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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
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Violent clashes between Israel and Hamas dragged into a 10th day Wednesday, with Israeli warplanes conducting airstrikes while Hamas fired rockets into Israel, despite international calls for a cease-fire. “Israeli strikes have killed 217 Palestinians, including 63 children, since May 10, according to the Gaza health ministry. Israeli army officials said 130 of the dead were Hamas combatants, and disputed — without evidence — Gazan estimates that nearly half of the dead were women and children,” report Mehul Srivastava, Andrew England and Heba Saleh for the Financial Times.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks (D-NY) will not request a delay to the $735 million U.S.-approved arms sale to Israel after the Biden administration agrees to hold an “informational session” with lawmakers on the deal, Meeks said yesterday. “But Democratic sources briefed on the meeting took issue with Meeks’ reasoning, contending that the intent of the letter was not to simply secure a meeting or a briefing from the administration. Democratic lawmakers who wanted to protest the sale believed that its timing sent the wrong message when the Biden administration has resisted an aggressive push for a cease-fire,” report Andrew Desiderio and Sarah Ferris for POLITICO.
France is leading efforts at the U.N. Security Council for a resolution, based on U.S. statements, calling for a cease-fire, although the date the resolution will be put to vote is unclear. The resolution broadly reflects public statements made by the Biden administration, in an effort to make it more difficult for the United States to veto the resolution after it previously blocked three statements. “France circulated a draft to several members of the council on Tuesday. The move was coordinated with Egypt and Jordan following a summit between French President Emmanuel Macron, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan,” reports Barak Ravid for Axios.
In a private call Monday, Biden sharpened his tone with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that he could fend off condemnation of Israeli strikes for only so long, according to two people familiar with the call, who said the tone was significantly strong that official released by the White House. Michael Crowley and Annie Karni report for the New York Times.
President Biden is increasingly at odds with members of his party, with Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) calling for Biden to meet Arab Americans over Israeli military action — but the White House has confirmed no such meetings. Sean Sullivan and Anne Gearan report for the Washington Post.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) yesterday confronted Biden over U.S. support for Israel and urged for him to do more to protect Palestinians, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the conversation. “During a conversation on a tarmac in Detroit, where Mr. Biden had arrived to visit a Ford factory near her congressional district, Ms. Tlaib echoed a scathing speech she delivered last week on the House floor, telling the president that he must do more to protect Palestinian lives and human rights, said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe her remarks,” report Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos for the New York Times.
Israel does not intend to set a timeframe for ending hostilities, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted as saying: “we’re not standing with a stopwatch. We want to achieve the goals of the operation. Previous operations lasted a long time so it is not possible to set a timeframe.” Reuters reporting.
At least six people were killed across the Gaza Strip by Israeli airstrikes Wednesday, destroying the home of an extended family, with the Israeli military saying it had widened its strikes on militant targets to reduce continuing rocket fire from Hamas. AP reporting.
Two Thai workers were killed and seven people were injured in a joint Hamas-Islamic Jihad claimed rocket strike on Tuesday on an Israeli farm just across the Gaza border, police said. Reuters reporting.
Israeli airstrikes struck nine rocket launch sites in Gaza as well as targeting tunnel systems in northern Gaza, residences of Hamas commanders and an anti-tank squad in Gaza city. “Israel imposed a partial closure on the West Bank on Tuesday, an Israeli security source told CNN, with only men older than 45 and Palestinian construction workers with work permits allowed to enter Israel,” reports Hadas Gold, Ofri Eshel, Abeer Salman, Kareem Khadder and Mohammed Tawfeeq for CNN.
Public hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed and medical supplies are running low, cancelling nonemergency surgeries and transferring coronavirus patients to private clinics in an attempt to free up space and resources, Palestinian public-health authorities warn. Raja Abdulrahim reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Israel went on strike Tuesday, as did other Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and in Gaza, protesting violence against Arab Israelis. “Streets were deserted in Arab areas across both Israel and the occupied territories, as shopkeepers shuttered stores along the waterfront in Jaffa, in central Israel; the steep roads of Umm el-Fahm, an Arab town in northern Israel; and West Bank cities such as Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah … Demonstrators gathered instead in central squares, waving Palestinian flags, listening to speeches and chanting against Israeli policies. Outside Ramallah, a group of Palestinians who had gathered separately from the protesters set fires on a major thoroughfare and later exchanged gunfire with Israeli soldiers, officials said,” Patrick Kingsley and Rami Nazzal report for the New York Times.
Although strikes were mainly peaceful, violence erupted in the West Bank. “Hundreds of Palestinians burned tires in Ramallah and hurled stones at an Israeli military checkpoint. Troops fired tear gas, and protesters picked up some of the canisters and threw them back. Three protesters were killed and more than 140 wounded in clashes with Israeli troops in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and other cities, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Israeli army said two soldiers were wounded by gunshots to the leg,” AP reporting.
Israel’s Embassy in China condemns “blatant anti-Semitism” on Chinese media outlet CCTV. The embassy said in a post on Twitter, “we have hoped that the times of the ‘Jew’s controlling the world’ conspiracy theories were over, unfortunately anti-Semitism has shown its ugly face again.” AP reporting.
Rosemary DiCarlo, the U.N.’s political affairs chief, has called for greater aid access in Gaza during “unprecedented” times and urged for an “intensification of mediation efforts” and for the international community to do “all it can” to help de-escalate the growing violence. The statement was made during an address to the U.N. Forum on the Question of Palestine. UN News Centre reporting.
The U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan is about 20 percent complete, the Pentagon announced yesterday. “U.S. forces have shipped out approximately 115 C-17 loads of equipment out of the country, turned over more than 5,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency to be destroyed, and officially handed over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, U.S. Central Command said in a statement,” reports Ellen Mitchell for The Hill.
During the first quarter of 2021, when peace talks were supposedly underway, the Taliban stepped up attacks in Afghanistan, maintained close ties with al-Qaeda and actively planned for large-scale offensives, according to a new report by the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General. “U.S. Forces-Afghanistan reported a historic increase in enemy-initiated attacks since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, with nearly 37 percent more enemy-initiated attacks this quarter than during the same period in 2020,” the report said about Operation Freedom Sentinel, the name of the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan. Courtney Kube and Dan De Luce report for NBC News.
The Biden administration has invoked a national security waiver for sanctions targeting Nord Stream 2 AG, the company in charge of building Russia’ Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and its head Matthias Warnig, and will instead sanction smaller entities involved, including Russian companies and ships that have been helping in the construction. Sources say the State Department had prepared an assessment of what action would have been required to halt the pipeline, but decided that such a move impact relations with U.S.-ally Germany, a decision ultimately made by the White House. The decision will be included in a State Department report on Russian sanctions that will be delivered today. Kylie Atwood, Natasha Bertrand and Nicole Gaouette report for CNN.
Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Sergei Naryshkin is denying that Russia is responsible for the cyberattack on IT group SolarWinds. Last month, President Biden formally named SVR as the culprit, however Naryshkin, a close ally to President Putin, said the claims resemble “a bad detective novel.” Reuters reports.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to hold high-level in-person talks today in Reykjavik for an Arctic Council meeting amid a push to agree a presidential summit. Reuters reporting.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Washington’s pipeline sanction move is a “positive signal” and could aid ties between the two countries. Reuters reporting.
Strategic stability as well as bilateral relations should be top of the agenda for a possible meet between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said. Reuters reporting.
Moscow has offered to help mediate the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan to demarcate their border, after Armenia alleged that Azeri forces had advanced into its territory. Reuters reports.
Russia’s parliament has approved a bill barring members of “extremist” organizations from serving as lawmakers. However, allies of Alexei Navalny say that the bill aims to stop them running in September’s parliamentary election. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
China accused the U.S. of “endangering peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” after a the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit.” Reuters reporting.
As the U.S. yesterday listed numerous Central American politicians as corrupt, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele praised China’s $500 million investment in public investments in the country, as El Salvador’s Congress ratified a cooperation agreement with China, which was initially signed in 2019. “The agreement calls for 400 million Yuan — about $62 million — in investment in a water purification plant, a stadium, a library, and infrastructure along Salvadors coast,” reports Reuters.
North Korean defectors have urged Biden to increase pressure on North Korea over human rights abuses as South Korean President Moon Jae-in headed to Washington on Wednesday for his first summit with Biden. Moon is set to arrive in Washington Thursday for a four-day stop, which will involve several summits with Biden and congressional leaders. Reuters reporting.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) “needs to transform its business model [which is currently] dependent on funneling hundreds of millions, sometimes billions, of dollars to mammoth government contractors,” write Walter Kerr and Maya Guzdar for Foreign Policy. “To right the ship, USAID needs a procurement renaissance. It must break its dependence on large and inefficient government contractors, increase its use of pay-for-results programs, and scale up initiatives that make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises and organizations based in low- and middle-income countries to do business with the world’s largest development agency.”
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
Congressional Republicans are divided over whether to support the Jan. 6 commission, an independent commission which would be tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his opposition to the bipartisan deal, arguing that the commission should also look into other acts of politically charged violence. However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the Senate GOP is “undecided” about whether to back the commission, they “want to read the fine print” and are “willing to listen” to arguments in favor of the commission. Marianna Sotomayor, Karoun Demirjian and Josh Dawsey report for theWashington Post.
McCarthy and other Republicans have argued that any commission should also look at violence involving Antifa and riots that occurred during protests of police brutality last year and have accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of failing to negotiate in good faith. In a statement explaining his opposition to the Commission, McCarthy said that “given the political misdirections that have marred this process, given the now duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature of this effort, and given the Speaker’s shortsighted scope that does not examine interrelated forms of political violence in America, I cannot support this legislation.” However, “McCarthy’s opposition to the agreement raises questions about the GOP leader’s role in the events at the Capitol on January 6, as he had a heated phone conversation with Trump as the insurrection was unfolding,” Jeremy Herb reports for CNN.
Anywhere between 20 to 50 Republicans could vote for the Jan. 6 commission, “with the total very fluid,” report John Bresnahan, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman for Punchbowl News Am.
Trump would be a “very key individual” witness for any panel probing the Jan. 6 attack, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said, after McCarthy earlier rejected the idea of any investigation. Reuters reports.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pledged to put legislation creating the Jan. 6 commission on the Senate floor for a vote. The remarks were made to reports at the Capitol, Reuters reports.
The House vote on setting up the commission will expose again the debate within the Republican party as to whether to side with Trump or seek the truth. Stephen Collinson provides analysis for CNN.
The White House has formerly backed the bill establishing the commission. In a statement, the White House stated that “while the federal government has already begun taking action to improve the safety and security of the U.S. Capitol, the administration supports the proposed bipartisan, independent national commission to study and investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
House lawmakers say outside officials are already asking to serve on the commission. Olivia Beavers reports for POLITICO.
Rudy Giuliani, who urged Trump supports in Washington on the day of the Capitol attack to have a “trial by combat,” was not literally calling for an insurrection over the 2020 election results, lawyers for Guiliani are now arguing in response to a lawsuit filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). “The former New York City mayor also said in his court filing that the core of the insurrection was orchestrated by pro-Trump extremist groups to whom he had no connection,” Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
The New York Attorney General’s office has widened its probe into the Trump Organization to include a criminal inquiry. Previously, the office was investigating Trump Organization, former President Trump’s company, in a solely civil matter, “with New York Attorney General Letitia James focusing on whether the company improperly valued its assets for loan and tax purposes. However, now the state’s investigation has entered ‘a criminal capacity,’” NPR reports.
The New York Attorney General’s office is therefore now working alongside the Manhattan district attorney, and information collected as part of the civil inquiry can now be used as part of the criminal investigation. “We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan D.A.,” a spokesperson for James said in a statement. Sonia Moghe and Kara Scannell report for CNN.
The Democratic leader of the Senate has stated his support for measures to reform the military’s handling of sexual assault, expressing hope that the Senate would vote on the measures. Reuters reports.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has accused The Washington Post of intentionally lying about his actions as Trump was addressing controversy about his campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The accusations were made in a federal court as part of a suit Nunes filed last year in relation to an article, published by The Washington Post six days after the 2020 election, which alleged that Nunes “made a ‘midnight run’ to the White House in 2017 to access classified documents that could bolster Trump’s claim that his 2016 campaign was spied on by the Obama administration, and that Nunes believed Trump Tower was tapped during that campaign,” Josh Gerstein reports for POLITICO.
Federal investigators are looking into Rudy Giuliani’s work relating to Romania, as part of their probe into Trump’s connections with Ukraine. “In 2018, Giuliani wrote a letter to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, criticizing the ‘continuing damage to the rule of law being done under the guise of effective law enforcement,’ referring to Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate, a government agency tasked with investigating corruption-related crimes. His letter appeared to contradict the U.S. State Department’s position on anti-corruption efforts in the country,” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
Two Democrats have urged the Department of Justice to stop searching journalists’ phone records to identify their sources. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland calling on him to end the practice. “Simply put, the government should not collect journalists’ communications records unless it’s investigating them for a crime or as part of an investigation into foreign espionage, in which case it should get a warrant,” the letter said. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
The House has overwhelmingly passed an anti-Asian hate crimes bill. The legislation is intended to strengthen federal efforts to address hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans, which have risen during the Covid-19 pandemic. The measure is now cleared for signing by President Biden, who “last month pledged to swiftly sign the legislation when it reached his desk, hailing it as putting ‘our nation one step closer to achieving justice and equality,’” Catie Edmondson reports for the New York Times.
Rudy Guiliani’s son has declared his candidacy for the 2022 Republican nomination for governor of New York, Reuters reports.
The FBI has launched a probe into possible illegal campaign donations to Sen. Susan Collin’s (R-ME) 2020 congressional campaign. According to the FBI’s search warrant, investigators “believe the former CEO of a Hawaii defense contractor — Navatek, now known as Martin Defense Group — funneled donations funded by the company to a PAC supporting Collins through a shell company and donations to the Collins for Senator campaign through his family members” breaching campaign finance law. Emily Davies reports for the Washington Post.
Auditors looking at the Arizona state 2020 election have confirmed that the voter data is intact. The auditors, at a hearing held by the Senate republicans overseeing the audit, backtracked on previous claims that a key database had been deleted from Maricopa Country’s elections servers. Eric Bradner reports for CNN.
A Michigan judge has dismissed the last election fraud case in Michigan challenging the 2020 election. The suit alleged that “material fraud or error” took place when inaccurate results were shared. Taylor Romine reports for CNN.
Fox News has filed a motion to dismiss a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought against it in March by Dominion Voting Systems. “The Dominion lawsuit and a similar defamation claim brought in February by another election company, Smartmatic, have been widely viewed as test cases in a growing legal effort to battle disinformation in the news media,” Michael Grynbaum reports for the New York Times.
Over $90 million in bitcoin ransom payments was sent to DarkSide before the hacking group responsible for the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline eventually shut down. Ryan Browne reports for NBC News.
Multiple bills designed to secure critical infrastructure systems against cyber threats have moved forward in the House. The bills, which have been approved by the House Homeland Security Committee, include the Pipeline Security Act, which would boost pipeline security efforts at both the Transportation Security Administration and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the State and Local Cybersecurity Act, which would provide $500 million annually for five years to state and local governments to address increasing cyber threats. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Lawmakers have agreed that they are not tied to a deadline to craft a compromise bill overhauling policing laws. “The most important thing is that we have a bill that hits the President’s desk, not the date that it does,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), told reporters following a meeting of the bipartisan and bicameral group of congressional negotiators on Tuesday. Jessica Dean reports for CNN.
Washington State has signed a dozen new bills into law to overhaul policing in the state. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) remarked that “these bills are all going to work in coordination with one another to create a system of accountability and integrity stronger than anywhere else in the nation.” Austin Jenkins reports for NPR.
District Attorney Andrew Womble has said that the sheriff’s deputies involved in the fatal shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. were justified and has declined to file charges against them. The decision follows an inquiry by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, which presented its findings to the prosecutor. Laurel Wamsley reports for NPR.
Spanish authorities are carrying out mass expulsions of migrants from its North African enclave of Ceuta after thousands crossed from Morocco in the last couple of days. “Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said as many as 4,800 of the more than 8,000 who entered Ceuta during the previous two days had been sent back, and security forces on both sides intervened to prevent more from crossing,” Jon Nazca and Mariano Valladolid report for Reuters.
A prominent former commander of Columbia’s largest guerilla group has been killed in Venezuela, according to three senior Venezuela government officials. The former commander, who was known by the nom de guerre Jesús Santrich, “helped lead the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, before becoming one of the negotiators who struck a peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, ending five decades of war. He then turned against the deal, and returned to arms,” Julie Turkewitz and Anatoly Kurmanaev report for the New York Times.
The fight against armed groups in Africa’s Sahel region has intensified since late 2020, however regional troops, as well as personnel with the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Mali and the French-led Operation Barkhane (the Joint Force), are struggling to stem the attacks from armed extremist groups in the region. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, told U.N. delegates that the Joint Force also faces major challenges in its operational and logistical capacities, stating that “it is essential that [the Joint Force] receives the assistance it requires to carry out its mandated tasks.” UN News Centre reports.
The U.N. has launched a plan to “safeguard the well-being and dignity” of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The joint response plan from the Government of Bangladesh, the Organization for Migration and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) joins Bangladesh with 134 U.N. agencies and NGO partners to “meet the needs of more than 880,000 Rohingya refugees and 472,000 Bangladeshis in the surrounding host communities in Cox’s Bazar District,” said UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic. UN News Centre reports.
Irish patients’ data stolen by hackers last week from the Irish health service is appearing online. The hackers are demanding $20 million in ransom for the data which includes health service files and medical and personal information on patients. Ireland’s Health Service Executive “has been trying to establish how many patients’ data was compromised by the attack, which forced Ireland to shut down most of the IT systems behind hospitals that serve millions,” Laura Noonan and James Shotter report for the Financial Times.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 32.9 million and now killed over 587,200 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 164.25 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.40 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
Republican lawmakers flouted mask rules on the House floor on Tuesday during a voting session and then took a photo in front of the Capitol steps. The protest acts resulted in warnings and fines for the offenders, who included Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL) Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Chip Roy (R-TX), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Beth Van Duyne (R-TX), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Mary Miller (R-IL). Haley Talbot and Dartunorro Clark report for NBC News.
“Texas government entities are no longer allowed to mandate masks, Gov. Greg Abbott announced in an executive order on Tuesday,” Haya Panjwani reports for NPR.
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.