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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
South Africa has presented its case accusing Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice, saying Israel’s plan to “destroy” Gaza comes from the “highest level of the state.” Israel’s “genocidal intent” was evident “from the way in which this military attack is being conducted,” South African lawyers said. South Africa called on the court to order Israel to cease military operations in Gaza, adding, “every day there is mounting, irreparable loss of life, property, dignity and humanity for the Palestinian people. Nothing will stop the suffering, except an order from this court.” At the time of writing, Israel is presenting its defense before the ICJ. Anna Holligan and Oliver Slow report for BBC News.
Israel’s defense opened with a detailed description of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, arguing “it is impossible to understand the armed conflict in Gaza without appreciating the nature of the threat that Israel is facing.” Israeli lawyer Tal Becker added, “none of these atrocities absolve Israel of its obligations under the law. But they do enable the court to appreciate core aspects of the present proceedings which the applicant (South Africa) has obscured from view.” Becker told the court that South Africa presented “a sweeping counter-factual description” of the conflict. Israel’s legal team also asserted that South Africa’s request for an immediate ceasefire would allow Hamas “not just get away with murder…but render Israel defenseless as Hamas continues to commit it.” Alexander Smith reports for NBC News.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — REGIONAL RESPONSE
The “Israeli aggression on Gaza and its continued committing of war crimes against the Palestinian people” are “responsible for the rising tensions” in the Middle East, Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said today. Safadi said that Israel was pushing the region toward conflict by “continuing its aggression and its attempt to open new fronts.” Suleiman Al-Khalidi reports for Reuters.
MILITARY CONFLICT WITH HOUTHIS
President Biden directed U.S. military forces, with the support of five other states, to carry out military strikes against targets in Yemen controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi group, in an expansion of the war that many have attempted to avoid since the Oct. 7 attacks. The strikes came in response to more than two dozen Houthi attacks against commercial vessels in the Red sea since November, and followed repeated warnings by the Biden administration and its allies that there would be consequences if the attacks did not end. Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper report for the New York Times.
The United States and coalition forces hit more than 60 targets at 16 Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen last night, a U.S. Air Force Commander said. More than 100 precision-guided munitions were used in the strikes on munitions depots, launching systems, weaponry facilities, command and control nodes, and air defense systems. Haley Britzky reports for CNN.
The joint strikes are “intended to disrupt and degrade the Houthis’ capabilities to endanger mariners and threaten global trade,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the strikes are “necessary and proportionate” to protect global shipping commerce and said the action was in “self-defense” against the Houthis. President Biden issued a statement saying, “I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.”
Russia has called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council following the joint U.S.-coalition strikes against the Houthis, which a Kremlin spokesperson called “illegitimate.” The meeting will take place today, state media reported. The strikes followed a Security Council resolution adopted on Wednesday demanding the Houthis stop their “brazen” attacks in the Red Sea. Four Council members, including China and Russia, abstained from voting. Mariya Knight reports for CNN.
The U.S.-led airstrikes in Yemen killed five people and injured six, the Iran-backed Houthis said, without specifying what was targeted
Iran’s foreign ministry has condemned the strikes on the Houthis as a “clear violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and a “violation of international laws.” The attacks “will have no result other than fuelling insecurity and instability in the region,” the ministry added. BBC News reports.
Saudi Arabia said it is watching the U.S.-led coalition strikes with “great concern” and has called for “restraint and avoiding escalation.” BBC News reports.
A group of Democratic lawmakers condemned the U.S.-led strikes against the Houthis, which were conducted without prior congressional approval, arguing that the Constitution requires military action to be authorized by Congress. Olivia Alafriz reports for POLITICO.
Anti-war protesters gathered in Times Square in New York City and outside the White House late yesterday to protest against the U.S.- led strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, saying the move threatened regional spillover from the war in Gaza. Kanishka Singh reports for Reuters.
The Iranian Navy seized an oil tanker off the coast of Oman yesterday “in retaliation for the theft of oil by the American regime,” the Iranian army said. The ship, formerly known as the Suez Rajan, has been at the center of a dispute between Washington and Tehran, following its charterers pleading guilty last year to carrying sanctioned Iranian oil cargo. Iran said that the vessel seizure “is a lawful undertaking sanctioned by a court order.” Benoit Faucon, Margherita Stancati, and William Mauldin report for the Wall Street Journal.
Myanmar’s military has reached a ceasefire agreement with a coalition of ethnic minority guerrilla groups it has been fighting in the north, the Chinese foreign ministry said today. The agreement was brokered at talks mediated by China this week in Kunming, a Chinese provincial capital around 250 miles from the border with Myanmar. AP News reports.
The Russian foreign ministry today called a U.S. plan to confiscate up to $300 billion in frozen Russian assets to assist rebuilding Ukraine a “21st century piracy,” saying“retaliatory measures will be taken” if the plan goes ahead. Reuters reports.
Japan launched a rocket carrying a government intelligence-gathering satellite today in a bid to track movements at military sites in North Korea and improve responses to natural disasters. The launch is part of Japan’s effort to strengthen its military capabilities as Tokyo moves away from the country’s exclusive self-defense-only postwar principle, citing rapid weapons advancements in China and North Korea. Mari Yamaguchi reports for AP News.
Taiwan will hold final pre-election rallies today ahead of tomorrow’s critical presidential and parliamentary votes, as China’s defense ministry warns it will “smash any Taiwan independence plots.” China has criticized the United States for “brazen chattering” over Washington’s warnings to Beijing not to interfere with the election. Ben Blanchard and Fabian Hamacher report for Reuters.
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters protested outside Poland’s parliament yesterday against the new government’s imprisonment of two former ministers convicted of abuse of power. The march highlights growing tensions in the country over attempts by the new pro-EU coalition government led by Donald Tusk to reverse the previous administration. Marek Strzelecki and Justyna Pawlak reports for Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday ruled out a ceasefire with Russia, saying it would allow Moscow to rearm and regroup. “A pause on the Ukrainian battlefield will not mean a pause in the war. A pause would play into (Russia’s) hands,” he said. Limited ceasefires have been occasionally proposed since Russia launched a full-scale war in February 2022 but have never gained traction. Harriet Morris and Illia Novikov report for AP News.
Ukraine’s parliament has refused to consider a conscription bill proposing a crackdown on draft dodgers, with MPs arguing punitive measures such as limiting their rights to own property and freely use personal money were unconstitutional. The move deals a blow to Kyiv as it continues to face soldier shortages on the battlefield. Abdujalil Abdurasulov and Megan Fisher report for BBC News.
The United Kingdom will provide £2.5 billion of military aid to Ukraine over the coming year, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced today, marking Britain’s largest annual commitment to Kyiv since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022. Sunak made the announcement during a visit to Ukraine, where he will sign a new agreement supporting its long-term security. James Landale reports for BBC News.
Former Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev, a senior ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, warned yesterday that any Ukrainian attacks on missile launch sites inside Russia with U.S. and ally-supplied arms would risk a nuclear response from Moscow. Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said, “they risk running into the action of paragraph 19 of the fundamentals of Russia’s state policy,” referencing Russia’s 2020 nuclear doctrine which deals with a nuclear response to a conventional weapons attack. Reuters reports.
Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty yesterday to nine tax-related charges in a federal court in California, marking the second set of charges Biden has been arraigned on in recent months. In addition to federal tax and gun charges, Biden may face the prospect of contempt of Congress charges for defying a subpoena issued by House Republicans. April Rubin reports for Axios.
New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron received a bomb threat to his home early yesterday, hours before closing arguments were due to begin in former President Trump’s civil fraud trial, according to a court spokesperson. Amy Wang and Shayna Jacobs report for the Washington Post.
A group of six Jewish students filed a lawsuit against Harvard University on Wednesday, saying they felt unsafe on campus because the school did not punish antisemitic protesters and faculty members. The lawsuit follows the resignation of Harvard’s former president, Claudine Gay, in part over criticism for failing to initially condemn Hamas after its Oct. 7 attacks. Alyssa Lukpat reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Barred from making formal closing arguments, former President Trump nevertheless seized an opportunity to speak in court at the conclusion of his New York civil fraud trial in defiance, unleashing a “barrage of attacks” before being cut off. Trump also brushed past a question by Judge Engoron about whether he would follow rules requiring him to only remark on trial-related matters. Michael R. Sisak and Jennifer Peltz report for AP News.