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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the weekend. Here’s today’s news
President Biden has ordered a further response to the killings of three U.S. personnel by Iran-backed militias, top U.S. national security officials said yesterday. “The president was clear when he ordered them and when he conducted them that that was the beginning of our response and there will be more steps to come,” U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, adding he did not want to “telegraph our punches” by revealing further details. Michael D. Shear reports for the New York Times.
The United States destroyed or damaged 84 out of 85 targets in its airstrikes on Friday in Syria and Iraq, according to two U.S. defense officials, with no indication of Iranian casualties. The strikes marked the first time Washington carried out strikes on both countries simultaneously, with the director of Joint Chiefs of Staff saying the targets were chosen “with an idea that there would likely be casualties associated with people inside those facilities.” Oren Liebermann and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
MILITARY CONFLICT WITH HOUTHIS
The U.S. military carried out further strikes against the Houthis overnight, U.S. Central Command said in a statement, saying its forces struck a land-attack cruise missile and four anti-ship missiles that “were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.” It marks the second round of attacks in Yemen over the weekend after the United States and the United Kingdom jointly launched similar air strikes on Saturday. In response to Saturday’s attack, the group’s military spokesperson Yahya Sarea wrote on X, “These attacks will not deter us from our moral, religious, and humanitarian stance in support of the resilient Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and will not go unanswered or unpunished.” BBC News reports.
Italy will become a target if it participates in attacks against Yemen, a senior Houthi official said today, following Italy’s announcement Friday that it would provide the admiral in command of an E.U. Red Sea naval mission it has joined to protect ships from Houthi attacks. The mission, which will be launched mid-February, will be mandated to protect commercial ships and intercept attacks, but it will not take part in striking the Houthis, E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. Reuters reports.
Hamas is still weighing a proposal to pause fighting in Gaza and release Israeli hostages, a broadcaster affiliated with Hamas, Al Aqsa, said yesterday. Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that “the ball is in Hamas’s court.” “We’re going to press for it relentlessly, as the president has done, including recently in calls with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, the two countries that are our central brokers in this effort,” Sullivan said. Aaron Boxerman and Michael D. Shear report for the New York Times.
Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has said he would oppose any deal with Hamas that would release thousands of Palestinians detained for terrorism or end the war before Hamas was fully defeated.Ben-Gvir holds enough support in the ruling coalition to undermine Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule, and said he is willing to use it. Ben-Gvir also said his plan is to “encourage Gazans to voluntarily emigrate to places around the world” by offering cash incentives and criticized the Biden administration for hampering Israel’s war effort against Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel’s war Cabinet minister Benny Gantz said that Ben-Gvir’s comments “harm the strategic relations of the State of Israel, the security of the state and the current war effort.” Dov Lieber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
At least 27,365 people have been killed and 66,630 others injured in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Mohammad Al-Sawalhi, Abeer Salman, Amir Tal, and Eyad Kourdi report for CNN.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
Canada will impose sanctions on Israeli settlers who incite violence in the West Bank and introduce new sanctions on Hamas leaders, Foreign Minister Melani Joly announced yesterday. The decision follows similar actions taken by the United States last week. Reuters reports.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — U.S. RESPONSE
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to arrive in the Middle East on his fifth tour of the region since October, where he is expected to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank over the next five days. Blinken stated ahead of the trip that the humanitarian situation in Gaza must be “urgently” addressed. BBC News reports.
Chinese authorities issued a suspended death sentence today for Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who has been held in China for over five years on charges of espionage. The sentencing follows a closed-door trial in 2021 where details of Yang’s charges were never released. The case highlights the lack of transparency in China’s legal system and jeopardizes a tenuous rapprochement between China and Australia. Lily Kuo and Michael E. Miller report for the Washington Post.
Hackers operating in China made unsuccessful attempts to infiltrate the websites and email systems of the Philippine’s president and government agencies, including one promoting maritime security, an official of the Department of Information and Communications Technology said. “We are not attributing this to any state. But using the internet protocol addresses, we pinpointed it to China,” the spokesperson said, adding the hackers were traced to be using the services of Chinese state-owned Unicom. “We are appealing to the Chinese government to help us prevent further attacks.” Reuters reports.
France will summon Russia’s ambassador today in response to the deaths of two French humanitarian workers following a Russian strike in Ukraine and what Paris said was an increase in Russian disinformation, a French diplomatic source said. Two French volunteer aid workers were killed and three others were wounded in a Russian drone attack in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on Feb. 1, which Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne condemned as an act of “barbarity.” Reuters reports.
President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador said he has been re-elected with 85% of the vote, although this is yet to be confirmed. Bukele was permitted to stand for a second term by the constitutional court, and his popularity has increased following cracking down on crime in his country that has significantly improved the country’s security situation. BBC News reports.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said today it detected nine Chinese military aircraft crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait and carrying out “joint combat readiness patrols” with Chinese warships. Reuters reports.
A senior U.S. State Department official urged Papua New Guinea to reject China’s offer of a potential security pact and warned that any security guarantee with Beijing comes with costs and consequences. Reuters reports.
Namibia announced a new President Nagolo Mbumba just hours after his predecessor Hage Geingob died yesterday. Mbumba is the former vice-president and will serve the role until elections take place later this year. Wycliffe Muia and Damian Zane report for BBC News.
Zimbabwe’s governing Zanu-PF party won all six of Saturday’s parliamentary by-elections and now holds a two-thirds majority in parliament. The victory gives President Emmerson Mnangagwa the power to change key provisions in the constitution. BBC News reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said yesterday he was considering a “reset” to replace multiple senior officials following speculation that the president was about to dismiss the highly popular commander Valeriy Zaluzhnyi. Zelensky said any changes would go beyond replacing a single person. “When I speak of turnover, I have in mind something serious that does not concern a single person, but the direction of the country’s leadership … I am talking about a replacement of a number of state leaders, not only in the army sector,” Zelenskyy said. Reuters reports.
Senate negotiators unveiled yesterday a long-sought bipartisan bill to secure the U.S.-Mexico border migration and unlock aid to Ukraine. The deal, totaling $118 billion, includes provisions to raise standards for asylum screening and accelerate claims processing, end the practice of “catch and release,” and provide a new authority to close the border to most migrants when crossings reach a set threshold. It also includes funds for Israel and Ukraine aid, and a provision for a pathway to permanent legal status for Afghan nationals who assisted U.S. troops. Al Weaver reports for The Hill.
Mike Gill, the former Trump administration official who was shot during a carjacking spree in Washington, D.C. died on Saturday. Gill, formerly employed at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission during Trump’s tenure, was shot last Monday. The attacker was shot dead by police last Tuesday, the Attorney General said in a statement. Rebecca Cohen reports for NBC News.