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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
The United States yesterday attributed the drone attack that killed three U.S. personnel and wounded at least 40 in Jordan on Sunday to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a broad umbrella group of Iran-backed militias. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said yesterday that Washington believes the attack was planned and facilitated by the Islamic Resistance group, adding that President Biden is continuing to weigh response options but “the first thing you see won’t be the last thing … it won’t be a one off.” A U.S. official said Iranian assets outside of Iran could also be targets, with most strikes inside Syria. Meanwhile, Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. warned yesterday that Tehran would “decisively respond” to any U.S. attack on it after the United States said it holds Tehran responsible. POLITICO reports.
U.S. officials believe there are signs that Iranian leadership is worried about the actions of its proxy groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, according to multiple people familiar with U.S. intelligence, as acts from militia groups threaten to disrupt the global economy and risk direct confrontation with the United States. U.S. intelligence also suggests that Iran is concerned the Houthi attacks could upset economic relations with China and India, key Iranian allies. Officials cautioned that there is no sense that Iran’s wariness will change its strategy of supporting proxy attacks on U.S. and Western targets, although it could signal minor adjustments. Natasha Bertrand and Katie Bo Lillis report for CNN.
MILITARY CONFLICT WITH HOUTHIS
The Houthis said they struck a U.S. merchant ship in the Red Sea yesterday that had been heading to “the ports of occupied Palestine,” a phrase sometimes used to refer to Israel, but two maritime sources said the claim was fake. There has also been no update from the U.K. Maritime Trade Operations, which usually sends alerts following such attacks. Patrick Jackson reports for BBC News.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday “It’s time that the international community and the UN itself understand that UNRWA’s mission has to end. There are other agencies in the UN. There are other agencies in the world. They have to replace UNRWA.” He continued, “UNRWA is totally infiltrated with Hamas. It has been in the service of Hamas and its schools, and in many other things. I say this with great regret because we hoped that there would be an objective and constructive body to offer aid.”
The U.N. humanitarian affairs chief appealed to nations yesterday to resume funding for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). The “lifesaving services” UNRWA provides “to over three-quarters of Gaza’s residents should not be jeopardized by the alleged actions of a few individuals,” Martin Griffiths told the Security Council. “It is a matter of extraordinary disproportion.” He added, “Our humanitarian response for the occupied Palestinian territory is dependent, completely dependent, on UNRWA being adequately funded and operational.” Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are demanding an investigation after 30 bodies were reportedly discovered under a school in northern Gaza. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry in the West Bank also called “for the formation of an international field investigation team” into what it described as “the massacres committed by the occupation,” alleging that according to civilian testimonies, “they were killed, seemingly executed, while blindfolded and their hands shackled.” Kareem Khadder, Ibrahim Dahman, Katie Polglase and Tim Lister report for CNN.
More than 100 Palestinian detainees who had been held in Israel have been released and entered Gaza early today, the Gaza Crossings Authority said. The 114 detainees, which included four women, were released through the Kerem Shalom crossing. Ibrahim Dahman and Tim Lister report for CNN.
Israeli forces have left the grounds of Al Amal hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza two days after entering the hospital complex, the Palestine Red Crescent said today. Ibrahim Dahman and Amir Tal report for CNN.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — REGIONAL RESPONSE
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps reduced the deployment of their senior officers in Syria due to a spate of fatal Israeli strikes, and will instead draw on allied Shi’ite militia to preserve their sway, five sources familiar with the matter said. Since December, Israeli strikes have killed more than half a dozen of its members. Reuters reports.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
South Africa denied claims that the ruling ANC party received funding from Iran to file its case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). At a press briefing yesterday, foreign minister Naledi Pandor called the allegations a counter-offensive by Israel and its allies, echoing earlier comments by President Cyril Ramaphosa that South Africa could face retaliation for pursuing legal action against Israel. BBC News reports.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — U.S. RESPONSE
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked the State Department to review and present policy options on possible U.S. and international recognition of a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza, according to two U.S. officials briefed on the matter. A senior U.S. official added that the Biden administration is linking a possible normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia to the creation of a pathway to establish a Palestinian state as part of its post-war strategy. Saudi officials have previously said that any potential normalization agreement would be conditioned on the creation of an “irrevocable” pathway toward a Palestinian state. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
Blinken said yesterday the U.N.’s humanitarian work in Gaza is “absolutely vital” while calling for an investigation into the allegations that some UNRWA staff played a role in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. In remarks alongside UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag, Blinken said “her mission now could not be more vital” and “We strongly and fully support it. We’ll be working very closely with Sigrid, with Israel, with Egypt, with other concerned parties to in the first instance maximize the assistance getting in, but not only getting into Gaza, getting to people who need it within Gaza, including in the north.” Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
A federal judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit by Palestinian Americans who sought to force Washington to withdraw support for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, as was widely expected based on constitutional precedent that only the political branches of U.S. government may determine foreign policy. However, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White wrote he would have preferred to issue the injunction if he were not limited by the Constitution, and implored the Biden administration to “examine the results of their unflagging support” of Israel. “As the ICJ has found, it is plausible that Israel’s conduct amounts to Genocide,” the opinion states. Shawn Hubler reports for the New York Times.
A group of U.S. citizens filed a federal lawsuit yesterday charging that the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks were “masterminded and funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Among the 67 plaintiffs are former hostages and people injured from the attacks, as well as family members of those killed. The lawsuit says, “Iran bears direct responsibility” for the Oct. 7 attacks. Diana Dasrath and Corky Siemaszko report for NBC News.
The Chicago City Council voted yesterday to approve a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war, making it the largest City in the United States to do so. The vote was 23-23 with Mayor Brandon Johnson breaking the tie. Colbi Edmonds reports for the New York Times.
The United States Treasury yesterday imposed sanctions on three Sudanese companies it says are funding the civil war in the country. Two of the companies are controlled by the Rapid Support Forces, while the third is a company linked to the Sudanese Army. Meanwhile, senior leaders from the warring parties reportedly met three times this month in Bahrain for the first time in the nine-month conflict, sources with knowledge of the talks said. Khalid Abdelaziz reports for Reuters.
U.S. authorities charged four Chinese nationals with crimes relating to the smuggling of U.S.-made electronic components to Iran, including some with possible military use, the Justice Department has confirmed. The Chinese nationals are accused of moving the items to sanctioned entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its defense ministry. The charges follow Washington adding over a dozen Chinese companies yesterday to a list created by the Defense Department to highlight firms allegedly working with Beijing’s military. A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington said the move was an abuse of state power and urged the United States to “immediately rectify” the “discriminatory practices.” Idrees Ali, Alexandra Alper, and Michael Martina reports for Reuters.
A North Korean delegation will visit the lower house of Russia’s parliament on Feb. 13, the state news agency RIA said today. Reuters reports.
India’s financial crime agency has arrested Hemant Soren, a top leader of the opposition Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) party, on accusations of corruption. Soren has challenged the arrest and said it was politically motivated, and India’s Supreme Court will hear the case tomorrow. The case relates to Soren’s allegedly buying a piece of land through “proceeds of crime” by illegally selling land owned by the Indian army. Soren denies the charge and said he does not own the property. BBC News reports.
Burkina Faso’s military-backed president said the Russian military could be deployed to fight jihadists if needed. Ibrahim Traoré said Russia is offering training and is willing to sell whatever weapons are required, adding there are no restrictions on what can be bought from Russia, China, Turkey, or Iran. His comments come amid reports that at least 100 Russian fighters were sent to the African country as military instructors last week. BBC News reports.
The International Court of Justice found that Russia violated elements of the U.N. anti-terrorism treaty, but declined to rule in favor of several other Ukrainian allegations including that Moscow was responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight in 2014. The judges also found that Russia had breached an anti-discrimination treaty by failing to support the Ukrainian language education program in Crimea after its 2014 annexation of the peninsula, but rejected several other claims raised by Ukraine under the human rights treaty. The court ordered Russia to comply with the treaties but rejected Ukraine’s request to order reparations for both violations, in a legal setback for Kyiv. Stephanie van den Berg reports for Reuters.
All 27 European leaders agreed to a $55 billion aid package for Ukraine, the European Council President Charles Michel said today. Michel said the agreement “locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine.” BBC News reports.
Russia and Ukraine said they exchanged 195 captured soldiers each, the first swap since the crash of a Russian plane that Moscow claimed had 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war on board. Jaroslav Lukiv and Sarah Rainsford report for BBC News.
Russian investigators said today that they have evidence proving Ukraine’s military shot down the Russian plane with U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles, saying they inspected fragments seized from the scene. Kyiv has neither confirmed nor denied that it downed the plane, but has challenged details of Moscow’s account and called for an international investigation. Reuters reports.
The E.U. will provide only half of the promised 1 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine by March but vowed to send 1.1. million shells by the end of 2024. E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told reporters yesterday after an informal meeting of member-states defense ministers in Brussels, “This is a work in progress, the whole machinery is working and member states are passing commands. Every day, it keeps evolving and increasing.” POLITICO reports.
Former President Trump’s attempt to bring a case in the United Kingdom against a former MI6 officer who wrote a dossier in 2016 linking him to Russia has failed. Trump argued the dossier breached his data protection rights and that the allegations were inaccurate, but a ruling today by the High Court in London threw out the case. Justice Steyn DBE said she did not make any judgment on the allegations themselves, but found the case had not been brought within the six-year limitation period. “There are no compelling reasons to allow the claim to proceed to trial,” she wrote. Gordon Carera reports for BBC News.