza a 93 por ciento de los municipios legales de la región. Esto ha abierto nuevas oportunidades de trabajo y educación para quienes viven en la selva. También ha dado a los taladores y a mineros ilegales en el Amazonas una nueva herramienta para comunicarse y evadir a las autoridades.

Un líder marubo, Enoque Marubo (todos los marubo usan el mismo apellido), de 40 años, dijo que inmediatamente vio el potencial de Starlink. Después de haber pasado años fuera de la selva, afirmó que creía que internet le podría dar a su gente nueva autonomía. Con el servicio podrían comunicarse mejor, informarse y contar sus propias historias.

El último año, él y una activista brasileña grabaron un video de 50 segundos buscando ayuda para obtener Starlink de benefactores potenciales. Vestía su tocado tradicional marubo, sentado en la maloca. Un niño pequeño vestía un collar de dientes de animal y estaba sentado cerca.

Lo publicaron. Días después, tuvieron noticias de una mujer en Oklahoma.

La Tierra Indígena del Valle del Yavarí es uno de los lugares más apartados del planeta, una franja estrecha de selva tropical del tamaño de Portugal sin caminos y con un laberinto de vías de agua. Diecinueve de los 26 pueblos en el Valle del Yavarí viven en completo aislamiento, la concentración más alta en el mundo.

Los marubo alguna vez estuvieron sin contactar también, recorriendo la selva durante cientos de años, hasta que los extractores de caucho llegaron cerca del final del siglo XIX. Eso llevó a décadas de violencia y enfermedad, y a la llegada de nuevas costumbres y tecnología. Los marubo comenzaron a vestirse. Algunos aprendieron portugués. Cambiaron los arcos por armas de fuego para cazar jabalí, y los machetes por sierras eléctricas para limpiar parcelas para la yuca.

Una familia en particular impulsó el cambio. En la década de 1960, Sebastião Marubo fue uno de los primeros marubo en vivir fuera de la selva. Cuando regresó, trajo otra nueva tecnología: el bote de motor. Redujo los traslados de semanas a días.

Los vecinos de la aldea en sus teléfonos, conectados a internet con Starlink

Su hijo Enoque surgió como el líder de la siguiente generación, ansioso de llevar a su comunidad al futuro. Enoque ha dividido su vida entre la selva y la ciudad, trabajando en algún punto como diseñador gráfico para Coca-Cola. Así que cuando los líderes marubo se interesaron en obtener conexiones de internet, acudieron a él para que les dijera cómo hacerlo.

Enoque obtuvo su respuesta cuando Musk vino a Brasil. En 2022, el dueño de SpaceX y Jair Bolsonaro, entonces presidente de Brasil, anunciaron la llegada de Starlink en frente de una pantalla que decía “Conectando el Amazonas”.

Enoque y Flora Dutra, una activista brasileña que trabaja con pueblos indígenas, mandaron cartas a más de 100 integrantes del Congreso solicitando Starlink. ninguno respondió.

Luego a inicios del año pasado, Dutra vio a una mujer estadounidense dar una conferencia sobre el espacio. Dutra revisó la página de Facebook de la mujer y la vio posando afuera de los cuarteles generales de SpaceX. “Sabía que ella era la indicada”, dijo.

La página de Linkedin de Allyson Reneau la describe como una consultora espacial, conferencista, autora, piloto, jinete, humanitaria, ejecutiva en jefe, presidenta de mesa directiva y madre de 11 niños biológicos. En persona, dice que hace la mayor parte de su dinero entrenando a gimnastas y rentando casas cerca de Norman, Oklahoma.

Su historia es perfecta para el Today Show, y de hecho la ha contado ahí. Se inscribió a la universidad a los 47 años, obtuvo un título de maestría de la Escuela de Extensión de Harvard a los 55 y luego se convirtió en conferencista motivacional itinerante. Sus redes sociales la muestran con niños en Ruanda, en la televisión en Pakistán y en conferencias en Sudáfrica.

La atención que ha atraído no siempre ha sido bien recibida. En 2021, fue entrevistada en CNN y Fox News por “rescatar” un equipo de robótica conformado exclusivamente de niñas de Afganistán durante la toma de los talibanes. Pero días después, los abogados del equipo de robótica le dijeron a Reneau que dejara de darse el crédito por un rescate en el que había tenido poco que ver.

Reneau dice que ella no estaba tratando de ayudar por la fama. “De otro modo, te estaría contando de todos los proyectos que hago alrededor del mundo”, dijo en una entrevista. “Es la expresión de sus caras, es la esperanza en sus miradas. Ese es el trofeo”.

Declaró que tuvo esa perspectiva cuando recibió un video de un desconocido el año pasado que le pedía ayuda para conectar una comunidad remota en el Amazonas.

Nunca había estado en Brasil, pero pensó que el retorno de la inversión era alto. Enoque pedía 20 antenas de Starlink, lo que costaría más o menos 15.000 dólares, lo que transformaría su tribu.

“¿Recuerdas a Charlie Wilson?”, me preguntó Reneau. Se referíal congresista de Texas que aseguró misiles Stinger que ayudaron a los afganos muyahidín a derrotar a los soviéticos en la década de 1980 pero que los críticos dicen que también sin querer, impulsaron a los talibanes.

Wilson cambió la guerra con una sola arma, dijo. “Podía ver que esto era similar”, declaró. “Una herramienta que lo cambiaría todo en sus vidas. Salud, educación, comunicación, protección de la selva”. Reneau dijo que compró las antenas con su propio dinero y donaciones de sus hijos. Luego reservó un vuelo para ayudar a entregarlas.

El internet llegó cargado a espaldas de los hombres. Caminaron fatigosamente por kilómetros a través del bosque, descalzos o en sandalias, cargando dos antenas cada uno. Los seguían de cerca Enoque, Dutra, Reneau y un camarógrafo que documentaba su viaje.

En las aldeas, clavaron las antenas en lo alto de los postes y las conectaron a paneles solares. Las antenas luego conectaron los satélites Starlink con los teléfonos de los habitantes. (Algunos marubo ya tenían teléfonos, a menudo comprados con cheques de asistencia social del gobierno, para tomar fotografías y comunicarse al estar en la ciudad).

El internet fue una sensación inmediata. “Cambió tanto la rutina que fue dañino”, admitió Enoque. “En la aldea, si no cazas, pescas o plantas, no comes”.

Los líderes se dieron cuenta de que necesitaban límites. El internet sería encendido solo por dos horas en la mañana, cinco horas en la tarde y durante todo el día los domingos.

Durante esas ventanas, muchos marubo estaban encorvados o reclinados en las hamacas mirando sus teléfonos. Pasaban mucho tiempo en WhatsApp. Ahí, los líderes se coordinan entre las aldeas y alertan a las autoridades de problemas de salud y de la destrucción ambiental. Los maestros marubo comparten lecciones con sus estudiantes en diferentes comunidades. Y todos están mucho más cerca de sus familiares y amigos que viven lejos.

Para Enoque, el mayor beneficio han sido las emergencias. La mordida de una serpiente venenosa puede requerir un rescate veloz en helicóptero. Antes de internet, los marubo usaban radio aficionados, que transmitían un mensaje a lo largo de varias aldeas para llegar a las autoridades. El internet hace que esas llamadas sean instantáneas. “Ya ha salvado vidas”, dijo.

En abril, siete meses después de la llegada de Starlink, más de 200 marubo se reunieron en la aldea para celebrar unas reuniones.

Enoque trajo un proyector para mostrar un video sobre la llegada de Starlink a las aldeas. Conforme comenzaban las actividades, algunos líderes en el fondo del público hablaron. El internet tendría que apagarse durante las reuniones, dijeron. “No quiero que la gente esté publicando en los grupos, sacando mis palabras de contexto”, dijo otro.

Durante las reuniones, los adolescentes navegaban por Kwai, una red social con sede en China. Niños pequeños miraban videos de la estrella brasileña de fútbol Neymar Jr. Y dos chicas de 15 años dijeron que estaban chateando con desconocidos en Instagram. Una dijo que ahora soñaba con viajar por el mundo, mientras que la otra quería ser dentista en São Paulo. Esta nueva ventana al mundo exterior dejó a muchos en la comunidad sintiéndose divididos.

“Algunos jóvenes mantienen nuestras tradiciones”, dijo TamaSay Marubo, de 42 años, la primera líder mujer de la tribu. “Otros solo quieren pasar toda la tarde en sus teléfonos”.

Kâipa Marubo, padre de tres, dijo que estaba feliz con que el internet estuviera ayudando a educar a sus niños. Pero también estaba preocupado por los videojuegos de disparos que juegan sus hijos. “Me preocupa que de repente vayan a querer imitarlos,” dijo. Trató de borrar los juegos, pero creía que sus hijos tenían otras aplicaciones escondidas.

Alfredo Marubo, líder de una asociación marubo de aldeas, se ha destacado como el crítico más prominente del internet. Los marubo transmiten su historia y cultura de manera oral, y le preocupa que ese conocimiento se pierda. “Todo mundo está tan conectado que a veces no hablan ni con su propia familia”, dijo.

Lo que más le inquieta es la pornografía. Dijo que los hombres jóvenes compartían videos explícitos en grupos de chat, un desarrollo impresionante para una cultura que ve con malos ojos los besos en público. “Estamos preocupados de que los jóvenes quieran intentarlo,” dijo al respecto del sexo gráfico que se ve en los videos. Dijo que algunos líderes le han dicho que ya han observado un comportamiento sexual más agresivo por parte de los hombres jóvenes.

Alfredo y Enoque, como cabezas de asociaciones marubo enfrentadas, ya eran rivales políticos, pero su desacuerdo sobre internet ha creado una disputa más pronunciada. Luego de que Dutra y Reneau entregaron las antenas, Alfredo las reportó por no tener los permisos necesarios de las autoridades federales para entrar en territorios indígenas protegidos. A su vez, Dutra criticó a Alfredo en entrevistas y Enoque dijo que no era bienvenido en las reuniones comunales.

Dutra ahora tiene el objetivo de llevar Starlink a cientos más de grupos indígenas a lo largo del Amazonas, entre ellos el grupo apartado más grande de Brasil, los yanomami.

Algunos funcionarios del gobierno brasileño y organizaciones no gubernamentales dijeron que les preocupa que el internet se esté llevando a las comunidades indígenas demasiado rápido, a menudo sin una educación sobre los peligros.

Dutra dijo que los grupos indígenas querían y merecían la conexión. La crítica, dijo, era parte de una larga tradición de los fuereños de decirle a los indígenas cómo vivir. “A esto se le llama etnocentrismo: el hombre blanco que piensa que sabe lo que es mejor”, dijo.

Enoque y Dutra dijeron que planeaban proveer capacitación sobre el internet. Ninguna persona marubo entrevistada dijo haberlo recibido ya.

En abril, Reneau viajó de vuelta a la selva. A petición de Enoque, compró cuatro antenas más. Dos se dirigieron a los korubo, una tribu de menos de 150 personas que fue contactada por primera vez en 1996 y todavía tiene algunos de sus miembros en completo aislamiento.

Sentada en un tronco, comiendo carne seca y yuca hervida en el suelo de tierra de la maloca, Reneau dice que reconoce que el internet era “una espada de doble filo”. Así que cuando publica en Facebook sobre haber llevadp internet a los marubo, dijo, siempre enfatiza que un líder lo solicitó.

“No quiero que la gente piense que estoy trayendo esto para forzarlos a aceptarlo”, dijo. Añadió que espera que puedan “preservar la pureza de esta increíble cultura porque una vez que desaparece, desaparece”.

Más tarde en esa misma comida, el padre de Enoque, Sebastião, dijo que el viaje de la comunidad con el internet ya había sido previsto.

Hace décadas, el chamán marubo más respetado tuvo visiones de un aparato manual que podría conectarse con todo el mundo. “Sería para el bien del pueblo,” dijo. “Pero al final, no resultaría serlo”.

“Al final,” añadió, “habría guerra”.

El hijo de Sebastião estaba sentado en un tronco frente a él, escuchando. “Creo que el internet nos ha traído muchos más beneficios que daños,” dijo Enoque, “al menos por ahora”.

En todo caso, añadió, regresar a como estaban antes ya no era una opción.

“Los líderes han sido claros”, dijo. “No podemos vivir sin internet”.

Flávia Milhorance y Lis Moriconi colaboraron con reportería desde Río de Janeiro.