Israel announces ‘large attack’ in Gaza
The Israeli military announced that its forces had fully encircled Gaza City and were carrying out “a significant operation” in the Gaza Strip late yesterday, as the entire enclave was plunged into the same kind of widespread communications blackout that cut it off from the world during Israel’s initial ground invasion 10 days ago.
“At this hour, we are carrying out a large attack on terrorist infrastructure both below and above ground,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said in a late-night briefing.
Journalists’ reports were limited by the blackout, but the BBC said one of its Gaza reporters thought the night had brought “the most intense airstrikes since the beginning of the war,” largely focused in northwest Gaza. Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, reported “violent explosions and an unprecedented bombardment,” saying the raids targeted the vicinities of several hospitals and had killed and injured dozens.
Related: Israel has quietly, and unsuccessfully, tried to build international support in recent weeks for the transfer of several hundred thousand civilians from Gaza to Egypt, senior foreign diplomats said.
Blinken visits the West Bank and Baghdad
Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, made unannounced visits to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and to Baghdad yesterday. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, he met with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, and other Palestinian leaders. Blinken is set to meet with Turkish leaders in Ankara today.
The trip to Iraq was aimed at sending a message to Iran and its proxies about the Biden administration’s commitment to defending its partners and U.S. personnel amid concerns about a wider conflict. Tensions have been rising in the Middle East since Israel launched its military operation intended to crush Hamas in the Gaza Strip in response to the group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel. See the latest maps from the war.
Blinken’s visit to the West Bank followed talks with Israeli and Arab leaders in Tel Aviv and Amman, Jordan. In Israel, he urged protections for Palestinian noncombatants and for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting, even as he supported the country’s right to defend itself. With Abbas, he discussed efforts to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and restore calm in the West Bank.
Military aid: An Israeli government request for 24,000 assault rifles from the U.S. is drawing scrutiny from American lawmakers and some State Department officials who fear that the weapons might end up in the hands of settlers and civilian militias trying to force Palestinians from land in the West Bank, U.S. officials say.
Intelligence discussions: William Burns, the C.I.A. director, arrived in Israel yesterday for talks with leaders and officials, the first stop in a multicountry trip in the region.
A rift in the Ukrainian leadership
The office of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on Saturday chastised the country’s top military commander for publicly declaring the war at a stalemate, suggesting the comments would help Russia. It was a striking public rebuke that signaled emerging divisions between the military and civilian leadership at an already challenging time for Ukraine.
“Time has passed, people are tired, regardless of their status, and this is understandable,” Zelensky said at a news conference, adding: “But this is not a stalemate, I emphasize this once again.”
Falling Ukrainian morale: Pessimism over prospects for a quick victory is increasing, and the spirit that infused the first days of the conflict is starting to fade, polls find.
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