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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news
A drone attack on the largest U.S. military base in Syria yesterday killed at least six allied Kurdish-led fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said, accusing Iran-backed militias of launching the drone from a nearby area under Syrian government control. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an Iran-backed militia umbrella group, said it carried out a drone attack on Sunday “against the US occupation base in al-Omar oil field.” There were no reports by the U.S. military of casualties or damages. David Gritten reports for BBC News.
Russia accused the United States yesterday of aggression against Iraq and Syria aimed at maintaining its global dominance and salvaging the Biden administration’s “image” ahead of the U.S. elections. Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia accused Washington of violating international law and sowing “chaos and destruction” in the Middle East. In response, the United States said its military actions against unjustified attacks by Iran-backed proxies are legal and will continue. The exchange came at a Security Council meeting where both countries said they do not want a spillover of the war in Gaza. Russia Edith M. Lederer reports for AP News.
U.S. officials said yesterday that Iraq was not notified ahead of a series of strikes on Iran-linked targets in the country, contradicting earlier statements that the Iraqi government was warned before the strikes occurred.National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed he misspoke when he said on Friday that Washington informed the Iraqi government prior to the strikes. Jennifer Hansler, Haley Britzky and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
MILITARY CONFLICT WITH HOUTHIS
A ship traveling through the southern Red Sea was attacked by a suspected Houthi drone early today, causing “slight damage” to the vessel, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said. The private security firm Ambrey identified the vessel as a Barbados-flagged, United Kingdom-owned cargo ship. No injuries or casualties were reported. The attack is the latest assault in the Houthis’ campaign targeting commercial vessels over Israel’s war in Gaza. Jon Gambrell reports for AP News.
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), the main aid agency in Gaza, is set to lose $65 million by the end of February as donors’ funding cuts take effect. The cuts follow accusations last month that several UNRWA employees participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. Because UNRWA has no significant reserves, the agency will have no funds of its own to pay its 30,000 workers across the Middle East. Meanwhile, the U.N. announced yesterday that the former French foreign minister Catherine Colnna will head an independent investigation into the conduct of UNRWA, parallel to the U.N.’s internal investigation into the conduct of accused UNRWA workers. The investigation will “examine whether the agency is doing everything it can to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they arise,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said yesterday. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
Hamas’s leadership, including its senior official in Gaza, is “on the run” as Israel’s military pushes further south into the enclave, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claimed yesterday. Gallant said that the Israeli military operation in Khan Younis will “soon achieve its goals” as troops advance toward Rafah – Hamas’s last remaining stronghold.” Mitchell McCluskey reports for CNN.
An estimated 8,000 displaced civilians are evacuating the Palestine Red Crescent Society’s campus in Khan Younis after days of heavy fighting in the area, the organization said in a post on X. Al-Amal Hospital staff and administrators will remain at the location, along with 80 patients and 40 elderly civilians. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement it was allowing the evacuation of uninvolved civilians sheltering in the hospital. Doha Madani, Tavleen Tarrant, and Marin Scott report for NBC News.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — U.S. RESPONSE
Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the Middle East yesterday in a bid to prevent tit-for-tat attacks with Iran-backed militias from escalating into a regional war, and to rally allies around a proposed ceasefire agreement for Gaza. Blinken met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and discussed how to achieve “an enduring end to the crisis in Gaza” as well as “the urgent need to reduce regional tensions,” according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. A U.S. official said that Blinken will tell U.S. allies in the region that Washington’s recent strikes against Iran-backed groups should not be viewed as an escalation of fighting in the Middle East. Blinken arrived in Egypt today where he will meet with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, according to the press pool traveling with the secretary. Zolan Kanno-Youngs reports for the New York Times.
A federal judge in Texas rejected the Biden administration’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Republican congressman and three others seeking to halt U.S. aid to the West Bank and Gaza that they say is unlawfully funding the Palestinian Authority. The lawsuit was filed in 2022 – well before the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks – and does not target funding that would benefit Hamas. Nate Raymond reports for Reuters.
The Biden administration would redirect any funds for UNRWA to other aid agencies working in Gaza if Congress passes legislation that would block funding for the main U.N. agency for Palestinians, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said yesterday. Simon Lewis reports for Reuters.
Yemen’s internationally recognized presidential council removed the Prime Minister yesterday, an unexpected move amid ongoing U.S.-led coalition strikes against the government’s rivals, the Iran-backed Houthi group. A decree issued by the council named Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak as the new prime minister. Bin Mubarak, who is close to Saudi Arabia, replaced Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, who had served as Yemen’s premier since 2018. Ahmed Al-Haj reports for AP News.
Senegal’s reputation as a bastion of democracy in an unstable region is at stake after lawmakers passed a contentious bill to extend President Macky Sall’s term and delay presidential elections after he called off the planned election with just three weeks to go. The bill, which allows for a ten-month election postponement, passed with 105 MPs voting in favor, although some opposition MPs had been removed before the vote by police after they tried to block the proceedings. Protesters marched across the capital to call for a reversal after Sall announced the postponement and clashed with police outside the National Assembly. Yusuf Akinpelu reports for BBC News.
Two people were shot dead while trying to attack a courthouse in Istanbul yesterday, Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said. Six people were injured in the incident including three police officers. Yerlikaya later identified the attackers as alleged members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party, a far-left group considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, the United States, and the European Union. ABC News reports.
Colombia’s government and the National Liberation Army agreed today to extend their bilateral ceasefire by an additional six months, according to a statement released by both groups. Reuters reports.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev named his chief of staff, Olzhas Bektenov, prime minister today, securing approval from parliament which is dominated by the ruling Amanat party. Bektenov served as the head of the state anti-corruption agency before becoming the head of the presidential administration in April 2023. His predecessor, Alikhan Smailov, resigned on Monday without explanation, although reshuffles are routine in the country where political power is concentrated in the president. Reuters reports.
China’s Coast Guard said today it patrolled the waters of the Diaoyu Islands, territories in the East China Sea that are claimed by China, Japan, and Taiwan. Japan calls them the Senkaku Islands. Reuters reports.
Russia’s air defense systems destroyed seven Ukraine-launched drones over the southwest region of Belgorod, the Russian defense ministry said today after the region’s governor said the city of Gubkin was under a drone attack. No casualties were reported from the attack, but four houses were damaged by drone debris, Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said. Reuters reports.
Russia is firing between 1,500 and 2,500 shells and rockets at Ukraine’s Donetsk region every day and is targeting key infrastructure making it difficult for people to remain there in winter, the region’s governor said. Max Hunder reports for Reuters.