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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
Israeli airstrikes killed 20 people who were sheltering in UN-run elementary schools, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), as the Israeli military confirmed they have completely encircled Gaza City. Philppe Lazzarini, the UNRWA Chief, said he received reports that three schools sheltering around 20,000 people were hit by the airstrikes, with another fatality at the beach camp. A later statement by UNWRA said a fourth school-turned-shelter had been struck. Helen Regan, Abeer Salman, Zeena Saifi, Amir Tal and Mohammed Tawfeeq report for CNN.
Israel announced it will sever all contact with Gaza and return Gazan workers in Israel back to the enclave, in a government press office statement yesterday. The statement did not detail how or when workers will return to Gaza, or when contact would be cut off, although it said that funding that was designated for Gaza, including funding from the Palestinian Authority, would be deducted. Abeer Salman, Mariya Knight, Tamar Michaelis and Helen Regan report for CNN.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – REGIONAL RESPONSE
Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah claims it launched multiple strikes, including explosive drones, on Israeli army positions yesterday, marking an increase in the violent tensions. The Israeli military said it responded to the launches with air strikes and artillery fire on Hezbollah targets. Lebanon’s National News Agency said four people were killed during the Israeli shelling yesterday. Laila Bassam, Riham Alkousaa and Maya Gebeily and Maayan Lubell report for Reuters.
The UAE warned there is a risk of regional expansion of the Israel-Hamas war, as the UAE works “relentlessly” to secure a cease-fire. “We cannot ignore … the necessity to turn down the regional temperature that is approaching a boiling point…the risk of regional spillover is real,” said Noura Al Kaabi, a minister of state at the ministry of foreign affairs at a policy conference. She also said the war is a result of “decades of long failure” to find a solution to the historic conflict. Alexander Cornwell and Maha El Dahan report for Reuters.
A total of 677 foreign passport holders have crossed into Egypt via the Rafah crossing, the Palestinian spokesperson for the border crossing confirmed today. Another 97 injured Palestinains have crossed into Egypt, with 118 Palestinians arriving from Gaza in total. ABC News reports.
The Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group is planning to provide a Russian-made air-defense system to Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, according to U.S. officials citing intelligence. Wagner troops are present in Syria and the Russian SA-22 system would be sent to Hezbollah with Syrian President Assad’s agreement if delivery is to take place. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah is expected to give a speech today to provide his first public comments since the Hamas’ attacks of Oct. 7. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress on Tuesday that the growing relationship between Russia and Iran “poses a threat to Israel’s security.” Michael R. Gordon and Vivian Salama report for the Wall Street Journal.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
A group of U.N. special rapporteurs called for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza yesterday, saying Palestinians are at “grave risk of genocide” should the violence continue. The Israeli mission to the U.N. in Geneva called the comments “deplorable.” A spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a determination of genocide could only be confirmed by a U.N. judicial body. Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Emma Farge report for Reuters. (For more on the spokesperson’s statement, see the UN Daily Press Briefing.)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court this week for the alleged war crimes committed in the deaths of eight Palestinian journalists and an Israeli journalist killed in the course of their work in Gaza. The organization also cites the destruction of more than 50 media outlet premises in Gaza. This is RSF’s third complaint about alleged war crimes against Palestinian journalists, with the first dating back to 2018, during which a journalist was harmed during the “Great March of Return” Gaza protests.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – U.S. RESPONSE
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that 74 U.S. citizens and their family members entered Egypt through the Rafah crossing yesterday, in addition to five U.S. citizens who entered on Wednesday. Hajar Harb, Kareem Fahim, Bryan Pietsch and Joanna Slater report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv today to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is expected Blinken will urge the Israeli government to protect civilians in Gaza, as work continues on hostage-releases and enabling trapped U.S. citizens to cross into Egypt. Blinken will push for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza, saying, before he boarded the plane, “we’ve seen in recent days Palestinian civilians continuing to bear the brunt of it … and it’s important that the United States is committed to making sure everything possible is done to protect civilians.” The meeting comes after Biden publicly expressed on Wednesday his support for a “pause” and not a ceasefire. Michael Birnbaum reports for the Washington Post.
The House passed a Republican-written bill approving $14.3 billion Israel-exclusive funding yesterday, in a move which ties support to Israel with domestic spending cuts. The measure was approved by a vote of 226 to 196, with all but a dozen Democrats opposing the legislation led by Republican speaker Mike Johnson, who emphasized the spending cuts were attached for “fiscal responsibility.” President Biden has previously requested a joint $105 billion package for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan support, with no attachments for other budget cutbacks. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY-D) said the Senate would not take up the House bill, but instead create its own bipartisan bill containing financial aid to Israel and Ukraine, and humanitarian aid to Gaza. Catie Edmonson reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. military is flying surveillance drones over the Gaza strip in a move marking more active involvement in the war than previously thought, according to two Defense Department officials and an analysis conducted by the New York Times. Officials say the drones were used in hostage-recovery operations as it is believed there are around 10 American hostages still being held by Hamas. U.S. officials stated this is the first known occasion that U.S. drones have flown over Gaza, saying that the goal was to assist in locating hostages and transmit leads of information to the Israeli Defence Forces. Riley Mellen and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
Pakistan opened more centers at the border crossing with Afghanistan today to accelerate the expulsion of tens of thousands of Afghan nationals, disregarding calls by human rights groups and Western embassies. Facilities at the northwestern border crossing of Torkham, the main exit facility, has increased three times to provide for the vast numbers of people being expelled, according to Abdul Nasir Khan, the deputy commissioner for Khyber district where the crossing is located. He said 19,774 Afghans crossed the border yesterday, with another 35,000 undocumented Afghans having crossed through the Chaman crossing along the southwestern Pakistani border. He said 147,949 foreigners have crossed into Afghanistan since Sept.17. Mushtaq Ali reports for Reuters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill revoking his country’s ratification of a global nuclear test ban yesterday, opening up the possibility of future nuclear weapons testing. Putin said the revocation of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would “mirror” the United States’ positioning, who has signed but never ratified the treaty. Russian officials said that the move does not indicate the Kremlin will resume nuclear testing and that it would consider doing so only if the United States also carried out such activities. The E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the E.U. “deeply deplores” Russia’s decision, and called on Moscow to respect “the purpose and objective” of the treaty. Claudia Chiappa reports for POLITICO.
North Korea will close some diplomatic missions and open new missions in “other countries,” its foreign minister confirmed today. South Korea could not confirm whether North Korea was truthful in its claim they are opening new diplomatic missions, but said the move indicates financial difficulties for Pyongyang amid international sanctions it faced over its nuclear tests. Hyung-Jin Kim reports for ABC News.
South Korea’s top spy agency alleges North Korea has sent more than one million artillery shells to Russia to help in the war against Ukraine, according to a lawmaker who was present at a closed-door briefing with intelligence officials on Wednesday. The agency also believes North Korea dispatched weapons experts to train Russian officials on how to use the weapons. Russia and North Korea’s diplomatic relations has been publicly boosted over the past year, as concerns increase surrounding a possible arms arrangement which would see North Korea supplying munitions to Russia in exchange for advanced Russian technologies which would bolster North Korea’s nuclear-armed military. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied arms-transfer claims. Kim Tong-Hyung reports for AP News.
Moldova’s President Maia Sandu accused Russia of “buying” voters in the upcoming local elections, alleging Moscow channeled almost $5 million for “criminal groups” and pro-Russian political parties. Sandu has previously denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has urged voters to back her allies at the ballot box this weekend to demonstrate support of her plan for Moldova to join the European Union. In the run up to the election, Moldova has blocked access to mainstream Russian news sites. Moscow condemned the move, saying Moldova is denying Moldovans access to alternative news and accused Sandu of creating anti-Russian tensions. Alexander Tanas reports for Reuters.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida began a two-day visit to the Philippines today. It is expected he will announce a security assistance package and a defense pact negotiation in efforts to boost Tokyo’s relations at a time of increasing China-Philippine tension over the South China Sea. Kishida will be the first Japanese premier to address a joint session of the Philippine congress tomorrow. Philippine Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said his country “look[s] forward to the address of a leader of a nation that is a robust trading partner, a strong security ally, a lending hand during calamities and an investor in Philippine progress.” Jim Gomez and Mari Yamaguchi report for AP News.
A Chinese warplane fired flares near a Canadian military helicopter over the international waters of the South China Sea last Sunday, the Royal Canadian Navy has confirmed. This is the second encounter of a Canadian helicopter coming in close contact with China’s fighter jets, with the last incident occurring on Oct. 29. Ottawa said its helicopter was searching for a submarine it had previously detected. Brad Lendon reports for CNN.
Clashes between Myanmar junta troops and ethnic minority insurgents sees 163 Thai nationals trapped in Myanmar, with 23,000 people becoming displaced due to the fighting, according to the U.N. today. Violence erupted last week in Shan State, a northern Myanmar region, where ethnic minority forces fighting for self-determination launched attacks on junta positions. The ruling military in Myanmar says it has lost control of several towns along the Chinese border. The Chinese’ foreign ministry urged all parties to accept an immediate ceasefire, and stated that the assault was intended to overthrow “dictatorial rule” in Myanmar. Panu Wongcha-um, Chen Lin and Poppy McPherson report for Reuters.
Poland labeled a “dangerous enemy” of Russia by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s security council. He warned “if there is no hope for reconciliation with the enemy, Russia should have only one and a very tough attitude regarding its fate.” The comment comes amid already tense relations between both countries due to the Ukraine war. Guy Gaulconbridge reports for Reuters.
The Biden administration is expected to announce a $425 million military aid package to Ukraine today, according to two anonymous U.S. officials. The package will include laser-guided munitions, used to shoot down Russian drones, as well as advanced surface-to-air missile systems and anti-tank weapons. Biden has relied upon the Presidential Drawdown Authority which authorizes him to transfer materials from U.S. stocks without congressional approval if there is an emergency. Mike Stone reports for Reuters.
The United States has increased sanctions against Russia, in a move that targets companies and individuals in China, the UAE and Turkey for supplying Russia with goods that can be used for military purposes. The sanctions aim to prevent Russia from circumventing existing defense industry sanctions.Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “Russia is dependent on willing third-country individuals and entities to resupply its military and perpetuate its heinous war against Ukraine…we will not hesitate in holding them accountable.” James Politi, Adam Samson, Simon Kerr, and Max Seddon report for the Financial Times.
North Korea will increase its security against a U.S. nuclear-capable missile which was aimed toward them, according to its state media today. The missile was launched from California on Wednesday, but was blown up as a result of an anomaly being detected. South Korean defense officials attended the test, with Pyongyang labelling them as “puppet military gangsters.” Pyongyang also criticized the United States for deploying its nuclear strategic bombers to South Korea following a joint exercise which saw both countries hold air exercises to simulate a 24-hour wartime operation last month. South Korea and the United States said the exercises were aimed at maintaining military readiness in response to North Korea. Hyunsu Yim and Hyonhee Shin report for Reuters.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
Former President Donald Trump’s son Eric has taken the stand in the ongoing civil fraud trial. The defense alleged this week that the financial documents prepared for the Trump Organization were created by their accountants, and not by Donald, Donald Jr or Eric themselves. The judge accused Trump’s lead attorney Chris Kese of “a bit of misogyny” after the attorney kept “referring to [a] female principal law clerk.” The trial continues today. Chloe Kim and Kayla Epstein report for BBC News.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A California State Bar Court judge made preliminary findings that Trump associated attorney John Eastman was culpable in the 11-count bar disciplinary hearing for allegedly conspiring to invalidate the 2020 presidential election. Judge Yvette Roland said the case will “move forward with not only rebuttal testimony but aggravation.” Closing arguments are expected to take place today. Joyce E. Cutler reports for Bloomberg Law.
One of the five former Memphis police officers accused in the death of Tyre Nichols pleaded guilty yesterday to federal charges and has agreed to plead guilty to state charges, as part of a prosecutor plea deal. Desmond Mills Jr, 33, pleaded guilty to civil rights and conspiracy charges, including using excessive force, failing to intervene and conspiring to cover up use of unlawful force, the U.S. attorney’s office confirmed. He will be called to testify as part of the prosecution deal. Prosecutors will recommend that Mills serve a 15-year prison term and as part of the deal Mills will cooperate in the federal investigation into the practices of the Memphis Police Department. Pamela Kirkland and Eric Levenson report for CNN.