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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the weekend. Here’s today’s news.
The Israeli Defense Forces issued an apology after one of its tanks “accidentally fired” at an Egyptian post near the border crossing at Kerem Shalom yesterday. The Egyptian military confirmed the border guards sustained minor injuries in the incident. The Washington Post reports.
A second aid convoy entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt yesterday. It comes after U.S. President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed there would be a “continued flow of this critical assistance” into Gaza. The U.N. said the delivery was a “glimmer of hope,” yet it is only a fraction of what is needed in Gaza. The Washington Post reports.
Low fuel supplies mean hospitals in Gaza may stop operating soon as Israel’s blockade on Gaza takes its toll. Aid workers said that 130 premature babies are at “grave risk” across six neonatal units in Gaza. About seven of nearly 30 hospitals in Gaza have shut down due to damage from airstrikes and a lack of electricity, water, and other supplies. None of the trucks in the aid convoys let into Gaza contained fuel as Israel fears Hamas may use the fuel against Israel. Wafaa Shurafaa, Samy Magdy and Samya Kullab reports for AP News.
At least 30 people, including children, were killed in a bombing of Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, Palestinian Civil Defense said. Jabalia is the eighth largest refugee camp in Gaza, according to the U.N. While the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) did not confirm whether the camp was hit, an IDF spokesperson did say over 320 military targets in Gaza were struck within 24 hours. NBC News reports.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) struck a mosque in Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank yesterday after it alleged that Hamas was using it as a “terrorist compound.” Two people were killed in the strike, Palestinian Authority officials said. The IDF claimed those killed were planning an “imminent terror attack.” While IDF raids on the occupied West Bank are common, the use of airstrikes is unusual. BBC News reports.
During a visit to northern Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israelis are “in a battle for our lives. A battle for our home, this is not an exaggeration, this is the war. It’s do or die – they need to die.” Ece Goksedef reports for BBC News.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon has increased its attacks on Israel, raising fears of regional escalation. Israeli Defense Forces also carried out airstrikes into southern Lebanon and struck airports in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Aleppo. Noga Tarnopolsky and Rick Noack report for the Washington Post.
A joint statement issued yesterday by U.S. President Biden and other western leaders affirmed support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism while calling for “adherence to international humanitarian law.” The statement, signed by the Prime Ministers of the U.K., Canada, and Italy, as well as the German Chancellor and French President, called for the immediate release of hostages, adding that their countries are committed to “ensur[ing] sustained and safe access to food, water, [and] medical care.” The leaders noted their commitment to “close diplomatic coordination” to “work toward a political solution and durable peace” in the Middle East. Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
Israel has set up hundreds of volunteer security squads since the Israel-Hamas war began to patrol the streets and serve as back-up to the police. Eliezer Rosenbaum, deputy director-minister in the ministry for police, said the civilian security squads would receive 40,000 firearms in case of Jewish-Arab unrest within Israel. Dan Williams reports for Reuters.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned the United States and Israel that the Middle East could “go out of control” if the war in Gaza does not end. Amir-Absollahian said the U.S. was also “to blame” for providing military support to Israel. Ece Goksedef reports for BBC News.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – U.S. RESPONSE
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin yesterday warned that U.S. troops could face an escalation in attacks in the Middle East. The U.S. Navy shot down over a dozen drones and four cruise missiles fired by Iranian-backed Houthi militants from Yemen last week. Drones and rockets also targeted two U.S. bases in Iraq. There are 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria. Arshad Mohammed and Kanishka Singh report for Reuters.
The Biden administration asked Israel to delay its ground invasion of Gaza to secure more time to negotiate the release of hostages and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, several U.S. officials said. The invasion has been repeatedly delayed, four senior Israeli defense officials said, without giving a reason. Officials stressed that the United States has not demanded a delay and remains supportive of Israel’s actions. The Israeli Embassy in Washington said, “the U.S. is not pressing Israel in regards to the ground operation.” U.S. officials are wary of being seen to pressure Israel as that may boost Iran’s narrative that Israel is merely a proxy for the United States. Edward Wong, Eric Schmitt, Michael D. Shear, and Ronen Bergman report for the New York Times.
U.S. officials are concerned that Israel may open a second front against Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, as hawkish elements in the Israeli government call for attacks in Lebanon. Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, previously pushed for a pre-emptive strike on Hezbollah following the Hamas attack. Israel would face significant challenges in a war against both Hezbollah and Hamas, say officials familiar with intelligence reporting. Edward Wong, Ronen Bergman, and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.
Hamas released two American hostages – Judith and Natalie Raanan – at the Gaza boundary on Friday, following their abduction during the militant group’s raid on Israel earlier this month. Hamas confirmed the pair were freed for “humanitarian reasons,” while President Biden thanked the Qatari government for its assistance in the release of the two women. U.S. officials are “working around-the-clock to free American citizens” who have been taken hostage by Hamas. Mike Wendling and Frankie McCamley report for BBC News.
Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian, came second place in Argentina’s presidential election yesterday, pitting him against the center-left economy minister in next month’s run-off election. Milei, who has been compared to former U.S. President Trump and Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro, had previously been leading in the polls. Jack Nicas reports for the New York Times.
A Chinese coast guard ship collided with a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea yesterday, increasing tensions between the two countries. The Philippine boat attempted to deliver supplies to the Second Thomas Shoal, around 100 nautical miles from its coast. China claims this land as its own, and its coast guard and maritime militia frequently block Philippine ships from sending supplies to the area. The Philippines called China’s actions illegal and provocative amid concerns that the tensions will continue to increase. Niharika Mandhana reports for the Wall Street Journal.
E.U. ministers are encouraging member states to increase screening of migrants and to “forcefully” return those deemed to be a security risk as fears of terror attacks grow. The announcement comes days after the murder of French teacher Dominique Bernard and the murders in Brussels of two Swedish nationals. Both attacks are suspected to have been carried out by Islamist militants in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. E.U. migration commissioner Ylva Johansson said states must “close the loopholes and be quicker on decisions to carry out returns.” Henri Astier reports for BBC News.
Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, including torture, rape, killings, and the removal of Ukrainian children, according to new evidence in a U.N. Human Rights Council commissioned report. The report focused on the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. While the U.N. has reported on Ukraine’s abuse of Russian prisoners of war, prosecutors and human rights groups say the scale is much smaller than Russia’s abuses. Constant Méheut reports for the New York Times.
China’s export restrictions have led to a decrease in drones available to Ukraine, causing fears over their long-term ability to fight the ongoing war with Russia. The restrictions imposed by the Chinese government in September require export licenses and end-user certificates for drones weighing more than 8 lbs. The Royal United Services Institute think-tank claims Ukraine is losing around 10,000 drones per month. The restrictions have also “seriously complicated” China’s drone supplies to Russia, with Russian buyers relying more on intermediaries like Kazakhstan, Kommersant, a Russian newspaper said. Vitaly Shevchenko reports for BBC News.
A Russian anti-aircraft missile killed six postal workers and injured 17 others following a strike on a mail facility near Kharkiv on Saturday. The blast, which was the most fatal attack on civilians in the region since a Russian missile killed more than 50 people in the city earlier this month, caused large-scale debris around the sorting center. The city’s close proximity to the Russian border limits the ability to predict and respond to attacks – it is reported that the strike hit the center just 30-40 seconds after the air raid alert sounded. Francesca Ebel and Isobel Koshiw report for the Washington Post.
Over 2.4 million apprehensions were made at the U.S.-Mexico border in the year ending September, marking the third record-setting year in a row. Eileen Sullivan reports for the New York Times.
The U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower has been ordered to the Central Command area of responsibility in the Middle East to “bolster regional deterrence efforts” as Iranian proxies increase attacks against U.S. forces in the region. The aircraft carrier had previously been set to join the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford stationed in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. U.S. troops in the region are being put on standby, and the Pentagon is fortifying its missile defense systems. Non-emergency personnel have been ordered to depart [U.S.] embassies in Baghdad and Erbil “due to increased security threats.” Kelly Garrity reports for POLITICO.
China’s spy agency accused one of its citizens who worked for a defense institute of spying for the United States. The case comes as Beijing has expanded anti-spying laws and increased its commitment to national security. The man, Hou, allegedly revealed Chinese state secrets to a U.S. professor while Hou was a visiting scholar at an unnamed U.S. university. Hou’s espionage charges are up for trial in the southwestern city of Chengdu. Reuters reports.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
Kenneth Chesebro, ex-lawyer to former President Trump, pleaded guilty to a single felony count in the Georgia election interference case, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. Chesebro’s plea deal could pose a significant threat as he was a central figure in Trump’s efforts to stay in power. He pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count involving Trump and his closest allies. If Chesebro testifies that Trump’s lawsuits challenging his election defeat were merely intended to sow doubt, it undermines Trump’s possible strategy to blame his actions on his lawyers’ bad advice. Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
Former President Trump has been fined $5,000 for violating a gag order in his New York civil fraud trial. Justice Arthur Engoron imposed the fine after Trump’s campaign website continued to display a post attacking a law clerk. Engoron warned that he could consider jailing Trump if the gag order is violated again. Erica Orden reports for POLITICO.
District Judge Tanya Chutkan, overseeing former President Trump’s federal election interference case, temporarily lifted a partial gag order. Last week, Trump’s lawyers asked Chutkan to lift the gag order while they asked a U.S. appeals court to strike down the order they described as “breathtakingly overbroad.” Reuters reports.
Former President Trump denies allegations he shared sensitive information with Mar-a-Lago member Anthony Pratt regarding calls he had with Ukrainian and Iraqi leaders. Pratt, an Australian billionaire, is one of 84 potential witnesses prosecutors have identified in Trump’s classified documents trial, scheduled to begin in May in Florida. Rebecca Falconer reports for Axios.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Samantha Woll, president of a Detroit synagogue, was fatally stabbed at her home over the weekend. Police Chief James E. White said, “no evidence has surfaced suggesting that this crime was motivated by antisemitism.” More information is expected to be released today, White said. Sophia Tareen reports for AP News.
House Republicans have removed Jim Jordan (R-OH) as their party’s candidate for Speaker following his defeat in three successive votes. The House of Representatives will remain in recess today while Republicans attempt to find a replacement. Several Republicans have announced their candidacy. There has not been a speaker in the chamber for over two weeks following Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) removal in a vote earlier this month. No new bills can be passed until a new Speaker is elected. Brandon Drenon and Sam Cabral report for BBC News.