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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
President Biden said he has decided how the United States will respond to the drone strike on Sunday that killed three U.S. troops and wounded 34 others in Jordan. Biden added, “I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East.” When asked if Iran should be blamed, he said that he “hold[s] them responsible in the sense that they’re supplying weapons to the people who did it.” Meanwhile, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Washington may take a “tiered approach.” “The guiding principle is making sure that we continue to degrade the kinds of capabilities that these groups have at their disposal to use against our troops and our facilities,” Kirby said. “The president will do what he has to do to protect our troops and our facilities and to look after our national security.” Madeline Halpert reports for BBC News.
The Iran-backed militia group Ketaib Hezbollah, which took responsibility for Sunday’s drone attack, said it has suspended operations against U.S. forces. “As we announce the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces – in order to prevent embarrassment of the Iraqi government – we will continue to defend our people in Gaza in other ways,” a statement by the group said today. Max Matza reports for BBC News.
Iran will respond to any threat from the United States, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ chief said today. “We hear threats coming from American officials, we tell them that they have already tested us and we now know one another, no threat will be left unanswered,” Hossein Salami said, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Reuters reports.
MILITARY CONFLICT WITH HOUTHIS
The U.S. Central Command said it shot down an anti-ship cruise missile fired by Houthi militants yesterday from areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea. No injuries or damage was reported.
The Houthi group said today it would continue attacks on the U.S. and British warships in the Red Sea in what it called acts of self-defense, raising fears of continued disruption to world trade. In a statement, the group’s military spokesperson said all U.S and British warships participating in “aggression” against its country were targets. The Houthis say they will persist with their military operations until there is a ceasefire in Gaza and food and medicine is allowed into the enclave. Jane Choukeir and Nadine Awadalla report for Reuters.
E.U. member states want to launch a Red Sea mission by mid-February to protect ships from Houthi attacks, with states possibly deciding the command structure today, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. Borrell added the aim for today is to pick a lead nation and outline where the mission would be headquartered, who would participate, and with what assets. “Not all member states will be willing to participate but no one will obstruct … I hope that on the 17th of this month [February] the mission can be launched,” he said. France, Greece and Italy have shown interest in leading the mission, with seven countries indicating they would be willing to send naval assets, diplomats said. Andrew Gray reports for Reuters.
Hamas’ political chief said yesterday that the group was considering a proposal to pause the fighting in Gaza in exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners. Ismail Haniye suggested his openness to a deal in a statement, but reiterated long standing demands for the total withdrawal of Israel from Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to immediately push back on the statement, saying, “We will not compromise on anything less than total victory.” It was unclear whether the two leaders’ comments were attempts to stake out negotiating positions or appeal to their domestic constituencies. Adam Rasgon, Hwaida Saad, and Anushka Patil report for the New York Times.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said yesterday they have begun pumping water into the tunnel network beneath Gaza which Hamas used to launch attacks, store weapons, and hold Israeli hostages. The statement marks the military’s first public acknowledgement that it is flooding the tunnels, a contentious strategy some officials say is ineffective and that the U.N. has warned could damage Gaza’s fragile water and sewage infrastructure. Ronen Bergman reports for the New York Times.
Netanyahu’s government does not support the immediate discontinuation of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), a senior Israeli official said yesterday, as several Western states suspend funding for the agency amid allegations that some of its employees took part in the Oct. 7 attacks. “If UNRWA ceases operating on the ground, this could cause a humanitarian catastrophe that would force Israel to halt its fighting against Hamas,” a senior Israeli official said. The official clarified that the government supports the countries’ decision to suspend funding and that every UNRWA staffer “involved in terror activity must be held accountable.” Jacob Magid reports for the Times of Israel.
Israeli tanks fired live ammunition and smoke grenades after entering the Al Amal hospital complex in Khan Younis where more than 8,000 people are sheltering, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said yesterday. The PRCS added that fire from Israeli tanks yesterday killed one displaced woman and injured nine others. Kareem Khadder, Tim Lister, and Richard Greene report for CNN.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was able to reach Nasser hospital in Khan Younis and “deliver essential medical supplies for 1000 patients” on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said. He added in a post on X that, “within a week Nasser has gone from partially to minimally functional.” Niamh Kennedy reports for CNN.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — REGIONAL RESPONSE
The IDF said fighter jets carried out strikes against Syrian Army positions in southern Syria overnight in response to a rocket attack on the Golan Heights launched from Syria last night. The IDF added that several projectiles were fired from Lebanon at the Kfar Yuval and Menara areas, and said it carried out artillery shelling against southern Lebanon, apparently to foil planned Hezbollah attacks. Emanuel Fabian reports for the Times of Israel.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
Norway, a top donor to UNRWA, is urging countries that have cut funding to the agency to consider the consequences of their actions on the population in Gaza, its foreign minister said today. “UNRWA is a vital lifeline for 1.5 million refugees in Gaza. Now more than ever, the agency needs international support,” Espen Barth Eide said. “To avoid collectively punishing millions of people, we need to distinguish between what individuals may have done and what UNRWA stands for.” Gladwys Fouche reports for Reuters.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — U.S. RESPONSE
The Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer is expected to meet with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and other senior Biden administration officials in Washington today for talks on Israel’s plan for the day the fighting ends, according to two sources briefed on the matter. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
The United States will initially suspend $300,000 in funds from the UNRWA, the State Department said today. The Biden administration has not said when the U.S. may resume funding. State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said, “We’ve seen the initial steps to accountability and that UNRWA has fired eight of the employees and suspended two others while they conduct the investigation,” Miller said. “We are engaging with UNRWA, we are engaging with the United Nations about what those steps ought to look like.” Abigail Williams reports for NBC News.
Pakistan and Iran said they respected each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and will expand security cooperation in a bid to mend relations after exchanging missile strikes at what they said were militant targets. Foreign ministers of both countries held talks in the Pakistani capital. Pakistan’s caretaker foreign minister Jalil Abbas Jilani said, “All these channels [of communication] were operational and we were able to bring whatever issue or misunderstanding that had been created between our two countries, we were able to resolve it fairly quickly.” NBC News reports.
Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan was sentenced to prison for the second time in 24 hours today, this time for 14 years for corruption, just days before Pakistan’s general election. Khan has been in prison since August and was sentenced to 10 years yesterday for exposing official secrets. Khan’s party said both decisions will be appealed. Shaiq Hussain and Rick Noack report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. government launched an operation in recent months to fight Volt Typhoon, a Chinese hacking campaign that successfully compromised thousands of internet devices, two Western security officials and one person familiar with the matter said. The sources said the Justice Department and FBI received legal authorization to remotely disable parts of the Chinese hacking campaign. Christopher Bing and Karen Freifeld report for Reuters.
Militants in eastern Congo killed at least 12 villagers in a spate of attacks yesterday, a local official and civil society leader said. The killings were carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, armed militants believed to be linked to the self-styled Islamic State militant group. Jean-Yves Kamale reports for AP News.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sacked the deputy director of the national intelligence agency and four department heads as investigations continue into claims the agency, Abin, spied on ex-president Jair Bolsonaro’s enemies. The deputy, Alessandro Moretti, is accused of passing information to a former Abin boss who is a politician for Bolsonaro’s party. The scandal first broke on Thursday when Brazil’s Supreme Court unsealed documents accusing Abin of carrying out surveillance on key political and judicial figures who were critical of the former president. BBC News reports.
A wealthy Myanmar arms broker who was sanctioned by the United States last year and holds close ties to the leader of Myanmar’s military regime was acquitted yesterday by a Bangkok court on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. Richard C. Paddock and Mukita Suhartono report for the New York Times.
A Thai court today ordered the country’s most popular political party to end its campaign to change the country’s notoriously strict royal defamation law, dashing its supporters’ hopes for reform. The court ruled the campaign violated the constitution and sought to overthrow the constitutional monarchy. Helen Regan and Kocha Olarn report for CNN.
The E.U. envoy for the Western Balkans yesterday urged Kosovo and Serbia to push ahead with normalization talks ahead of the June European elections. AP News reports.
The Spanish congress has blocked a controversial amnesty law that aimed to benefit Catalan nationalists involved in separatist activities. The Together for Catalonia (JxCat) party voted against it over their concerns that the legislation did not go far enough in providing protection for politicians being investigated for terror-related crimes. Guy Hedgecoe reports for BBC News.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) plans to rule today (at 3pm local time; 9am ET) on Ukraine’s allegations that Russia financed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine responsible for shooting down a passenger plane nearly a decade ago and that Moscow has discriminated against Crimea’s multiethnic community since it annexed the peninsula. The ruling is the first of two decisions expected by the ICJ linked to the decade-long conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Mike Corder reports for AP News.
The war in Ukraine has “quietly corroded” the power of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the CIA Director, William Burns, wrote yesterday. While Putin’s hold on power is unlikely to weaken soon, Burns wrote, disaffection has “gnawed away at the Russian leadership and the Russian people” which “create[s] a once-in-a-generation recruiting opportunity for the CIA. We are not letting it go to waste.” Julian E. Barnes reports for the New York Times.
U.K. lawmakers expressed frustration today that funds from the sale of the Chelsea soccer club have not yet been used to support Ukrainian war victims, as had been promised by the former owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, nearly two years ago. Emma Burrows reports for AP News.
Democratic House member Cori Bush (D-MO) is under federal investigation for allegedly using campaign finances improperly on security services. Bush is accused of hiring and paying her husband as part of the security detail. Bush said today she is cooperating with the investigation and denied the allegations. “I have not used any federal tax dollars for personal security services,” she said, adding that the Office of Congressional Ethics has investigated the allegations and concluded that both her and her husband provided “bona fide” security work which did not appear overpaid. Nadine Yousif reports for BBC News.
Lawmakers have progressed toward the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his handling of the U.S.-Mexico border. All Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee were in favor of the vote yesterday, while all Democrats on the committee voted against it. Mayorkas did not attend the vote and instead released a seven-page letter yesterday in which he said “false accusations do not rattle me” and outlined the steps taken by the Biden administration to enforce U.S. laws at the border. “The problems with our broken and outdated immigration system are not new,” Myorkas said. Bernd Debusmann Jr. reports for BBC News.