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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
A bilateral and unconditional ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect Friday 2 a.m. local time after Israel’s security cabinet unanimously voted to approve an Egyptian-brokered proposal which Hamas leaders also agreed to. Steve Hendrix, Loveday Morris, Shira Rubin, Hazem Balousha and Michael E. Miller report for the Washington Post.
Israel intercepted a drone sent by Iran Thursday, dispatched from either Iraq or Syria and intercepted at Israel’s border with Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
President Biden yesterday applauded the ceasefire and pledged humanitarian aid will be sent to Gaza. “In my conversations with … Netanyahu, I commended him for his decision to bring the current hostilities to a close within less than 11 days. I also emphasized what I’ve said throughout this conflict: the United States fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorists groups,” Biden said in a three-minute speech at the White House, adding, “we will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas … in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.” Shannon Pettypiece and Lauren Egan report for NBC News.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will “meet with Israeli, Palestinian, and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement last night detailing a conversation between Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Alexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
The Biden administration is weighing how best to help rebuild Gaza while ensuring, through promises of financial support, that Hamas does not resume fighting. Initiatives will include reviewing the issue of Israeli settlement in the West Bank, strengthening new alliances between Israel and Arab nations, as well as fostering relations and coordination among rival Palestinian political factions in Gaza and the West Bank. Lara Jakes reports for the New York Times.
The future of Gaza and Netanyahu come into focus as a ceasefire takes place. Far-right politicians in support of Netanyahu, and for whom he relies upon, lambasted the ceasefire, while a Hamas leader said the militant group was ready to continue fighting if the ceasefire did not hold. Shira Rubin, Michael E. Miller and Steve Hendrix report for the New York Times.
Israel is lifting all emergency restrictions on movement throughout the country. BBC News reporting.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres “welcomed” the ceasefire in a statement. UN News Centrereporting.
The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday appealed for regular humanitarian access to Gaza, citing the “almost total destruction” of medical facilities. The Human Rights Council will hold a special session next Thursday to address the situation. UN News Centre reports.
An overview of the reactions from world leaders, including Egypt, France, the European Council, Russia and China is provided by Al Jazeera.
Hamas’ extensive arsenal is a result of Iranian technical support and growing local skill in arms manufacturing. Israeli military leaders says that the “militants still have thousands of rockets left and the technical capacity to begin building more when the fighting stops,” report Dion Nissenbaum, Sune Engel Rasmussen and Benoit Faucon for the Wall Street Journal.
The international community is seeing a rise in anti-Semitic attacks and rhetoric. “States around the country are reporting vandalism at synagogues, such as graffiti of swastikas and pro-Palestinian messages. Marking an uptick online, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Thursday reported finding17,000 tweets between May 7 and May 14, a period of escalation in Gaza, with a variation of the words ‘Hitler was right,’” Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
A chronology of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is provided by Brian Murphy and Adam Taylor for the Washington Post.
Live updates on the ceasefire are provided by the New York Times and Al Jazeera.
Fearful that sensitive counterterrorism operations could be disclosed, the Biden administration is weighing whether to intervene in a lawsuit between Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and former intelligence official Saad Aljabri. Aljabri claims in a lawsuit that the prince sent a “Tiger Squad” kidnap or kill him in his exile home in Canada; the squad was similar to that used to murder Jamal Khashoggi and was sent to Aljabri’s home not long after Khashoggi’s death. Concerning the U.S. is the possibility that, in defending Aljabri’s lawsuit, his lawyers will “require examination of the counterterrorism and national security activities of the United States Government,” disclosing some of the very secrets he was trying to protect. Concerned, the administration, in a Justice Department filing on April 26 in a Massachusetts federal court, noted Aljabri’s intent “to describe information concerning alleged national security activities,” adding, “accordingly, the Government is considering whether and how to participate in this action, including if necessary and applicable, through an assertion of appropriate governmental privileges.” “The CIA, which is most directly involved, is reviewing the matter, a knowledgeable official said. The CIA and the Justice Department declined to comment,” David Ignatius writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
Pressure mounts on President Biden to up efforts to secure a denuclearization agreement with North Korea. “As President Biden prepares to meet South Korea’s president, he must grapple with the fact that the North’s stockpile of nuclear weapons and fuel has roughly doubled in the past four years,” report David E. Sanger, William J. Broad and Choe Sang-Hun for the New York Times.
The U.S. is sanctioning two Houthi military leaders involved in the offensive to seize the oil-rich region of Marib, said Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy on Yemen. “If there were no offensive, if there were commitment to peace, if the parties are all showing up to deal constructively with the U.N. envoy there would be no need for designations,” Lenderking said in a statement. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
U.S. and Russian military forces held drills close to the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Thursday as Moscow hopes to maintain its influence over its last remaining ally in the Balkans. Celine Castronuovo reports for The Hill.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet yesterday rejected claims by China that USS Curtis Wilbur was “expelled” from the contested South China Sea. John Bowden reports for The Hill.
The U.S. no longer wants to buy Greenland, Secretary of state Antony Blinken said, signaling a change in policy from the Trump administration. Chris Cameron reports for the New York Times.
Senators yesterday pressed top defense officials on plans to expedite Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who helped U.S. troops. “At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, senators pressed David Helvey, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, for more information,” following a years-long backlog of applications. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
Former President George W. Bush is “deeply concerned” that a “vacuum” for terrorist groups will happen if U.S. troops are pulled from Afghanistan. “I’ve always warned that no U.S. presence in Afghanistan will create a vacuum, and into that vacuum is likely to come people who treat women as second-class citizens,” Bush said while promoting his new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
The Trump administration secretly sought and obtained the 2017 phone and email records of CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. The Department of Justice (DOJ) informed Starr in a letter from May 13 that prosecutors had obtained her phone and email records covering two months, between June 1, 2017 to July 31, 2017, and a DOJ official has confirmed that Starr was never the target of any investigation. “It is unclear when the investigation was opened, whether it happened under Attorney General Jeff Sessions or Attorney General William Barr, and what the Trump administration was looking for in Starr’s records. The Justice Department confirmed the records were sought through the courts last year but provided no further explanation or context,” Jeremy Herb and Jessica Schneider report for CNN.
Joel Ellicott, an associate of Joel Greenberg, has been included in a federal grand jury subpoena in relation to the investigation into sex trafficking of a minor, and other crimes, which has engulfed Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). The subpoena from Dec. 28, 2020 was sent to a different individual and “states that the grand jury is investigating alleged crimes ‘involving commercial sex acts with adult and minor women, as well as obstruction of justice’ and seeks any communications, documents, recordings and payments the individual had with Ellicott, Gaetz and Greenberg from January 2016 until now,” Marc Caputo reports for POLITICO.
Federal agencies are addressing a surge in the use of consumer drones near airports and critical infrastructure, increasingly crowding the airspace above critical sites. In response, “the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are developing a joint national air-traffic-control system for low-flying drones. The Department of Homeland Security is testing technologies to detect small drones favored by consumers, and the Pentagon is researching methods to knock them out of the sky,” Breet Forrest and Brian McGill report for the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden has signed a bill, the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, meant to address the increase in assaults and other violent crimes against Asian-Americans since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill, which had overwhelming bipartisan support, is the first legislative action that Congress has taken to bolster law enforcement’s response to the attacks, which have increased nearly 150% in the past year according to experts who testified before a House panel in March. Catie Edmondson and Jim Tankersley report for the New York Times.
Despite the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act, the data collection will still be flawed as, “despite current incentives, many big police departments don’t report whether a crime was motivated by bias to federal authorities. And state governments often disagree on what a hate crime even is,” Beatrice Jin provides analysis for POLITICO.
A newly released body-cam video shows the deadly arrest of a Black man in Louisiana. The video shows Louisiana state troopers kicking, dragging and tasering Ronald Greene as he apologized for leading them on a high-speed chase and told them repeatedly that he was scared. The Louisiana officials had repeatedly refused to release the video for the past two years, and initially told Greene’s family that he had died in an auto accident during a chase. APreport.
Body camera footage shows law enforcement officials telling a jailed man they restrained, “you shouldn’t be able to breathe” shortly before he died, Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount will testify in June before the House Homeland Security Committee. “The hearing, which will take place June 9, will focus on the pipeline attack, which resulted in gas shortages in several U.S. states, as well as how to strengthen critical infrastructure,” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Former President Trump has criticized “weak” Republicans who don’t want to talk about the audit of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County, Arizona. “During a sit-down interview with One America News Network (OANN), Trump reiterated his unsupported claims of election fraud. The former president told OANN reporter Chanel Rion that Republican voters want to know ‘what’s going on in Arizona,’” Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
The Senate could vote as early as next week on House-passed legislation to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., began taking steps Wednesday to speed the bill to the floor, saying he intends to hold a vote after the House voted 252-175 to pass the legislation,” Sahil Kapur reports for NBC News.
Senate Republicans look likely to prevent the establishment of the Jan.6 commission. At least 10 Republican senators need to support the bill for it to move forward, but few Republicans have signaled that they would vote with Democrats to support the establishment of the commission. Lauren Fox reports for CNN.
The Republican party “has concluded that the political price for standing with former President Donald Trump is preferable to the electoral cost of breaking with the disgraced former President,” concludes analysis provided by Maeve Reston and Stephen Collinson for CNN.
Republicans fear that the independent commission would “hurt their party’s image and hinder their attempts to regain power in next year’s midterm elections,” reports Carl Hulse for the New York Times.
Trump has taken aim at the “wayward” 35 House Republicans who voted in support of the Jan. 6 commission. Trump in a statement accused the group of not supporting their part, which he called “ineffective and weak.” Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
Some top Democrats are considering launching a sweeping investigation into the Jan. 6 attack with a Democrats-only committee, given that Republicans are likely to block the establishment of an independent Jan. 6 commission. Nicholas Wu and Sarah Ferris report for POLITICO.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has said that he would testify before a Jan. 6 commission should the bill be signed into law by President Biden, despite having come out in opposition to the bipartisan bill to create such a commission. John Bowden reports for The Hill.
The House has narrowly passed the Capitol security bill, which would introduce $1.9 billion spending to increase security at the Capitol in response to the Jan. 6 attack. The final vote was 213-212, with three voting present and “the narrow vote underscores how House Democratic leadership has little room for error in passing legislative priorities given the size of its current majority,” Annie Grayer, Clare Foran, Kristin Wilson and Daniella Diaz report for CNN.
Progressive democrats almost blocked the bill in a last-minute effort because they did not support the funding in the bill that would go to the police. Democratic Reps. Cori Bush (MO), Ilhan Omar (MN) and Ayanna Pressley (MA) all voted “no,” while Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Jamaal Bowman (NY) voted “present.” Mike Lillis and Christina Marcos report for The Hill.
The Capitol security bill is unlikely to quickly advance in the Senate, where Republican leaders have “disputed some of its provisions and complained that Democrats drafted the bill without enough input from their party,” Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu report for POLITICO.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has suggested that the Jan. 6 attack was a largely “peaceful protest.” “You know, I condemned the breach. I condemned the violence, but to say there were thousands of armed insurrectionists breaching the Capitol intent on overthrowing the government is just simply false narrative,” Johnson said during an appearance on Fox News. Dominick Mastrangelo reports for The Hill.
The Nigerian army is investigating reports that the Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has died by blowing himself up so as to avoid capture. The long-time leader of the extremist group has waged an insurgency in northeast Nigeria for more than a decade. However, reports by Nigerian media claim that he has died by suicide, while some reports by international news outlets are suggesting he is either dead or badly wounded. Stephanie Busari and Nimi Princewill report for CNN.
Iran and Russia have been competing for influence and spoils of war, as the fighting winds down across much of Syria. President Assad’s two main backers have been vying for contracts in oil extraction, phosphate mining and port construction, signed contracts to construct flour mills, are building power plants and have promoted their respective languages, Farsi and Russian, for instruction in Syrian schools. Sarah Dadouch reports for the Washington Post.
President Putin has vowed to “knock out the teeth” of any power that attempts to take a portion of Russia’s territory. The televised remarks were made by Putin during a virtual meeting with senior officials, and were in relation to what Putin referred to as comments made by foreign entities that questioned Russia’s control of Siberia. Reuters reports.
A Belgian national park has been shut down as the Belgian authorities search for a heavily armed soldier with fair-right views. The suspect, a military shooting instructor went missing on Monday after taking weapons from a barracks. BBC News reports.
The novel coronavirus has infected over 33.0 million and now killed over 588,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 165.58 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.43 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
E.U. policymakers have agreed to remove travel barriers among E.U. countries through a digital Covid-19 certificate system. “The agreement seeks to eliminate quarantine requirements for people who can prove they are at low risk of having covid-19 because they are vaccinated, have recently tested negative for the coronavirus, or have already recovered from the disease,” Michael Birnbaum and Quentin Ariès report for the Washington Post.
Iowa has passed a bill banning mask mandates in public schools across the state. “Iowa is putting parents back in control of their child’s education and taking greater steps to protect the rights of all Iowans to make their own health care decisions,” Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said. Talal Ansar reports for the Wall Street Journal.
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.