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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Clashes between Israel and Palestine escalate as Palestinian militants in Gaza fire rockets into Israel cities and Israel ramps up airstrikes in Gaza, with at least 43 people killed in the coastal enclave. Reuters reporting.
Israeli Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesperson, has said that two infantry brigades have been sent to the area, indicating preparations for a possible ground invasion, reports AP.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday warned that Gaza militants will “pay a heavy price” for the attacks against Israel. Reuters reporting.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya makes clear that the group is “ready” if Israel ups its attacks on the Gaza Strip: “If they (Israel) want to escalate, the resistance is ready; and if they want to stop, the resistance is ready,” Haniya said in a televised address late Tuesday. Al Jazeera reporting.
The U.S. is delaying efforts by the U.N. Security Council to issue a public statement on the escalating violence because it could be counterproductive to behind-the-scenes efforts to end the clashes, according to diplomats and a source with knowledge of the U.S. strategy. “Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Washington is ‘actively engaged in diplomacy behind the scenes with all parties to achieve a ceasefire’ and was concerned that a council statement might be counterproductive at the moment … The Security Council is instead going to meet privately on Wednesday to discuss the latest violence, diplomats said,” Reuters reporting.
The White House yesterday condemned rocket attacks against Israel, stressing that “de-escalation” is the “primary focus.” “The president’s support for Israel’s security, for its legitimate right to defend itself and its people, is fundamental and will never waiver. We condemn ongoing rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem. We also stand against extremism that has inflicted violence on both communities,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, the State Department said in a readout of the call, where he reportedly “expressed his concerns regarding rocket attacks on Israel and his condolences for the lives lost as a result.” “The Secretary and the Foreign Minister also discussed the violence in Jerusalem, in particular on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah. The Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence, which has claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children. The Secretary emphasized the need for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in safety and security, as well as enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy,” the readout continued. National security adviser Jake Sullivan also spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received a letter from President Biden as part of an “ongoing outreach with the Palestinian leadership on a range of issues of mutual interest, including ongoing efforts to de-escalate violence and restore calm,” a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed to The Hill yesterday. The letter was a response to Abbas’s earlier correspondence congratulating Biden on his win. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
The International Criminal Court (ICC)’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is concerned over the clashes: “I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute,” Bensouda wrote on Twitter, adding, “My Office will continue to monitor developments on the ground and will factor any matter that falls within its jurisdiction.” Reuters reporting.
Israel and Hamas clashes are “escalating towards an all-out war,” warns the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Mehul Srivastava reports for the Financial Times.
What the clashes mean for the Biden administration is explored in an interview with Ilan Goldenberg, a former senior State Department official during the Obama administration, who took part in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians led by then-Secretary of State John Kerry. Dan Ephron reports for Foreign Policy.
The U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is between 6 and 12 percent complete, although specific numbers remain a secret in an effort to protect troops from possible Taliban attacks, said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby. “[U.S. Central Command] has expressed a concern about the release of personnel figures specifically given that we have to assume, and we are still assuming, that this drawdown could be opposed by the Taliban,” Kirby told reporters. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
British soldiers were twice as likely to be killed in Afghanistan than were their U.S. allies, reveals the Costs of War project at Brown University. The report focused on 2001 to 2017 and “looks at fatalities as a percentage of national troops levels at peak deployment in Afghanistan. The US losses were 2.3% of its vast military presence. The UK lost 455 lives, which was 4.7% of its peak deployment level, while the 158 Canadians killed represented 5.4% of their total,” reports Julian Borger for the Guardian.
The Taliban appears unwilling to engage in peace talks in Doha, which are “nowhere near where we hoped,” said Alison Blake, U.K. ambassador to Afghanistan. “We are still committed to an international conference in Istanbul to inject momentum into the Doha process, and not replace it. But there as yet few signs that the Taliban are transforming in a political partner that we hoped would be capable of engaging in a political process in good faith,” Blake said, adding, “the Taliban have, as yet, given us a few headlines saying ‘of course girls can be educated’ but they have not begun to sit down with the Afghans to explain what that looks like.” Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
U.S. Navy SEALS and the Army’s Green Berets are conducting military exercises with their NATO allies across five European countries amid Russian escalation in the region. Exercises are being conducted in Romania and Macedonia and involve 600 NATO and non-NATO force. Alex Marquardt reports for CNN.
The Defense Department will remove Xiaomi Corp. from a blacklist that prohibits U.S. investment in the Chinese tech giant after the company filed a lawsuit in January against the department’s decision, resulting in a temporary halt to the ban by a federal court. “In a one-page filing in Washington, D.C., federal court Tuesday, lawyers for both sides said removing Xiaomi from the U.S. blacklist was appropriate following the company’s court victory in March, thereby avoiding additional litigation over the matter,” reports Dan Strumpf for the Wall Street Journal.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warns that’s Lebanon’s Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah poses a global “threat,” while the Treasury Department sanctions seven Lebanese nationals it accused of being connected to the group and its financial firm, Al-Qard al-Hassan. Reuters reporting.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is creating a new domestic terrorism branch within its Office of Intelligence and Analysis, designed to “ensure DHS develops the expertise necessary to produce the sound, timely intelligence needed to combat threats posed by domestic terrorism and targeted violence,” the department said in a release. “DHS is also scrapping the Trump-era Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention and replacing it with the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships — something the department said will ‘ensure DHS develops the expertise necessary to produce the sound, timely intelligence needed to combat threats posed by domestic terrorism and targeted violence,’” reports Rebecca Beitsch for The Hill.
The House Judiciary Committee and the Biden administration have reached “an agreement in principle on an accommodation” to resolve a two-year-old battle over a subpoena for testimony from former White House counsel to President Trump, Don McGahn, lawyers said in a court filing yesterday. “No additional details were provided about the negotiated settlement … It was not known whether the agreement means McGahn will appear on Capitol Hill to answer lawmakers’ questions. McGahn’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment,” Annie Marimow reports for the Washington Post.
Hacking group Babuk have leaked internal police files from Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, releasing officers’ psychological evaluations, credit history and Social Security numbers. The group “also threatened to reveal documents on criminal investigations, secret informants and gang members if the District does not pay it a ransom. It posted a password-protected file that it said contained such documents,” report Peter Hermann and Dalton Bennett for the Washington Post.
Immigration arrests and detentions at the U.S.-Mexico border rose slightly in April to 178,622, the highest one-month total in two decades, according to Customs and Border Protection data published yesterday, although there was a decline in the number of teens and children arriving at the border without parents. “April was the first month since President Biden took office that the total number of illegal border crossings did not register a major month-over-month increase, rising just 3 percent. CBP officials have projected higher numbers of teens and children as well as migrant families in the coming months, but both groups declined modestly in April, and the only demographic group arriving in greater numbers was single adult migrants, CBP data show,” reports Nick Miroff for the Washington Post.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Mark Warner (D-VA) has joined a group of lawmakers calling on the Biden administration to review a Trump-era decision that moved U.S. Space Command headquarters from Colorado to Alabama, saying in a letter that the Trump administration “did not take into account how such a move may affect Intelligence Community dependencies and missions.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Prosecutors are seeking hate crime charges and the death penalty for the man accused of killing eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, in shootings at three Atlanta spas. Hannah Knowles and Haisten Willis reports for the Washington Post.
The Senate Rules Committee yesterday deadlocked over Democrats’ sweeping elections overhaul bill, the For the People Act, signaling a partisan showdown on the Senate floor in the coming months which could change the future of voting rights and campaign rules. The deadlock “does not prevent Democrats from moving forward with the 800-page legislation, known as the For the People Act … But the action confronted Democrats with a set of thorny questions about how to push forward on a bill that they view as a civil rights imperative with sweeping implications for democracy and their party. The bill as written faces near-impossible odds in the evenly divided Senate, where Republicans are expected to block it using a filibuster and at least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, remains opposed,” reports Nicholas Fandos for the New York Times.
Current and former military officers are speaking out about a letter published Monday by 124 retired generals and admirals that said President Biden stole the election. Bryan Bender reports for POLITICO.
Three Fort Campbell soldiers were arrested yesterday for allegedly purchasing and transporting around 100 firearms, including five that were linked to a mass shooting in Chicago, the Justice Department said. “Each of the three are facing charges of transferring a firearm to an out-of-state resident; making false statements during the purchase of a firearm; wire fraud; money laundering, and other crimes,” reports Jaclyn Diaz for NPR.
PIPELINE RANSOMWARE ATTACK
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are still waiting for Colonial Pipeline to share key data about the ransomware attack. “Right now, we are waiting for additional technical information on exactly what happened at Colonial so that we can use that information to … protect other potential victims down the road,” acting CISA Director Brandon Wales told the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Eric Geller reports for POLITICO.
Biden administration officials have privately voiced frustrations with Colonial Pipeline’s weak security and lack of preparation ahead of the cyberattack. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas also suggested at a White House briefing yesterday that the administration is examining Colonial Pipeline’s vulnerabilities. Zachary Cohen, Natasha Bertrand, Kevin Liptak and Geneva Sands report for CNN.
Senior cybersecurity officials testified before a key Senate committee yesterday on the attack. CNN reports on the key takeaways from the hearing and the ongoing fallout from the attack. Zachary Cohen and Geneva Sands report for CNN.
Panic following the Colonial Pipeline attack is driving gas shortages. Panicked motorists are lining up to fill their tanks and jerrycans in gas stations in the southeast, resulting in increasing gas shortages. “The overall anxiety over a shortage has also triggered slight price increases, even as gasoline costs were already beginning to climb,” Vanessa Romo reports for NPR.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
A deal is expected to be reached on the 9/11-style commission into the Capitol attack. The House Homeland Security Commission chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D), has been asked to negotiate directly with his counterpart Rep. John Katko (R), to find a way forward on the commission and the extent of the commission’s intended focus. Lauren Fox and Veronica Stracqualursi report for CNN.
Former acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller will testify today to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that he was worried sending troops to the Capitol on Jan. 6 would have encouraged perceptions of a “military coup” under former President Trump. Miller is also expected to blame Trump for encouraging the violent mob, according to his written testimony. Luke Broadwater and Katie Benner report for the New York Times.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify today before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the administration’s efforts to address domestic terrorism as lawmakers scrutinize how law enforcement agencies acted in the leadup and aftermath of the Capitol riot. Harper Neidig and Rebecca Beitsch report for The Hill.
Two men charged of assaulting an officer in the Jan 6. attack will remain in jail pending trail. The two men are accused of engaging in a chemical-spray attack that contributed to the breach of the U.S. Capitol and the ruling highlights the continuing legal debate over detaining Capitol breach defendants. Spencer Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
Iran’s former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has registered to run again for the Islamic Republic’s presidency election in June. Reuters reporting.
Myanmar security forces have arrested 39 people. The individuals are suspected of being behind explosions and arson attacks in cities and towns across the country, and some are suspected of seeking military training with an ethnic minority rebel group. Reuters reporting.
Eritrean troops disguised as Ethiopian military are blocking critical aid in Tigray. CNN reports on the continued oppression and violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia witnessed by a CNN team. The CNN team witnessed Eritrean soldiers, some disguising themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms, both working with the Ethiopian government in the campaign against the Tigrayan people, and also fully in control and waging terror in the region. Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis and Eliza Mackintosh report for CNN.
The U.K. will invest $31 million to assist vulnerable countries in Africa and the Indo-Pacific strengthen their cyber defenses “to prevent China, Russia and others from filling the multilateral vacuum.” Reuters reporting.
The U.K. dispatches an aircraft carrier to confront China. The HMS Queen Elizabeth has left on a seven-month deployment that will bring it to the Indo-Pacific where “the Royal Navy task force will participate in operations designed to ensure freedom of navigation and open seas.” Britain’s first sea lord, Admiral Tony Radkin, has said that the U.K. “see China as being a challenge and a competitor.” Michael Auslin, reporting for Foreign Policy, discusses whether this is the start of a more aggressive stance from the U.K. towards Beijing.
Global chief information security officers (CISOs) feel unprepared for an attack, says a report compiled by cybersecurity group Proofpoint. The report is based on a survey of 1,400 CISOs in 14 different countries, including the U.S., and highlights a difficult year for security professional struggling to cope during the Covid-19 pandemic. Maggie Miller reports for the Hill.
The Ukrainian authorities have put Viktor Medvedchuk, the Kremlin’s most prominent ally in Ukraine and the leader of Ukraine’s Opposition Platform – For Life political party, under formal suspicion for high treason. The move comes as part of a crackdown by the Ukrainian authorities on Medvedchuk’s circle which has fueled tensions between Kyiv and Moscow. Reuters reporting.
The U.N. Yemen mediator, Martin Griffiths, is expected to become the U.N.’s new aid chief. “Griffiths, will be the fifth consecutive British national to serve as U.N. undersecretary-general for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs since 2007, one of five cabinet-level U.N. jobs that are traditionally held by nationals from the five permanent members of the Security Council,” Callum Lynch reports for Foreign Policy.
France is starting to confront its complex history in Algeria. The Economist reports on the ongoing “Memories and Truth” commission on France’s role in Algeria, that was launched earlier this year by President Emmanuel Macron.
Credible elections could help steer Iraq towards a “safe and prosperous future,” the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, has told the U.N. Security Council. The UNAMI chief “reiterated her call to uphold the integrity of the process, warning that ‘political pressure and interference, intimidation, and illicit financial flows’ would jeopardize their credibility.” She also highlighted the limited accountability for serious crimes and human rights violations; the curtailment of free expression in the Kurdistan region; the continued terrorism in Iraq; and the dismantling of camps for those internally displaced. UN News Centre reports.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 32.7 million and now killed over 582,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 159.70 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.31 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The Biden administration is expanding eligibility for pandemic relief aid to include undocumented and international students, reversing a Trump-era policy, which has become the subject of court battles in several states. “It shouldn’t matter if you are undocumented or a DACA recipient – every student struggling because of this pandemic deserves access to emergency aid that can make all the difference,” Sen. Patty Murray (D), who chairs the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement. Liz Stark and Katie Lobosco report for CNN.
Uber and Lyft will provide free rides to and from Covid-19 vaccine sites under a new partnership with the White House. The feature will launch in the next couple of weeks and will run until July 4. The move is part of the Biden administration’s effort to meet a target of 70% of the U.S. adult population getting at least one vaccine dose by July 4. Sabrina Siddiqui and Stephanie Armour report for the Wall Street Journal.
China and Russia are cooperating to vaccinate the developing world before the West. While their Western counterparts are being accused of hoarding vaccines, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, along with China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm shots, are making their way around the world, and China is also helping to produce Russia’s vaccine as well as its own. Ben Westcott provides analysis for CNN.
The ongoing impacts of Covid-19 and vaccine inequity are putting global economic recovery at risk, a recent UN economic forecast report states. The report warns that the widening inequality is threatening global growth, projected at 5.4% this year, as well as highlighting the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. UN Newsreporting.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.