Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
President Biden ramped up pressure on Israel yesterday during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he expects “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” according to a readout of the leaders’ Wednesday morning call released by the White House. Despite Biden’s comments, Netanyahu later signaled that Israel was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.” Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
The U.S. has made clear that it opposes a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution by France calling for a ceasefire, following at least four U.S.-blocks on attempts by the Security Council to release a press statement. “A press statement requires agreement by all 15 council members, but a resolution requires only at least nine ‘yes’ votes and no veto by the United States or any of the four other permanent members,” AP reporting.
Senior Hamas political official Moussa Abu Marzouk said yesterday that he expects a ceasefire “within a day or two … on the basis of mutual agreement.” Reuters reporting.
A senior Israeli official unofficially attested to the planned ceasefire, saying discussions would come in stages. “The first would include the cessation of all Israeli attacks on Hamas infrastructure and facilities, and an end to Israeli attempts to kill senior Hamas members, the officials said. Hamas would halt all rocket fire at Israeli cities. Israel is also demanding that Hamas stop digging attack tunnels toward Israel and halt violent demonstrations on the Gaza-Israeli border, said the officials, who asked not to be named because they were discussing negotiations still underway. The agreement also aims to include later stages, after a cease-fire takes effect, including returning the bodies of two soldiers held by Hamas and two Israeli civilians detained by the group. In return, the officials said, Israel would allow the passage of goods and funds into Gaza,” reports Ronan Berman for the New York Times.
Thursday morning saw a temporary lull in clashes between the warring sides, with around an eight-hour long quiet period, signaling momentum towards a ceasefire, although later on Thursday “raid sirens sounded in Israel near the Gaza frontier, and Israel’s military said a fighter jet had struck a rocket launcher,” Oliver Holmes and Julian Borger report for the Guardian.
The temporary calm quickly erupted into further clashes during Thursday, the 11th day of violence, with Israeli warplanes launching airstrikes on Gaza and Hamas firing rockets at Israel. Michael E. Miller report for the Washington Post.
230 Palestinians have been killed by Israel over the past 11 days, including 65 children and 39 women, and more than 1,710 others have been wounded, the health ministry in Gaza said. Al Jazeera reporting.
Israeli strikes have cause over $322m in material losses to the Gaza Strip. “At least 184 residential towers, houses, and 33 media centers have been completely demolished, with a loss value of $92 million … Additionally, more than 1,335 housing units were completely or severely demolished, and about 13,000 were partially damaged,” Al Jazeera reporting.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a resolution on the Senate floor yesterday in opposition to a pro-Israel GOP resolution, asking senators to adopt his resolution by unanimous consent at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, a press release indicated. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) co-sponsored Sanders’ resolution, which calls for “an immediate cease-fire,” international law to be upheld, and the human rights Israelis and Palestinians to be protected. Axios reporting.
Reports have suggested that Sanders’ resolution was opposed by Sen. Tim Scott (R-FL) who spearheaded the GOP resolution opposed by Sanders, although it remains unclear if the resolution was officially blocked. Jacob Magid reports for the Times Of Israel.
“Scott’s resolution, which had the support of 29 other GOP senators, was defeated after Sanders objected,” Andrew Desiderio, Lara Seligman and Nahal Toosi report for POLITICO.
Sanders will also today introduce a resolution in opposition to the planned $735 million arms sale to Israel. “While Sanders’s resolution faces long odds, it appears to be guaranteed a vote in the Senate, according to procedures outlined in the International Security and Arms Export Control Act of 1976. ‘In some way or another, this starts the ball rolling with the Senate voting in one way or another on this sale to Israel,’ said a source familiar with Sanders’s thinking,” reports Jaqueline Alemany for the Washington Post.
A group of progressive House Democrats introduced a resolution yesterday aimed at blocking an arms sale to Israel. In addition to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), the resolution is being led by “Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Other co-sponsors include Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Betty McCollum (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and André Carson (Ind.),” reports Rebecca Kheel for The Hill.
Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are expected to hold a meeting as soon as today with a senior Biden administration official to discuss the pending arms sale to Israel. “The internal feud over whether to block the sale is unlikely to yield short-term results, as a majority of both the House and Senate would have to register a formal objection by Friday to stop the deal in its tracks,” reports Karoun Demirjian for the Washington Post.
Facebook has set up a 24-hour “special operations center” to monitor hate speech and violent content connected to the conflict, Facebook Vice President for Content Policy Monika Bickert told reporters on a call. The center has “native Arabic and Hebrew speakers to help Facebook identify content that violates its policies, as well as restore content that was removed in error [and] includes members of Facebook’s content review and content policy teams and puts them in regular contact with each other to help spot and respond to the ‘changing landscape, Bickert said,” Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
Israel fired artillery at targets in Lebanon following four rockets launched towards Israel from Lebanese territory on Wednesday, the Israeli military said. “A security source in Lebanon said Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese group that has fought with Israel in the past, was not involved,” Reuters reporting.
The Biden administration is missing a central player in efforts to reach calm: a U.S. ambassador in Jerusalem. “An unusual public lobbying campaign over two names in particular is drawing controversy. Following reports that Biden plans to nominate Tom Nides, a banker and former State Department official, some lawmakers and activists are pushing back. They are urging Biden to instead choose Robert Wexler, an ex-lawmaker who’s spent years to trying to end the decades-old conflict,” reports Nahal Toosi for POLITICO.
IRAN NULEAR DEAL
“Good” or “significant” progress was made yesterday during indirect peace talks in Vienna between the U.S. and Iran on the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), said Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s top negotiator. “Following a Joint Commission meeting on Wednesday between Iran, China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union at the Grand Hotel – with the US still in another hotel – negotiators expressed optimism,” reports Al Jazeera.
An E.U. official leading negotiations said he was confident that a deal would be brokered as the negotiations adjourned, although European diplomats said difficult issues remained unresolved. State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter said the talks had “really helped to crystallize towards the steps that need to be made by Iran as well as by the United States.” Reuters reporting.
The U.S. and Russia have their “differences,” but working together on matters of mutual interest would lead to a safer world, it was acknowledged yesterday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their first in-person talks. Al Jazeera reporting.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan plans to meet with Nikolay Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, in a European city in coming weeks, the Kommersant daily reported on yesterday, disclosing no sources. Reuters reporting.
Russia scrambled an Su-27 fighter jet to escort a U.S. B-52H bomber over the Baltic Sea, Russian news agencies reported yesterday, citing the military, which said the Russian border had not been violated. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
The House yesterday passed a bill — in a 252-175 vote, with full support from Democrats and 35 Republicans joining — to establish an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The prospects of the legislation passing in the Senate are slim as both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) expressed clear opposition to the bill. McCarthy said the legislation should be expanded in scope, arguing it “ignores the political violence that has struck American cities, a Republican Congressional baseball practice, and, most recently, the deadly attack on Capitol Police on April 2, 2021.” Cristina Marcos and Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
A statement released yesterday on Capitol Police letterhead, thought to be authored by several current officers, condemned McCarthy and McConnell’s opposition to the commission. The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) said that it “has no way of confirming it was even authored by USCP personnel. The U.S. Capitol Police does NOT take positions on legislation.” Olivia Beavers and Sarah Ferris reports for POLITICO.
INVESTIGATION INTO TRUMP ORGANIZATION
The New York attorney general’s office opened a criminal tax investigation into the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg in January, people familiar with the investigation say. “The investigators have examined whether taxes were paid on fringe benefits that Mr. Trump gave him, including cars and tens of thousands of dollars in private school tuition for at least one of Mr. Weisselberg’s grandchildren,” report Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Danny Hakim for the New York Times.
Weisselberg’s finances are being investigated by a small unit within the office, although he has not been accused of any wrongdoing, report Kara Scannell and Sonia Moghe for CNN.
Former President Trump said New York Attorney General Letitia James’ announcement Tuesday that her office was pursuing a criminal investigation into the Trump organization was “corrupt” and a “desperate search of a crime,” reports Rebecca Shabad for NBC News.
The Defense Department is considering a request made last week by the Department of Homeland Security for an extension of military support to Customs and Border Protection into fiscal year 2022, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement Tuesday. “National Guard Bureau chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson earlier on Tuesday revealed the DHS request when he told lawmakers that active duty troops may replace the Guardsmen as all options were on the table for such a deployment,” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
The Biden administration is set to allow entry into the U.S. for more migrants forced to wait in Mexico under the Trump-era program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), a top U.S. border official said yesterday. Reuters reporting
At least 391 migrant children are yet to be reunited with their families after being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, down from 445 last month, according to a federal court filing yesterday. “Under then-President Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy, border officials separated at least 2,800 children from their parents, according to government data. Officials later found that more than 1,000 children had been separated from their families before Trump’s policy went into effect in 2018. The latest court filing is specific to those families separated under the Trump administration,” Priscilla Alvarez reports for CNN.
THE PENTAGON AND NATIONAL GUARD
Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2021 which would penalize the Pentagon for failing to pass an audit, following failed audits in 2017-2019. “The bill would require military agencies to pass a full independent look at their finances every year beginning in fiscal 2022. Each year that any of the agencies fails to obtain a clean audit, one percent of their budget would be returned to the Treasury Department,” reports Ellen Mitchell for The Hill.
Republican Rep. Mike Rogers (AL) and Sen. James Inhofe (OK) are opposing the creation of a National Guard quick reaction force for Washington, D.C., that was unveiled Friday by House Democrats as part of a $1.9 billion Capitol security funding bill that is expected to be voted on in the lower chamber this week. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
The Pentagon does not expect, nor would it likely accept, another request to extend the 2,000 National Guard troops in deployed in D.C., which is due to expire Sunday, two officials said. Reuters reporting.
U.S. Cyber Command played no part in the recent shutdown of cybercriminal group DarkSide which was responsible for the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, officials said, despite comments by President Biden saying that the U.S. government was “going to pursue a measure to disrupt their ability to operate.” Ellen Nakashima reports for the Washington Post.
Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount says he paid DarkSide a $4.4 Million ransom payment because he was unsure how badly the company had been hit by the cyberattack and needed to quickly restore the service. Collin Eaton and Dustin Volz report for the Wall Street Journal.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 33.02 million and now killed over 587,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 164.96 million confirmed coronavirus cases and close to 3.42 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.
Russian and China will begin a series of joint nuclear energy projects and are also planning the construction of several Chinese nuclear power plants with Russian technology, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin were reported to have agreed. AP reporting.
Tribal elders in eastern Afghanistan, in the Alingar district of Laghman province, have brokered a local ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government which took effect Tuesday and lasts until June 21. “A ceasefire has been something the world’s most powerful countries were trying to establish in Afghanistan, but unfortunately, couldn’t,” Jaber Alkozai, resident of Alingar, told Reuters. Reuters reporting.