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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 Hamas appeared to reduce slightly early on Tuesday, with no fatalities recorded in Gaza and fewer long-range Hamas rocket attacks. Reuters reports.
The Biden administration has approved a $735 million arms sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel, a congressional aide said. “Three congressional aides said Congress was officially notified of the intended commercial sale on May 5, as part of the regular review process before major foreign weapons sales agreements can go ahead … Congress was informed of the planned sale in April, as part of the normal informal review process before of the formal notification on May 5. Under U.S. law, the formal notification opens up a 15-day window for Congress to object to the sale, which is not expected despite the ongoing violence,” reports Reuters.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks (D-NY) is expected to today send a letter to the Biden administration requesting a hold on the U.S.-Israel arms sale pending a review, three sources say, first reported by Vox News’ Alex Ward, after Meeks and other committee Democrats held a virtual emergency meeting on the sale. “[Meeks] told lawmakers and staff on the call he was caught unaware of this weapons sale to Israel, the people said,” reports Jacqueline Alemany for the Washington Post.
Sources told CNN that Meeks would not be able to put a formal “hold” on the sale at this late stage in the formal review process but that the letter could pressure the administration to work toward a cease-fire. Lauren Fox, Jeremy Herb and Ali Zaslav report for CNN.
President Biden backs a cease-fire during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while maintaining “full support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks,” the White House said. The president also “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.” Anne Gearan, John Hudson and Sean Sullivan report for the Washington Post.
Despite Biden’s call for a cease-fire, Monday saw a marked assault by the Israeli military, raining down airstrikes on Hamas tunnels, homes and infrastructure. “Israeli strikes had killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children and 36 women as of Tuesday, according to the Gaza health ministry. Israeli army officials said 130 of the dead were Hamas combatants, and disputed Gazan estimates that nearly half of the dead were women and children. Israel has reported that 10 were killed from the Hamas attacks, including two children,” report Mehul Srivastava, Katrina Manson and Chloe Cornish for the Financial Times.
Prior to yesterday’s call between Biden and Netanyahu, the Biden administration had not used the word “cease-fire” – nor “peace” or “peace talks” – during any public statements, instead using “calm,” “sustainable calm,” “deescalate tensions” and “halt to the violence.” “Biden and his aides’ public commentary offers a sobering reminder of how low the new U.S. administration has set its expectations for helping resolve the broader, decades-old Mideast conflict. The administration made clear early on that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis was not going to be a top priority, and it has struggled to keep up with the fast-moving violence that spiraled a week ago,” Nahal Toosi reports for POLITICO.
Former Vice President Mike Pence yesterday contended that the clashes are a “a direct result of the weakness shown by the Biden administration from its first day in office,” his most pointed criticism of the administration so far. In an op-ed for the National Review, Pence said: “Under the Trump-Pence administration, we made it crystal clear to the world that America stands with Israel … But now, President Biden has sent the world a profoundly different message. Instead of seeking peace through strength, he has invited violence through weakness.” Dartunorro Clark reports for NBC News.
China on Monday renewed its calls for the Biden administration to play a constructive role in addressing the conflict and stop blocked U.N. Security Council effort. “We call on the United States to assume its due responsibility and take an impartial position to support the council and play its due role in cooling down the situation and rebuilding trust for a political solution,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing. AP reporting.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki yesterday declined to confirm whether Biden had viewed intelligence that Israel says it shared with the U.S. justifying an airstrike on offices housing media outlets. “I’m not going to be in a position now or ever of committing or confirming who has or hasn’t seen intelligence,” Psaki said. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warns of broader destabilization beyond Gaza and Israel if de-escalation is not sought. Although Milley noted that Israel’s actions were in self-defense, he cautioned that the levels of violence were such that “it’s in no one’s interest to continue fighting.” “My assessment is that you risk broader destabilization and you risk a whole series of negative consequences if the fighting continues,” Milley told reporters shortly before landing in Brussels for talks with NATO allies. Reuters reporting.
Israel fires artillery at Lebanon in retaliation to six shells fired towards northern Israel on Monday that fell short of crossing the border, the Israeli military said. “A Lebanese security source said shells were heard being fired from south Lebanon and efforts were being made to identify the location. The source said about 22 shells were fired by Israeli artillery on Lebanese territory,” reports Reuters
Israel is targeting Hamas naval forces, destroying a vessel early Monday after it said suspects were moving a “Hamas submergible naval weapon” that “appeared to be on its way to carry out a terror attack in Israeli waters.” Dan Bilefsky reports for the New York Times.
The U.N. General Assembly will meet Thursday to discuss the clashes, after Niger and Algeria, which chair the Organization for Islamic Cooperation group in New York, asked Assembly member states to meet publicly “in light of the gravity of the situation and its rapid deterioration,” according to Reuters.
Historical division among E.U. countries on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians renders Brussels powerless and ineffective to the worsening violence. As E.U. foreign affairs ministers are set to meet today to discuss what the bloc can do about the clashes, top officials, diplomats and experts on the Middle East contend that the outcome will be the same as it has for years: nothing. “E.U. countries have long been ferociously divided over the Israel-Palestine question, as was clear on Sunday when the E.U. ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, delivered a statement to the Security Council condemning the violence but was prevented from speaking ‘on behalf of its member states.’ Hungary, an ally of Israel, blocked the statement,” David M. Herszenhorn and Rym Momotaz report for POLITICO EU.
Aggressive anti-Israel protests in Germany prompt politicians to call for tougher measures against antisemitism. Kate Connolly reports for the Guardian.
Four people arrested in London over antisemitism abuse they shouted from a driving car. The Metropolitan Police said that after receiving reports, they traced the vehicle and deployed a helicopter, before the vehicle was eventually stopped. Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
The Met Police are also investigating a suspected religiously aggravated assault on a Rabbi Sunday that left him require hospital treatment. Jack Guy reports for CNN.
The World Food Programme (WFP) yesterday began providing emergency assistance to support over 51,000 families in northern Gaza, amid fears of low food stocks and rising prices. UN News Centre reports.
The U.N. aid agency has said that more than 52,000 Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli air strikes that have destroyed or badly damaged nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip. Amnesty International are also calling for an investigation into war crimes. Reuters reports.
“Israel Is Bluffing About Ever Invading Gaza: Talk about sending ground troops to definitively defeat Hamas is nothing more than an idle threat,” argues Anchal Vohra for Foreign Policy.
The U.S. and Canada yesterday placed sanctions on Myanmar’s junta. “The United States targeted the governing State Administrative Council (SAC) and 13 officials, the move freezing any U.S. assets of those listed and generally bars Americans from dealing with them … Canada said it imposed additional sanctions on individuals and entities tied to the Myanmar armed forces, while Britain announced sanctions against state-owned enterprise Myanmar Gems Enterprise [MGE] which was included in previous U.S. sanctions,” Reuters reporting.
Today’s scheduled U.N. General Assembly vote on a draft resolution calling “for an immediate suspension of the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of all weapons and munitions” to Myanmar has been postponed, diplomats said, with a rescheduled date unknown. Reuters reporting.
More than 15,000 people from Myanmar are shielding in India, with more likely to cross over to India as the fighting intensifies in parts of Myanmar, an Indian government official has said. Devjyot Ghoshal reports for Reuters.
802 people have been killed by Myanmar’s security forces, according to the activist group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Reuters reporting.
As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, clashes between the Taliban and Afghan forces resume following a three-day ceasefire. “Security forces on Monday began their operations in areas close to Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of southern Helmand province, in which 34 insurgents were killed, a statement from the provincial police chief’s office said,” Reuters reports.
A State Department report on “credibly alleged” corrupt Central American officials includes a member of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s cabinet and a former minister, according to an extract of the document leaked yesterday. Reuters reporting.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor yesterday welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to lift Trump-era sanctions against her and another ICC official, saying her office “hopes to establish a new relationship with the United States rooted in mutual respect and constructive dialogue,” while speaking during a virtual U.N. Security Council meeting at the end of her final briefing on Libya. APreporting.
Switzerland is the likely venue for the expected June summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported on Monday, citing government sources. Reuters reporting.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, in separate calls yesterday with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, expressed concern over recent tensions between the two nations, the White House said in a statement, after Armenia accused Azerbaijan last week of sending troops across the border, although Azerbaijan denied this and said its forces simply defended their side of the frontier. Reuters reporting.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is weighing whether to maintain the Trump-era change in policy to “psychological operations.” The policy change occurred in the final months of the Trump administration when then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper let the military run influence campaigns more quickly and with less time for input from the State Department. The policy change “highlights tension between military leaders and diplomats about how the U.S. handles gray-area operations that fall short of all-out war,” Betsy Woodruff Swan and Lara Seligman report for POLITICO.
The Biden administration has approved three detainees at Guantánamo Bay for release to countries that agree to impose security conditions on them. The three detainees were never charged and include the oldest of the remaining wartime prisoners. However, “it is unclear where the three men will go, or when, in part because the State Department has to make diplomatic and security arrangements with countries to take them,” Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
One of the White House officials struck by a mysterious illness late last year was struck when passing through a gate on the White House property, according to “newly revealed details that come as investigators are still struggling to determine who or what is behind these strange incidents,” Katie Bo Williams, Jeremy Herb and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
The Secret Service is underfunded, overworked and often working with outdated technology and inadequate training, according to a new book by Washington Post investigative reporter Carol Leonnig titled “Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service”. Leonning charts he agency’s “chronic, ridiculously large mission,” and refers to concerns expressed by Secret Service agents that the agency is increasingly “relying on luck.” Dave Davies reports for NPR.
Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) associate, Joel Greenberg, has pleaded guilty to sex trafficking a minor and a host of other crimes. Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, Florida, has agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors and testify in court in the hopes of leniency for himself. Gaetz continues to deny any wrongdoing. Lori Rozsa and Matt Zapotosky report for the Washington Post.
The Justice Department under Trump tried to secretly obtain a grand-jury subpoena against Twitter to identify the person behind a Twitter account dedicated to mocking Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), according to an unsealed court document. Twitter fought the subpoena, as well as an associated gag order barring the company from talking about it publicly, and the Justice Department withdrew the subpoena this year, after President Biden took office. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
A North American Aerospace Defense Command fighter jet has intercepted a small aircraft that had violated Presidential airspace over Wilmington, Delaware. The fighter jet dispensed signal flares to alert the pilot and direct the aircraft, which was not in communication with air traffic controllers, out of the restricted zone, a statement from NORAD, which is responsible for protecting the skies over the US and Canada, said. Oren Liebermann, Barbara Starr and Caroline Kelly report for CNN.
The FBI has reclassified the 2017 shooting at a Republican baseball practice as an incident of domestic terrorism. The reclassification follows pressure from a number of lawmakers to reevaluate the conclusion that the shooter sought “suicide by cop” and to consider the shooter’s political leanings more heavily. “An individual with a personalized violent ideology targeted and shot Republican members of Congress at a baseball field and wounded five people,” a report from the FBI on domestic terrorism from 2015 to 2019 has said, categorizing the shooter as a “domestic violent extremist.” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
An online network tied to Chinese businessman Guo Wengui and with links to former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon is the driving force for a sprawling disinformation network, according to research published Monday by the network analysis company Graphika. The report details a network that Graphika says amplifies the views of Guo, a Chinese real estate developer, and “has become a potent platform for disinformation in the United States, attacking the safety of coronavirus vaccines, promoting false election-fraud claims and spreading baseless QAnon conspiracies,” Jeanne Whalen, Craig Timberg and Eva Dou report for the Washington Post.
House Democrats and former President Trump are near an agreement to resolve disputes concerning congressional subpoenas of his financial records from Deutsche Bank AG. Reuters reports.
Phoenix Republicans have condemned a Republican order to review the November election results, calling it “a grift disguised as an audit” that had spun out of the legislators’ control. “The senior Republican in Maricopa County, Jack Sellers, the chairman of the board of supervisors, said flatly that the county would stop cooperating with the review and suggested that it would challenge in court any of its conclusions that pointed toward improprieties,” Michael Wines reports for the New York Times.
In a subsequent letter to the state Senate President Karen Fann (R), the board members said the audit has been inept, promoted falsehoods and defamed the public servants who ran the fall election, stating that the “accusations are false, defamatory, and beneath the dignity of the Senate. They are an insult to the dedicated public servants in the Maricopa County Elections Department and Office of the Recorder, who work incredibly long hours conducting the County’s elections with integrity and honor.” Rosalind Helderman reports for the Washington Post.
The White House plans to nominate Matt Olsen to serve as head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. Olsen is Uber’s chief trust and security officer and “a veteran of Washington’s national security circles,” Dylan Tokar reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden is developing a pardon process with a focus on racial justice. Biden’s team has signaled that “it is establishing a more deliberate, systemic process geared toward identifying entire classes of people who deserve mercy. The approach could allow the president to make good on his campaign promise to weave issues of racial equity and justice throughout his government,” Kenneth Vogel and Annie Karni report for the New York Times.
The findings of a North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation probe into the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. will be revealed today. Brown was fatally shot by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies in Elizabeth City on April 21, 2021. Madeline Holcombe reports for CNN.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
Republicans are split on a probe into the Jan. 6 attack; however, it is likely a bill to establish a bipartisan commission probing the attack will pass in some form according to Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD). Thune “seemed content on focusing mainly on the events that transpired at the Capitol, splitting with other GOP leaders who want the investigation to dig into left-wing extremism as well,” Manu Raju, Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav report for CNN.
Establishing the so-called 1/6 Commission is the “easy part”, the “true test” will be whether it “can make headway in unearthing still-unknown facts about the Capitol riot,” Elana Schor and Renuka Rayasam provide analysis for POLITICO.
The Supreme Court has declined to make it easier for the police to enter private homes and conduct searches without a warrant for safety reasons. “The court ruled unanimously that police in Rhode Island went too far when they entered a home to search for a gun belonging to a man who had agreed to seek a mental health evaluation,” Pete Williams reports for NBC News.
The Supreme Court has refused to rule on whether the use of the N-word amounts to illegal discrimination. The Court “turned down an appeal from a former operating room aide at a Texas hospital who said his exposure to the N-word, one of the most offensive terms in the English language, created a hostile work environment,” Pete Williams reports for NBC News.
BIDEN AND HARRIS TAX RETURNS
The President and his wife, Jill Biden, have released their tax returns, resuming the voluntary disclosure tradition that Trump broke during his term. “The Bidens’ returns showed declining income from 2019 and much smaller use of a tax strategy that the Biden administration wants to eliminate,” Richard Rubin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
“Today, the President released his 2020 federal income tax return, continuing an almost uninterrupted tradition,” the White House said, taking a “dig at Trump,” Jason Hoffman, Maegan Vazquez and Allie Malloy report for CNN.
Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff also released their joint tax return for 2020, BBC News reports.
China is resisting bilateral talks with the U.S. on nuclear weapons, the U.S. disarmament ambassador, Robert Wood has told a U.N. conference. “Despite the PRC’s dramatic build-up of its nuclear arsenal, unfortunately it continues to resist discussing nuclear risk reduction bilaterally with the United States,” Wood said, adding that “to date Beijing has not been willing to engage meaningfully or establish expert discussions similar to those we have with Russia. We sincerely hope that will change.” Emma Farge reports for Reuters.
The Senate voted 86-11 yesterday to advance the bipartisan-supported Endless Frontier Act which aims to counter China’s economic and geopolitical ambitions. The Act would authorize $100 billion “to invest in basic and advanced research, commercialization of the research, and education and training programs in key technology areas like artificial intelligence,” reports Reuters.
A coalition of human rights groups are calling for a boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. The groups said in a statement that “the Chinese government is committing genocide against the Uyghur people and waging an unprecedented campaign of repression in East Turkistan, Tibet and Southern Mongolia, as well as an all-out assault on democracy in Hong Kong.” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
Apple is preparing to store the personal data of its Chinese customers on computer servers run by a state-owned Chinese firm, but in doing business in China, Apple has had to make extensive compromises, including largely ceding control of the data to the Chinese government. Jack Nicas, Raymond Zhong and Daisuke Wakabayashi report for the New York Times.
An investigation by The New York Times into Apple’s business in China has “revealed how Apple has risked its Chinese customers’ data and aided the Chinese government’s censorship,” Jack Nicas sets out five takeaways from the investigation for the New York Times.
Spain has deployed troops to Ceuta to patrol the border with Morocco after thousands of migrants entered the northern African enclave amid heightened diplomatic tensions. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska has said that as many as 6,000 Moroccans, including about 1,500 minors, swam into Ceuta on Monday and Tuesday. Reuters reports.
The Council of the E.U. has extended a tool allowing the E.U. to slap asset freezes and travel bans on foreign hackers, including those imposed on Russian, Chinese and North Korean state-backed groups. The tool which is designed to try and deter hackers and respond to attacks against European targets has been extended until May 2022 the Council said in a statement. Laurens Cerulus reports for POLITICO.
Germany is close to an agreement with Namibia on the colonial-era killings of tens of thousands of people when Germany was the southern African country’s colonial ruler. Germany who opened the talks in 2015 has signaled its readiness to make compensation payments and a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson has told reporters that they “are in the home stretch on this issue”. AP reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Sudan has announced the resignation of the country’s chief prosecutor and the firing of the country’s top judge. No reasons were given for the changes which come “amid growing criticism by activists of the justice system for purported delays in trials related to the crackdown on protesters during and after a popular uprising that led to the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019,” Samy Magdy reports for AP.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor has urged Libya’s new interim government to arrest the son of Muammar Gadhafi. Fatou Bensouda has also called for mercenaries and foreign fighters to leave Libya without delay, warning that they could face prosecution by the tribunal for atrocity crimes. In her briefing to the U.N. Security Council, Bensouda warned that the ICC continues to receive “concerning information about ongoing crimes, ranging from disappearances and arbitrary detention to murder, torture and sexual and gender-based violence.” Edith Lederer reports for AP.
Companies linked to the Wagner group, which has played a pivotal role in Moscow’s destabilizing activities around the world, are striking deals for oil and gas exploitation. A Russian company that recently struck a deal with the Syrian government for offshore oil and gas exploration is part of a network of companies that make up the shadowy Russian mercenary group. Amy Mackinnon reports for Foreign Policy.
Independent and opposition candidates have won a key two-thirds of seats in the Constitutional Convention, a body made up of 155 citizens that will write a new constitution in Chile. “Right-wing President Sebastián Piñera said it was a historic election in which citizens had sent a clear message, and that his government and other traditional parties were not attuned to the demands and aspirations of the people,” BBC Newsreports.
The Greenland ice sheet is on the brink of a major tipping point according to new research. After this tipping point, accelerated melting would become inevitable even if global heating was halted. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, sea levels would eventually rise by about 7 meters. Damian Carrington report for the Guardian.
The Columbian president has said road blockades connected to weeks of anti-government protests in Columbia will be lifted by security forces, Reuters reports.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has apologized for a 1911 massacre that killed hundreds of people of Chinese descent. The massacre happened when revolutionary troops took over the city of Torreon in Mexico. Over a three-day span, troops killed 303 Chinese men, women and children. “The discrimination was based on the most vile and offensive” stereotypes, López Obrador said, adding “these stupid ideas were transferred to Mexico, where extermination was added to exclusion and mistreatment.” AP reports.
Investment in Sudan’s peaceful and sustainable future is critical as the country undergoes a historic political and economic transformation, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told a major investment conference organized by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Monday. “We have a responsibility to help Sudan consolidate its democratic transition. Rebuild its economy. And deliver sustainable peace and development for all its diverse society,” he said. UN News Centre reports.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 32.99 million and now killed over 586,400 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 163.67 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.39 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
At least 20 million doses of U.S.-authorized coronavirus vaccines will be sent abroad by the end of June, President Biden announced yesterday, amid criticism that the administration has hoarded doses and done too little to fight the wider global pandemic. Tyler Pager and Dan Diamond report for the Washington Post.
Pfizer’s vaccines can be stored at fridge temperature for up to a month, much longer than the initial five-day recommendation, the European Medicines Agency said. BBC News reporting.
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.