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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday rebuffed U.S. calls for a post-war peace process that would lead to Palestinian statehood, “in any arrangement in the foreseeable future — with an arrangement or without one — Israel must have security control over all the territory west of the Jordan,” he said. “This clashes with the idea of sovereignty. What can you do?” Netanyahu added, “I told this truth to our friends, the Americans, and I also blocked the attempt to impose a reality that would harm Israel’s security.” Aaron Boxerman reports for the New York Times.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog outlined a broad vision for the Middle East after the Gaza war, including rebuilding the territory, promoting dialogue between Israel and Palestinians, and normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia. Cristiana Moisescu reports for CNN.
A member of Israel’s war cabinet criticized the prime minister and urged a longer ceasefire with Hamas while stating that Israel had yet to fully realize its military objectives in Gaza, exposing the deep internal divisions in the government. Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said that Netanyahu carries “sharp and clear” responsibility for Israel’s failure to protect citizens on Oct. 7 and that Israel’s leaders must define a vision for how to wind down the war. Nadav Gavrielov, Aaron Boxerman, and Adam Rasgon report for the New York Times.
Some residents in the northern Gaza Strip say they can walk through their neighborhoods more freely and that gunfire and explosions are becoming less frequent, the latest sign that Israel is scaling back the intensity of its military campaign in the area. Adam Rasgon and Aaron Boxerman report for the New York Times.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) severely damaged a cemetery in Khan Younis in southern Gaza this week, exhuming bodies in what they said was part of a search for the remains of hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attacks. Ivana Kottasová, Ibrahim Dahman, Benjamin Brown, Jeremy Diamond, and Muhammad Darwish report for CNN.
Israel says its troops have reached the southernmost area of Khan Younis as they expand operations in the Gaza Strip’s second largest city. The military added that dozens of Hamas fighters had been killed in “close quarter combat.” David Gritten reports for BBC News.
A near-total communications blackout in Gaza has now lasted one week with no signs of abating. A U.N. official said it is “almost impossible” to carry out humanitarian work and emergency services in the territory. Mick Krever, Sana Noor Haq, Eyad Kourdi and Celine Alkhaldi report for CNN.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — REGIONAL RESPONSE
The Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States said at the World Economic Forum yesterday that any future normalization agreement with Israel would be conditioned on a ceasefire in Gaza and the creation of a pathway toward Palestinian statehood. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
Mexico and Chile expressed concerns yesterday over “an escalation of violence” after several months of war between Israel and Hamas in a referral submitted to the International Criminal Court over possible war crimes. Mexico’s foreign ministry said the ICC was the best forum to establish responsibility “whether committed by agents of the occupying power or the occupied power.” Kylie Madry reports for Reuters.
European lawmakers adopted a resolution yesterday calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas, on the condition that Hamas be dismantled and all hostages it holds be released. The resolution is non-binding, but highly symbolic. European lawmakers also called for the revival of a two-state solution and the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. AP News reports.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — U.S. RESPONSE
Netanyahu’s comments apparently rejecting a Palestinian state contradict President Biden’s stated position, who has long advocated for a two-state solution. U.S. officials said yesterday that Israel’s apparent dismissal of the idea would not deter them from pressing their Israeli counterparts on the matter. A senior administration official added that Netanyahu has reversed on his hardline positions before, and that his statement Thursday was not necessarily final. Kevin Liptak, Lauren Izso, Jennifer Hansler, Jorge Engels, and Sugam Pokharel report for CNN.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby reacted to Netanyahu’s comments yesterday, saying, “We believe that the Palestinians have every right to live in an independent state with peace and security. And the President and his team is going to continue to work on that.”
There is “no way to solve [Israel’s] long-term challenges to provide lasting security, and there is no way to solve the short-term challenges of rebuilding Gaza and establishing governance in Gaza, and providing security for Gaza, without the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Matthew Miller said at a news briefing yesterday. Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk report for Reuters.
Families of Americans thought to still be held in Gaza met with the U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan yesterday to discuss negotiations for the hostages’ release, according to a Biden administration official and the father of one of the hostages. There are six remaining American hostages, all of whom are men, and three of whom were serving in the Israeli military when they were kidnapped. Gaya Gupta reports for the New York Times.
Pakistan launched airstrikes against alleged militant hideouts inside Iran yesterday, killing at least nine people as it responded to a similar attack this week by Iran. Munir Ahmed and Jon Gambrell report for AP News.
MILITARY CONFLICT WITH HOUTHIS
The Houthis launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles at a U.S.-owned tanker ship yesterday, U.S. Central Command said, the third such attack in three days. No injuries or damage was reported. The attack followed the U.S. military launching a fifth round of strikes against the group in Yemen in response to attacks in the Red Sea. Yuliya Talmazan reports for NBC News.
President Biden said yesterday that the U.S.-led coalition strikes on the Houthis have not deterred the militant group’s campaign in the Red Sea. “Well, when you say working are they stopping the Houthis? No,” the president said. “Are they gonna continue? Yes.” The Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary added, “We are not at war with the Houthis. Actions we are taking are defensive in nature.” Max Matza reports for BBC News.
Houthi rebels will allow safe passage to Chinese and Russian ships in the Red Sea, a spokesperson for the group told Russian media yesterday, as they continue attacks against commercial vessels in response to Israel’s war in Gaza. Mariya Knight reports for CNN.
North Korea has conducted a test of its underwater nuclear weapons system in a protest against this week’s joint U.S., South Korean, and Japanese military drills, state media KCNA reported today. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
NATO is launching its largest exercise since the Cold War, rehearsing how U.S. troops could support European allies bordering Russia if a conflict were to flare with a “near-peer” adversary. A total of 90,000 troops are due to join the drills that will last through May. NATO did not mention Russia by name, but its strategic document identifies Russia as its most significant threat to its members’ security. Reuters reports.
North Korea’s foreign minister returned from Russia today after a rare official visit and meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, KCNA media reported, without stating the purpose of the meetings held. Reuters reports.
Polish MPs have voted to revoke a far-right ultra-nationalist politician’s parliamentary immunity from prosecution after he doused candles lit in celebration of Hanukkah last month and called the Jewish festival “satanic.” Prosecutors say they plan to bring several charges against the MP, Grzegorz Braun. George Wright reports for BBC News.
The United States and Japan are seeking to make a deal for Japanese shipyards to maintain and overhaul the U.S. Navy warships so they can remain in Asian waters in readiness for potential conflict, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan said today. John Geddie and Tim Kelly report for Reuters.
President Biden met with House and Senate lawmakers at the White House on Wednesday to discuss what is at stake in continued U.S. support for Ukraine, including specific capabilities that Ukraine would run out of in the coming months. According to a White House official familiar with the meeting, Biden also warned that if the Russia-Ukraine war expands into NATO territory, then the United States would have to get directly involved in the conflict. Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand, Haley Britzky, and MJ Lee report for CNN.
France denied Russian claims that there were French mercenaries in Ukraine, responding to a statement by Russia’s defense ministry earlier this week that Russia killed French mercenaries in Kharkiv. “France helps Ukraine with supplies of military material and military training, in full compliance with international law … France has no mercenaries, neither in Ukraine nor elsewhere,” the French foreign ministry said. Reuters reports.
The Indiana House of Representatives passed a unanimous bill yesterday that defines antisemitism as religious discrimination in the state education code. The bill’s language currently says antisemitism “does not include criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country.” Meanwhile, critics of the bill worry it will be used to silence support for Palestinians in the wake of the war. Isabella Volmert reports for AP News.
Hunter Biden will appear before the Republican-led House Oversight and Judiciary Committee for a deposition on Feb. 28 as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Biden, the panels’ chairs announced in a post on X yesterday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was requested to testify before Congress about not immediately disclosing his recent hospitalization to the White House. House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ohio) said in a letter to Austin yesterday that the secretary’s “unwillingness to provide candid and complete answers” meant his testimony is required at a Feb. 14 hearing. Rebecca Falconer reports for Axios.
Congress has passed legislation to fund the government until early March, a move that avoids a partial government shutdown. The extension passed easily through the House in a 314 to 108 vote. Sam Cabral reports for BBC News.
The Justice Department wants former President Trump’s White House adviser Peter Navarro to serve a six-month prison term after being convicted of criminal contempt of Congress for ignoring a subpoena. “The Defendant chose allegiance to former President Donald Trump over the rule of law,” prosecutors wrote in yesterday’s sentencing memo. Megan Lebowitz reports for NBC News.
Former President Trump filed a brief at the Supreme Court yesterday challenging a decision by Colorado’s highest court to remove him from the state’s 2024 ballot. Trump said in the court filing that “chaos and bedlam” would ensue if other states followed Colorado’s decision. Meanwhile, a group of Republican lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) signed onto another Supreme Court brief also arguing against Colorado’s decision. Sareen Habeshian reports for Axios.