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Early Edition: March 29, 2024


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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR

The Israeli military yesterday said it was carrying out raids in and around two hospitals in Gaza, as the U.N. and aid groups warned that Gaza’s health care system is rapidly deteriorating. Fighting has been raging in and around Al-Shifa Hospital since an Israeli raid there began 10 days ago. The Israeli military said in a statement that nearly 200 people whom it called “terrorists” had been killed in the area and that militants had fired on Israeli troops from both inside and outside the complex, while Gazan authorities said that over 200 civilians had been killed and another 1,000 had been detained during the assault. Neither claim could be independently verified. Hiba Yazbek reports for the New York Times.

The Palestinian Authority yesterday announced a new cabinet, pledging to form a technocratic government that could help rebuild Gaza and fight corruption. In a statement, Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa announced the names of 22 new ministers and outlined his vision for the government. The reshuffle comes amid U.S. and other international pressure to reform. Washington offered tentative praise for the new cabinet, with State Department spokesman Matthew Miller saying the presence of Gazan-born ministers was an encouraging sign that the cabinet intended to be “fully representative of the Palestinian people.” Sufian Taha and Adam Taylor report for the Washington Post.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday met with relatives of Israeli soldiers held captive in Gaza, saying continued military pressure was the only way to secure their release and reiterating Israel’s intention to launch an offensive into Rafah. Diplomatic efforts to release another round of hostages have focused on first freeing women, children, and older adults, with male soldiers largely treated as a separate category. In a statement to the families, who say the government has “abandoned” their loved ones, Netanyahu said he “will not leave anyone behind.” He stressed, “Only continuation of the forceful military pressure that we have applied, and will yet apply, will return our hostages, will return everyone,” adding, “we are preparing to enter Rafah.” Cassandra Vinograd and Rawan Ahmad report for the New York Times.

Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday halted government subsidies for many ultra-Orthodox men who do not serve in the army. The ruling could have major consequences for Netanyahu’s government and the tens of thousands of religious men who do not participate in mandatory military service. If the ultra-Orthodox parties within Netanyahu’s coalition who want exemptions to continue leave the government, Israel would be forced into new elections, with Netanyahu trailing significantly in the polls amid the war. The Associated Press reports.

ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR — INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Thursday issued additional provisional measures in South Africa v. Israel, ordering Israel to take “all necessary and effective measures” to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid, including opening additional land crossings, and to ensure that its military does not commit violations of the Genocide Convention. The Court’s order, which noted that “famine is setting in,” came after South Africa’s March 6 petition requesting modified and/or additional measures to the ICJ’s original Jan. 26 order in light of worsening conditions in Gaza. The Court stopped short of granting South Africa’s request for the order of a ceasefire. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.

A recent U.N.-backed report offered hard statistical evidence that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is turning into a man-made famine. The study is the latest report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPS), an international network that provides governments, the U.N., and aid agencies with impartial data to measure the scale of hunger. Its data explained how famine could come in Gaza at any time in approximately the next eight weeks if there was no ceasefire and aid to the enclave did not significantly increase. In an interview with the BBC, U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said that Israel bore significant blame and there was a “plausible” case that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza. Jeremy Bowen reports for BBC News.

MOSCOW CONCERT HALL ATTACK

Russia’s security services were aware of an ISIS threat days before last week’s Moscow concert hall attack, Russian intelligence documents obtained by a U.K.-based investigative organization suggest. According to Dossier Center, the documents showed that ethnic Tajiks radicalized by ISIS-K, the Central Asian branch of the self-styled Islamic State militant group, could have been involved. “A few days before the terrorist attack, members of the Security Council received a warning that Tajik citizens could be used in terrorist attacks on Russian territory,” the group’s latest report said. Matthew Chance reports for CNN.

IRAN-BACKED MILITANTS

Air strikes in north-west Syria today killed dozens, reports say. Syria’s defense ministry said Israeli planes targeted several sites in the Aleppo countryside early today, killing 38 people including five members of Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, two security sources told Reuters. The strikes mark the deadliest attacks in months since Israel intensified its campaign against Iran’s allies in Syria alongside its war in Gaza. Raffi Berg reports for BBC News.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

An alleged Russian propaganda network that paid politicians in several countries to influence the coming European Parliament elections has been broken up, according to officials of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Belgium. News media had cited intelligence agencies and other authorities in reporting that the operation sought to pay off unidentified politicians from Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Hungary via the popular Voice of Europe website. Ido Vock reports for BBC News.

A United Nations program to monitor sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program will have to end after Russia vetoed an extension at the Security Council on Thursday. Western countries accused Russia of targeting the monitoring to facilitate sanctions-violating arms deals with North Korea. The sanctions will remain in force, but the mandate of the panel of expert monitors will be terminated for the first time in 14 years. Edith M. Lederer reports for the Associated Press.

Indian opposition leader Arvind Kejriwal, who was arrested last week for alleged corruption as the Delhi chief minister related to an alcohol sales policy that has since been discontinued, must remain jailed until April 1, a court ruled. The United States had urged a “fair” legal process in the case, which government critics have said is aimed at sidelining an opponent in the runup to India’s general elections in April and May. BBC News reports.

Haiti’s new nine-member transitional presidential council that is to select a new prime minister and help restore functioning governance amid a gang onslaught may be nearly complete. Eight members jointly issued a statement Wednesday vowing to restore “public and democratic order.” The Associated Press reports.

Colombia expelled all Argentine diplomats in its embassy in Bogota after Argentina’s new right-wing President Javier Milei denounced Colombian President Gustavo Petro as “a terrorist murderer.” Milei, a former TV personality, made the comments in an interview with CNN en Español and The Miami Herald that is scheduled to air on March 31. Stefano Pozzebon and David Shortell report for CNN.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan will visit the United States on May 9, a Turkish security official said today, setting the stage for his first White House meeting during the Biden Administration. The trip would be Erdogan’s first visit to Washington since 2019, when he met then-president Donald Trump. Reuters reports.

Taiwan’s navy chief will visit the United States from next week to attend a military ceremony and discuss how to boost bilateral naval cooperation amid growing Chinese threats toward the island, six people briefed on the trip said. Reuters reports.

South Korea’s ambassador to Australia resigned today as President Yoon Suk Yeol’s ruling party faces questions about his appointment while he is under a corruption probe. Reuters reports.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to link Ukraine to the perpetrators of last week’s attack on a concert hall in Moscow that killed more than 140 people is “nonsense” and “propaganda,” White House national security communications adviser John Kirby told reporters. “It’s abundantly clear that ISIS was solely responsible for the horrific terrorist attack in Moscow last week,” Kirby said. The U.S. had warned the Kremlin – in writing, Kirby said – of the potential for such an attack by the Afghanistan-based ISIS-K affiliate of the self-styled Islamic State militant group. Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.

Russian missile and drone attacks hit thermal and hydro power plants in central and western Ukraine, power grid operator Ukrenergo said today, in the latest barrage targeting Ukraine’s power infrastructure. “During the night, the Russians struck again at energy facilities in a massive and combined attack,” Ukrenergo said on Telegram, adding, “Thermal and hydroelectric power plants in the central and western regions were damaged.” Reuters reports.

Ukraine’s military will need to mobilize fewer people than initially expected to continue fighting Russia, Kyiv’s top general said today. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in December that the military had proposed mobilizing up to 500,000 more Ukrainians as Russia increased attacks along the front line. In an interview with Ukrainian media published today, commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said the figure had been “significantly reduced” after a review of resources. Reuters reports.

The United States is asking U.S. companies to stop shipping goods to more than 600 foreign parties for fear the items could be diverted to Russia to support its war in Ukraine, a U.S. official said yesterday. The Commerce Department sent warning letters in recent weeks to at least 20 companies that make and sell products found in missiles and drones recovered inside Ukraine, the official said. Reuters reports.

Romania said it had found fragments of what appeared to be a drone near the border with Ukraine late yesterday. The Ministry of Defense said it was conducting an investigation of the incident. While NATO has a mutual defense commitment if one of its members comes under attack, the alliance and Romanian officials have said following similar incidents in the past that they have found no evidence of any deliberate attack targeting Romania. Reuters reports.

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

A judge sentenced Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of the cryptocurrency trading platform FTX, to 25 years in prison on Thursday for orchestrating what prosecutors have called one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history. He must also forfeit $11 billion to the government to compensate victims, Judge Lewis Kaplan said. The judge determined that Bankman-Fried defrauded FTX customers out of $8 billion and said the sentence was meant to “disable him” from committing another fraud for a long period of time. Aaron Katersky reports for ABC News.

A federal court ruled that the window for redrawing South Carolina’s congressional district map had closed and allowed the state to proceed with its existing map, previously ruled unconstitutional. A court last year held that the state’s Republican-led legislature had impermissibly redrawn the district to exclude about 30,000 Black voters, bolstering the chances of the Republican incumbent. South Carolina appealed, and the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in October, but with the primary scheduled for June 11, it has yet to reach a verdict. Patrick Marley reports for the Washington Post.

The U.S. census is changing race and ethnicity categories for the first time in 27 years. The new changes, announced by the Office of Management and Budget, include options the government hopes will better reflect the identities of people of Middle Eastern, North African, and Hispanic or Latino descent. Hansi Lo Wong reports for NPR.

TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS

Former President Trump’s lawyer yesterday argued for the Georgia election interference indictment to be dismissed on free speech grounds. In the ongoing hearing in Atlanta, Steve Sadow said the charges related to election interference were attempting to criminalize speech protected by the first amendment. “The reason why we don’t even get to a trial is because it’s unconstitutional to force an accused … to stand trial on protected speech,” Sadow said. Judge Scott McAfee did not indicate how he would rule. Chris Stein reports for the Guardian.

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