Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, December 29, 2023



"The Rock" on top of Bernal Hill overlooking downtown San Francisco re-painted October 26, 2023, after pro-Israeli Zionist's destroyed it. 

Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel:
As of December 29, 2023the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 20,424* (over 900 killed Dec. 2-5 alone)50,594 wounded, and more than 303 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the occupied West Bank.  The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) and the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission released a new tally of Palestinians detained by "Israel", revealing that the number of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank has risen to 4,695.

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on December 24. Due to breakdowns in communication networks within the Gaza Strip, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has been unable to regularly and accurately update its tolls since mid-November. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 28,000 when accounting for those presumed dead
More than 8,000 are still missing, buried under the rubble. 




Labor for Palestine

Thousands of labor representatives marched Saturday, December 16, in Oakland, California. —Photo by Leon Kunstenaar

Video of December 16th Labor rally for Palestine.


Bay Area Unions and Workers Rally and March For Palestine In Oakland


Over 1,000 trade unionists from around Northern California rallied and marched in Oakland to oppose the genocide in Gaza. It was announced during the rally that despite bureaucratic obstacles SEIU 1021 which has over 50,000 members had endorsed the rally and resolution. Unions formally endorsed included AFSCME 3299, OEA, UESF, SEIU 1021, ILWU Local 10, Inlandboatmen’s Union SF Region-ILWU, UNITE HERE Local 2, IFPTE Local 21, SF Public Defenders (workers, not union or unit),  Stanford Graduate Workers, Trader Joes United (Rockridge), IWW Bay Area, IWW 460-650 - Ecology Center 

National or statewide unions or units (with Bay Area members) that have called for a ceasefire: UAW (international), UAW Local 2865 (statewide), UAW Local 2320, APWU, Starbucks Workers United, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, CIR/SEIU (national) SEIU-USWW (statewide), Staff Union of CIR/SEIU (unit of CWA local 1032).

The rally was sponsored by Bay Area Labor For Palestine and there was also another Labor For Palestine Rally in New York.

For More Information:


Production of Labor Video Project







Stand With Palestinian Workers: Cease the Genocide Now—Stop Arming Israel!

Labor for Palestine Petition

“We need you to take immediate action—wherever you are in the world—to prevent the arming of the Israeli state and the companies involved in the infrastructure of the blockade.” —An Urgent Call from Palestinian Trade Unions: End all Complicity, Stop Arming Israel (October 16, 2023)

 The undersigned U.S. workers, trade unionists, and anti-apartheid activists join labor around the world in condemning the Israeli siege on Gaza that has killed or maimed thousands of Palestinians—many of them children—and stand with Palestinians’ “right to exist, resist, return, and self-determination.”

 The latest Israeli attacks reflect more than a century of ongoing Zionist settler-colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleansing, racism, genocide, and apartheid—including Israel’s establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, eighty percent of the 2.3 million people in Gaza are refugees from other parts of historic Palestine.

Israel’s crimes are only possible because of more than $3.8 billion a year (or $10-plus million per day) in bipartisan U.S. military aid that gives Israel the guns, bullets, tanks, ships, jet fighters, missiles, helicopters, white phosphorus, and other weapons to kill and maim the Palestinian people. This is the same system of racist state violence that, through shared surveillance technology and police exchange programs, brutalizes Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and working-class people in the United States and around the world.

In response, we demand an immediate end to the genocide, and embrace the recent urgent call from Palestinian Trade Unions: End all Complicity, Stop Arming Israel:

1.     To refuse to build weapons destined for Israel. To refuse to transport weapons to Israel. 

2.     To pass motions in their trade union to this effect. 

3.     To take action against complicit companies involved in implementing Israel’s brutal and illegal siege, especially if they have contracts with your institution. 

4.     Pressure governments to stop all military trade with Israel, and in the case of the U.S., funding to it.

We further reaffirm the call on labor bodies to respect previous Palestinian trade union appeals for solidarity by adopting this statement, and/or the model resolution below to divest from Israel Bonds, sever all ties with the Israel’s racist labor federation, the Histadrut, and its US mouthpiece, the Jewish Labor Committee, and respect the Palestinian picket line for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). 

Please sign and forward widely!

To endorse the following statement as a trade unionist, please click here:


To endorse as other, please click here:


 Initial Signers on behalf of Labor for Palestine

(Organizational affiliations listed for identification only)

Suzanne Adely, Labor for Palestine, US Palestinian Community Network, Arab Workers Resource Center; Food Chain Workers Alliance (staff); President, National Lawyers Guild; Monadel Herzallah, Arab American Union Members Council; Ruth Jennison, Department Rep., Massachusetts Society of Professors, MTA, NEA; Co-Chair, Labor Standing Committee River Valley DSA; Delegate to Western Mass Area Labor Federation; Lara Kiswani, Executive Director, Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC); Block the Boat; Michael Letwin, Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; Jews for Palestinian Right of Return; Corinna Mullin, PSC-CUNY International Committee; CUNY for Palestine; Clarence Thomas, Co-Chair, Million Worker March; Executive Board, ILWU Local 10 (retired.)

The list of signers will be updated periodically.



The Labor for Palestine model resolution can be found at:




Jewish Doctor Speaks Out on Israel and Palestine

Dr. Gabor Maté, Hungarian-Canadian physician and author describes his own life experience and expresses his view on the situation in Israel and Palestine.

“I’m personally a Holocaust survivor as an infant, I barely survived. My grandparents were killed in Auschwitz and most of my extended family were killed. I became a Zionist; this dream of the Jewish people resurrected in their historical homeland and the barbed wire of Auschwitz being replaced by the boundaries of a Jewish state with a powerful army…and then I found out that it wasn’t exactly like that, that in order to make this Jewish dream a reality we had to visit a nightmare on the local population.

“There’s no way you could have ever created a Jewish state without oppressing and expelling the local population. Jewish Israeli historians have shown without a doubt that the expulsion of Palestinians was persistent, pervasive, cruel, murderous and with deliberate intent—that’s what’s called the ‘Nakba’ in Arabic; the ‘disaster’ or the ‘catastrophe.’ There’s a law that you cannot deny the Holocaust, but in Israel you’re not allowed to mention the Nakba, even though it’s at the very basis of the foundation of Israel.

“I visited the Occupied Territories (West Bank) during the first intifada. I cried every day for two weeks at what I saw; the brutality of the occupation, the petty harassment, the murderousness of it, the cutting down of Palestinian olive groves, the denial of water rights, the humiliations...and this went on, and now it’s much worse than it was then.

“It’s the longest ethnic cleansing operation in the 20th and 21st century. I could land in Tel Aviv tomorrow and demand citizenship but my Palestinian friend in Vancouver, who was born in Jerusalem, can’t even visit!

“So, then you have these miserable people packed into this, horrible…people call it an ‘outdoor prison,’ which is what it is. You don’t have to support Hamas policies to stand up for Palestinian rights, that’s a complete falsity. You think the worst thing you can say about Hamas, multiply it by a thousand times, and it still will not meet the Israeli repression and killing and dispossession of Palestinians.

“And ‘anybody who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite’ is simply an egregious attempt to intimidate good non-Jews who are willing to stand up for what is true.”

—Independent Catholic News, October 16, 2023






the French word

for rabies


la rage -

rage or outrage



the French have a saying -

a man who wants to get rid of his dog

accuses it of spreading rabies


the people of Gaza

treated as inhuman animals

worse than dogs

are charged

with terrorism


come to think of it

what an honor !


world war two's resistance

against nazi extermination

was designated

as terrorism

by the Axis allies


what an honor !



was monitored

as a terrorist

by the CIA


What an honor !



peacefully meditating

near Israeli-funded cop city

was executed

in cold blood

on suspicion

of domestic terrorism 


What an honor !


in the spirit of Mandela

in the spirit of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising

in the spirit of Tortuguita

in the spirit of Attica

may the anti colonial outrage

of the People of Palestine

contaminate us all -

the only epidemic

worth dying for


 (c) Julia Wright. October 17 2023. All Rights Reserved To The family of Wadea Al- Fayoume.



The ongoing Zionist theft of Palestinian land from 1946 to now.

77 years of brutal oppression must end!

End all U.S. aid to Israel now!

For a democratic, secular Palestine!



Free Julian Assange

Immediate Repeated Action Needed to Free Assange


Please call your Congressional Representatives, the White House, and the DOJ. Calls are tallied—they do count.  We are to believe we are represented in this country.  This is a political case, so our efforts can change things politically as well.  Please take this action as often as you can:


Find your representatives:



Leave each of your representatives a message individually to: 

·      Drop the charges against Julian Assange

·      Speak out publicly against the indictment and

·      Sign on to Rashida Tlaib's letter to the DOJ to drop the charges: 

           202-224-3121—Capitol Main Switchboard 


Leave a message on the White House comment line to 

Demand Julian Assange be pardoned: 


             Tuesday–Thursday, 11:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M. EST


Call the DOJ and demand they drop the charges against Julian Assange:

             202-353-1555—DOJ Comment Line

             202-514-2000 Main Switchboard 



Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!


Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733

Poetic Petition to Genocide Joe Before He Eats His Turkey 

By Julia Wright


Mr Genocide Joe

you have helped broker

a Thanksgiving truce

in Gaza

where your zionist partners

in war crimes

say they will stop

slaughtering "human animals"

for four days



Mr Genocide Joe

closer to home

you have your own hostages

taken in the cointelpro wars

who still languish

in cages

treated worse than animals




as you pardon

two turkeys

in the White House today

as you get ready to eat your military turkey

and have it too

it would at last be time

to unchain

at least two of your own "human animals" -

Mumia Abu-Jamal


Leonard Peltier


(c) Julia Wright. November 25, 2023. All Rights Reserved to Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier.



A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

Leonard Peltier’s Letter Delivered to Supporters on September 12, 2023, in Front of the Whitehouse


Dear friends, relatives, supporters, loved ones:


Seventy-nine years old. Mother Earth has taken us on another journey around Grandfather Sun.  Babies have taken their first breath. People have lived, loved, and died. Seeds have been planted and sent their roots deep below red earth and their breath to the Stars and our Ancestors.


I am still here.


Time has twisted one more year out of me. A year that has been a moment.  A year that has been a lifetime. For almost five decades I’ve existed in a cage of concrete and steel.  With the “good time” calculations of the system, I’ve actually served over 60 years.


Year after year, I have encouraged you to live as spirit warriors. Even while in here, I can envision what is real and far beyond these walls.  I’ve seen a reawakening of an ancient Native pride that does my heart good.


I may leave this place in a box. That is a cold truth. But I have put my heart and soul into making our world a better place and there is a lot of work left to do – I would like to get out and do it with you.


I know that the spirit warriors coming up behind me have the heart and soul to fight racism and oppression, and to fight the greed that is poisoning our lands, waters, and people. 


We are still here.


Remember who you are, even if they come for your land, your water, your family. We are children of Mother Earth and we owe her and her other children our care.


I long to turn my face to the sky. In this cage, I am denied that simple pleasure. I am in prison, but in my mind, I remain as I was born: a free Native spirit.


That is what allows me to laugh, keeps me laughing. These walls cannot contain my laughter – or my hope.


I know there are those who stand with me, who work around the clock for my freedom. I have been blessed to have such friends.


We are still here and you give me hope. 


I hope to breathe free air before I die. Hope is a hard thing to hold, but no one is strong enough to take it from me. 


I love you. I hope for you. I pray for you. 


And prayer is more than a cry to the Creator that runs through your head.  Prayer is an action.


In the Spirit of Crazy Horse



Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.

Video at:


Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



Updates From Kevin Cooper 

March 23, 2023 

Dear Friends and Comrades, 

This is Kevin Cooper writing and sending this update to you in 'Peace & Solidarity'. First and foremost I am well and healthy, and over the ill effect(s) that I went through after that biased report from MoFo, and their pro prosecution and law enforcement experts. I am back working with my legal team from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

'We' have made great progress in refuting all that those experts from MoFo came up with by twisting the truth to fit their narrative, or omitting things, ignoring, things, and using all the other tactics that they did to reach their conclusions. Orrick has hired four(4) real experts who have no questionable backgrounds. One is a DNA attorney, like Barry Scheck of the innocence project in New York is for example. A DNA expert, a expect to refute what they say Jousha Ryen said when he was a child, and his memory. A expect on the credibility of MoFo's experts, and the attorney's at Orrick are dealing with the legal issues.

This all is taking a little longer than we first expected it to take, and that in part is because 'we' have to make sure everything is correct in what we have in our reply. We cannot put ourselves in a situation where we can be refuted... Second, some of our experts had other things planned, like court cases and such before they got the phone call from Rene, the now lead attorney of the Orrick team. With that being said, I can say that our experts, and legal team have shown, and will show to the power(s) that be that MoFo's DNA expert could not have come to the conclusion(s) that he came to, without having used 'junk science'! They, and by they I mean my entire legal team, including our experts, have done what we have done ever since Orrick took my case on in 2004, shown that all that is being said by MoFo's experts is not true, and we are once again having to show what the truth really is.

Will this work with the Governor? Who knows... 'but' we are going to try! One of our comrades, Rebecca D.   said to me, 'You and Mumia'...meaning that my case and the case of Mumia Abu Jamal are cases in which no matter what evidence comes out supporting our innocence, or prosecution misconduct, we cannot get a break. That the forces in the so called justice system won't let us go. 'Yes' she is correct about that sad to say...

Our reply will be out hopefully in the not too distant future, and that's because the people in Sacramento have been put on notice that it is coming, and why. Every one of you will receive our draft copy of the reply according to Rene because he wants feedback on it. Carole and others will send it out once they receive it. 'We' were on the verge of getting me out, and those people knew it, so they sabotaged what the Governor ordered them to do, look at all the evidence as well as the DNA evidence. They did not do that, they made this a DNA case, by doing what they did, and twisted the facts on the other issues that they dealt with.   'more later'...

In Struggle & Solidarity,

An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974



Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)



Letter from Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

November 6, 2023

      I’m back at Red Onion. I have no lines of communication. They have me in the B-3 torture cellblock again where there is no access to a kiosk and they’re withholding my tablet anyway. Even if I had it, it’s no use with no kiosk to sync it to and send/receive messages.

      This was a hit. Came from DOC HQ in response folks complaining about my being thrown in solitary at Sussex and the planted knife thing. Kyle Rosch was in on it. The warden and AW here said he’s having me sent back out of state. In any case I don’t want be in this racist trap.

      They cut all my outstanding medical referrals to send here cuz there’s no major medical facility in this remote region. I was pending referral to the cardiac clinic at MCV hospital (Medical College of Virginia), which is on the other side of the state. Also was pending referral to urology there. They were supposed to do testing for congestive heart failure and kidney problems related to my legs, feet, and ankles chronic swelling, and other undiagnosed issues: chronic cough, fluid weight gain, sweats, fatigue, chest pain. They just cut these referrals all of which I have copies of from my medical files.

      They’ve been removing documents from my file too. Like the order I had for oversize handcuffs—which I was gassed the morning I was transferred here for asking the transferring pigs to honor. They took the order out of my file to try to cover their asses. I and others have copies of that too. At this point things are hectic. I’m back in old form now. I was somewhat in hiatus, trying to get the medical care I needed and not provoking them to avoid the bs while that was going on. But the bs has found me once again : ). I need all possible help here. At a level a bit more intense than in the past cuz I need that diagnostic care they cut the referrals for and it’s not available in this remote area. They’d have to send me back to Sussex or another prison near MCU in the VDOC’s Central or Eastern Region. I’m in the most remote corner of the Western Region. My health is not good! And they’re using the medical quack staff here to rubber stamp blocking my referrals.

      Although that lawyer may have given you a message from me, she is not helping me in any way. So no-one should assume because a lawyer surfaced that she is working on anything to aid me. Just have to emphasize that cuz past experience has shown that folks will take a lawyer’s seeming presence as grounds to believe that means some substantial help is here and their help is not needed. Again, I need all possible help here….My health depends on this call for help in a more immediate sense than the cancer situation. I’m having breathing and mobility problems, possibly cardiac related.


      All power to the people!



We need to contact these Virginia Department of Corrections personnel to protest:: 


VADOC~ Central Administration; USPS—P.O. Box 26963; Richmond, VA 23261

David  Robinson Phone : 804-887-8078, Email~david.robinson@vadoc.virginia.gov

Virginia DOC ~ Director, Chadwick S Dotson, Phone~ (804) 674-3081 Email~Chadwick.Dotson@.vadoc.virginia.gov


Virginia Department of Corrections Interstate Compact Liaison

Kyle Rosch, Phone: 804-887-8404, Email: kyle.rosch@vadoc.virginia.gov


VADOC ~Central Administration

Rose L. Durbin, Phone~804-887-7921Email~Rose.Durbin@vadoc.virgina.gov


Red Onion~ Warden, Richard E White, USPS—10800 H. Jack Rose Hwy., Pound, VA 24279

Phone: (276) 796-3536;(or 7510)  Email~ rick.white@vadoc.virginia.gov


Red Onion State Prison, Assistant Warden

Shannon Fuller Phone: 276-796-7510  Email: shannon.fuller@VADOC.virginia.gov


Write to Rashid: 

Kevin “Rashid” Johnson #1007485 

Red Onion State Prison

10800 H. Jack Rose Hwy

Pound, VA 24279




The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 

See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:


Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings



Sign the petition:




Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!

Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



Resources for Resisting Federal Repression



Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 


The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 


Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.


Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement, you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 


State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 


Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312

San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or fbi_hotline@nlgsf.org

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:


National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811






1) 78 Palestine Solidarity Activists Face Charges for Civil Disobedience

By People's Dispatch, December 24, 2023


Palestinian Youth Movement.

78 Palestine solidarity activists are facing charges following a mass civil disobedience action staged on November 16, in which protesters shut down San Francisco’s Bay Bridge in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.


Over 150 demonstrators blocked the Bay Bridge on November 16, while US President Joe Biden was in San Francisco for the APEC Summit. Several activists blocked the bridge with cars, and, highlighting their commitment, proceeded to throw their keys into the San Francisco Bay.


Protesters are facing charges ranging from unlawful public assembly, false imprisonment, refusing to comply with a peace officer, and refusing to disperse a riot and obstruction of a public street.


The Palestine solidarity movement in the Bay Area has been mobilizing to put pressure on San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to drop the charges against the protesters. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Jenkins is unwilling as she claimed that “free speech cannot compromise public safety.” The bridge action required “tremendous public resources to resolve,” she said.


Arraignments for the 78 activists began December 18, and over 200 people rallied in front of the San Francisco Criminal Court to demand that DA Jenkins drop the charges. Following the first day of arraignments, a continuance was granted for February 1 and 2.


One of the activists who was arrested at the Bay Bridge action spoke at a press conference held on the courthouse steps on December 18. “I also join the tens of thousands of people who have taken to the streets of San Francisco to demand a permanent ceasefire, to call on our congressional leaders to truly represent the calls from their constituents, and to not allow our tax dollars to fund the genocidal Israeli war on Gaza,” she said.


“If decision-makers do not heed the calls of our emails, our meetings, our phone calls, and our mass mobilizations, then we must do all we can to ensure that our voices are heard,” she continued. “And that means we must disrupt business as usual.”



2) Nearly Two Million Crowd Into Gaza’s South as Fighting Intensifies

By Zach Levitt, Amy Schoenfeld Walker, Lauren Leatherby and Leanne Abraham, Dec. 26, 2023


Building destroyed on Dec. 20. Two UN schools sheltering about 32,000 people.

Sources: U.N. Relief and Works Agency data as of Dec. 14; news reports; photograph by Shadi Tabatibi/Reuters

Since the end of the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in early December, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has deepened, with evacuation orders and intense fighting squeezing civilians into an ever-shrinking area.


On Friday, the Israeli military again ordered civilians to move south immediately, this time out of an area in central Gaza that was home to almost 90,000 people before the war. At least 60,000 displaced people, most of whom had fled from northern Gaza, had been sheltering there.


Gazans are struggling without sanitation, food or water. More than 1.7 million displaced people are registered in shelters in the south, including a few hundred thousand people who cannot fit within their walls and are sleeping along roads and in open spaces.


Many people have followed Israel’s evacuation orders, but doing so has not brought safety. Israeli bombing, which was relentless during the first six weeks of the war, has continued across the south since the end of the cease-fire, including in areas to which people were told to move.


Damage from airstrikes and fighting has been identified near almost every shelter in Gaza’s three southern regions this month, an analysis of satellite imagery and relief agency data shows. In some cases, shelters have been hit directly.


Many people have followed Israel’s evacuation orders, but doing so has not brought safety. Israeli bombing, which was relentless during the first six weeks of the war, has continued across the south since the end of the cease-fire, including in areas to which people were told to move.


Damage from airstrikes and fighting has been identified near almost every shelter in Gaza’s three southern regions this month, an analysis of satellite imagery and relief agency data shows. In some cases, shelters have been hit directly.


Rafah is now Gaza’s most densely populated area, according to U.N. officials. Data shows that U.N. shelters in Rafah host an average of more than 15,000 registered people each, though most shelters were designed for just 2,000.


The region is not equipped to provide basic services to the displaced, relief organization officials say. Its three hospitals are only partly functional, and people in shelters live in cramped conditions with little food or water. Nearly 500 people on average share a single toilet.


Deir al Balah has also seen an enormous influx of the displaced. But, unlike Rafah, where some limited aid has arrived from Egypt, Deir al Balah and its northern neighbor, Khan Younis, have had little or no access to aid in recent days because of continued attacks.


Among the nearly 100 U.N. shelters in southern Gaza, only a handful in Khan Younis have seen significant declines in population. Some are within areas that have been evacuated, and that have seen intense fighting in recent weeks.


Satellite imagery has shown Israeli military vehicles positioned just blocks away from three evacuated shelters in Khan Younis. On Dec. 5, 17,000 people were living in those shelters. By Dec. 12, they were almost completely empty.


The U.N. shares initial reports of damage to shelters and injuries to residents almost daily. For example, fighting on Dec. 17 injured three children in a Khan Younis school after a wall was directly struck. Strikes near another Khan Younis shelter that day killed two Palestinians and injured several others, the agency said.


More than 50 U.N. school buildings in the south have been damaged since the start of the war, according to UNICEF, which relies on reports from other organizations on the ground. Most of these buildings were still housing displaced people as of mid-December.


Relief officials say that it has been difficult to track Gaza’s nearly two million displaced people, many of whom have moved in and out of shelters and the homes of others since the start of the war.


It is even harder to count those who remain in the north, where Israel first launched its attacks and where access has been restricted. A preliminary estimate from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics suggested that as many as 500,000 people might have remained there as of early December.


Without a new cease-fire, relief officials expect that homeless Gazans in the south will face repeated displacement in the weeks to come. And those who have not yet fled their homes are likely to be displaced as attacks continue.



3) The number of Palestinians in Israeli jails is at a 14-year high, a rights group says.

By Rachel Abrams and Hiba Yazbek, Dec. 27, 2023


A young man holding a Palestinian flag surrounded by supporters at night.

Omar Atshan, 17, and other Palestinian prisoners were greeted by supporters last month after being released from an Israeli prison in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Credit...Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times

The number of Palestinians in Israeli jails has soared since Hamas’s attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7, according to a leading Palestinian human rights group, a surge that it says is driven by a wave of arrests in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.


About 7,800 Palestinians from the West Bank were being held in Israeli prisons at the end of November, an increase of nearly 50 percent since the war in Gaza started, according to the rights group, the Palestinian Prisoners Club. It said last week that number represented the most Palestinian detainees held at one time in Israel in at least 14 years.


The Israeli military has been carrying out near-nightly raids across the occupied West Bank since the start of the war in what Israeli officials have described as counterterrorism operations and an extension of their war against Hamas in Gaza.


Palestinian residents and community leaders have said the raids, which were not uncommon before the war, have become more aggressive and more frequent since Oct. 7. Israel has said that the arrests in the West Bank have targeted people affiliated with Hamas but has offered few details.


Many detainees are being held without charge or trial, a status known as administrative detention. The use of administrative detentions orders had hit a 30-year high even before Oct. 7, human rights groups say.


Since the war began, support for Hamas has grown in the occupied West Bank, where there is long-simmering frustration with the Palestinian Authority, the body that has administered cities and towns there for more than two decades. Israel’s bombardment of Gaza and the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners as part of a brief cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas last month have added to Hamas’s appeal.


Palestinian prisoner rights groups have said that detainees in Israeli prisons face overcrowded conditions, physical violence and a lack of medical care. Asked about those claims, the Israel Prison Service did not respond directly but said it had imposed tighter restrictions in recent weeks “in connection with the war effort.”


Ahmad Salaymeh, 14, was released from Israeli detention last month as part of the exchange of prisoners for hostages held in Gaza. Ahmad was detained in July on accusations of throwing stones but never charged, according to an Israeli government database. He said the conditions in prison worsened after Oct. 7 as more detainees were brought in.


“Some of us were left to sleep on the floors,” he said, adding that he was beaten in custody and was given little to eat. By the time Ahmad came home, four months after he was detained, he had lost 35 pounds, his father, Nawaf, said in a recent interview.


In a response to questions from The New York Times, the Israel Prison Service said that it was unaware of Ahmad’s claims. It said that all minors had been “imprisoned according to court orders, after being charged with serious crimes of various kinds, among them attempted murder, assault and throwing explosives,” and that “all basic rights required by law are fully applied.”


Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting from Jerusalem.



4) Israel returns the bodies of 80 Palestinians to Gaza, officials say.

By Aaron Boxerman reporting from Jerusalem, Dec. 27, 2023


Bodies wrapped in blue bags are lined up in a sandy trench as people look on.

Bodies are buried at a mass grave in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Credit...Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

Israel has returned the corpses of 80 Palestinians to Gaza, a spokesman for the enclave’s health ministry said on Wednesday. The bodies were later buried in a mass grave near Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border, the spokesman said.


An Israeli official said that Israeli soldiers sweeping Gaza in search of hostages held by Hamas and other armed groups had initially taken the bodies to Israel for forensic testing. After determining that none of them were those of hostages, the Israeli authorities coordinated with Palestinian officials to return the bodies to Gaza, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.


The number of bodies was unusually large, but neither Israeli nor Palestinian officials offered information about their identities or how or when the deaths occurred. It is not clear who in Gaza buried the bodies.


Gazan health officials were alerted to the corpses’ return by the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs bureau, which is based in the West Bank and handles bureaucratic coordination with Israel, said Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesman for the Gaza health ministry.


The bodies were handed over on Tuesday afternoon at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, through which Israel has allowed some aid to enter Gaza in recent days, Dr. al-Qidra said. Many of the 80 corpses arrived “in pieces or decomposed,” he said in a text message.


A spokesman for the Civil Affairs bureau did not immediately comment. The Israeli military did not respond to requests for comment.



5) Skepticism Grows Over Israel’s Ability to Dismantle Hamas

Israel has vowed time and again to eliminate the group responsible for the brutal Oct. 7 attack, but critics increasingly see that goal as unrealistic or even impossible.

By Neil MacFarquhar, Dec. 27, 2023

Neil MacFarquhar has spent more than 15 years covering the Middle East for The New York Times and other publications. He has written two books about the Arab world.


Huge bursts of fire surround a military vehicle attended by soldiers.

An Israeli artillery unit in October near Netivot, Israel, firing toward Gaza. Credit...Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Standing before a gray backdrop decorated with Hamas logos and emblems of a gunman that commemorate the bloody Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Osama Hamdan, the organization’s representative in Lebanon, professed no concern about his Palestinian faction being dislodged from Gaza.


“We are not worried about the future of the Gaza Strip,” he recently told a crowded news conference in his offices in Beirut’s southern suburbs. “The decision maker is the Palestinian people alone.”


Mr. Hamdan thus dismissed one of Israel’s key objectives since the beginning of its assault on Gaza: to dismantle the Islamist political and military organization that was behind the massacre of about 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials, and which still holds more than 100 hostages.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has repeatedly emphasized that objective even while facing mounting international pressure to scale back military operations. The Biden administration has dispatched senior envoys to Israel to push for a new phase of the war focused on more targeted operations rather than sweeping destruction.


And critics both within Israel and outside have questioned whether resolving to destroy such a deeply entrenched organization was ever realistic. One former Israeli national security adviser called the plan “vague.”


“I think that we have reached a moment when the Israeli authorities will have to define more clearly what their final objective is,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said this month. “The total destruction of Hamas? Does anybody think that’s possible? If it’s that, the war will last 10 years.”


Since it first emerged in 1987, Hamas has survived repeated attempts to eliminate its leadership. The organization’s very structure was designed to absorb such contingencies, according to political and military specialists. In addition, Israel’s devastating tactics in the Gaza war threaten to radicalize a broader segment of the population, inspiring new recruits.


Analysts see the most optimal outcome for Israel probably consisting of degrading Hamas’s military capabilities to prevent the group from repeating such a devastating attack. But even that limited goal is considered a formidable slog.


Hamas is rooted in the ideology that Israeli control over what it regards as Palestinians lands must be opposed by force, a tenet likely to endure, experts said.


“As long as that context is there, you will be dealing with some form of Hamas,” said Tahani Mustafa, senior Palestine analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. “To assume that you can simply uproot an organization like that is fantasy.”


The Israeli military said this week that it had killed about 8,000 Hamas fighters out of a force estimated at 25,000 to 40,000. But it is unclear how the count is being made. About 500 have surrendered, according to the military, though Hamas has denied that all were from its ranks.


The military has at times delivered positive progress reports on its objectives, describing as “imminent” full control over the areas in northern Gaza where it began its ground offensive in late October.


But Mr. Netanyahu acknowledged on Sunday that the war “is exacting a very heavy cost from us” as the military announced that 15 soldiers had been killed in the previous 48 hours alone. Rockets are still being fired almost daily from southern Gaza into Israel, albeit far fewer than before.


Michael Milshtein, a former senior intelligence officer for Israel, criticized statements by some Israeli leaders depicting Hamas as being at its breaking point, saying that might create false expectations about the length of the war.


“They’ve been saying this for a while, that Hamas is collapsing,” Mr. Milshtein said. “But it’s just not true. Every day, we’re facing tough battles.”


The Israeli military distributed fliers in Gaza recently offering cash for information leading to the arrest of four Hamas leaders.


“Hamas has lost its power. They couldn’t fry an egg,” said the flier in Arabic, quoting a folk expression. “The end of Hamas is near.”


The military promised $400,000 for Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, and $100,000 for Mohammed Deif, head of its military wing, the Qassam Brigades. The two are considered the architects of the Oct. 7 attack.


Although long among the most wanted men in Gaza, the elusive Mr. Deif has avoided assassination or capture. The only picture of him in public is a decades-old headshot.


The bounties appeared to be another indication that Israel is struggling to remove the Hamas leadership.


The group’s top echelon are believed to be sheltering, along with most of its fighters and the remaining hostages, in deep tunnels. Although the Israeli army has said that it demolished at least 1,500 shafts, experts consider the underground infrastructure is largely intact.


The tunnels, built over 15 years, are believed to be so extensive, estimated at hundreds of miles long, that Israelis call them the Gaza Metro.


“Hamas is actually weathering this assault quite well,” said Tareq Baconi, an author who wrote a book about the group. “It’s still showing that it has an offensive military capability.”


Giora Eiland, a retired major general and former head of Israel’s National Security Council, said Hamas had demonstrated the ability to quickly replace commanders who are killed with others equally capable and equally devoted.


“From a professional point of view, I must give credit to their resilience,” he said. “I cannot see any signs of collapse of the military abilities of Hamas nor in their political strength to continue to lead Gaza.”


Hamas is rooted in the Muslim Brotherhood, which was born in Egypt in 1928 as a religious social reform movement but has often been blamed for fomenting jihadist violence in recent decades. Israel once allowed the group to grow as an Islamist counterweight to the more mainstream and secular Palestine Liberation Organization.


In one of Israel’s first, notorious efforts to dismantle Hamas, in 1992, it deported 415 of its leaders and allies, dumping them in a buffer zone along the Israel-Lebanon border. Over the months before their return, they built an alliance with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the most powerful Iran-backed militia in the region.


The United States and Israel condemn both Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist organizations.


A string of Israeli assassinations of Hamas political, military and religious leaders also failed to weaken the group. It won control of Gaza in free Palestinian elections in 2006, then evicted its more moderate rival, the Palestinian Authority, in a bloody conflict the next year.


Israel fought three other wars in Gaza targeting Hamas between 2008 and the current crisis.


The operations of the Hamas military wing, the Qassam Brigades, remain opaque. The units were designed to continue functioning even if Israel destroyed parts.


Divided geographically, its five main brigades were in northern Gaza; Gaza City; central Gaza; and two southern cities, Khan Younis and Rafah.


Most of the elite troops were in the two northern brigades, which constitute about 60 percent of the force, said an Israeli military official who requested anonymity under military regulations. About half of them have been killed, wounded, arrested or fled south, the official claimed.


For Israel, the aim is first to dismantle the government, then to disperse the fighters and eliminate the commanders and their primary subordinates, the Israeli official said.


But Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian journalist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood who has written a book about Hamas, said the group was prepared for that.


“The top leadership can disappear at any time because they can be killed, they can be arrested, they can be deported,” he said. “So they developed this mechanism of the easy transfer of command.”


The Qassam Brigades are divided into battalions, with even smaller units defending individual neighborhoods. Other specialized battalions include an anti-tank unit, a tunnel-construction unit and an air wing whose drones and paragliders were an important element of the surprise attack on Oct. 7, according to analysts and former military and intelligence officials.


The Nukhba Brigade, consisting of about 1,000 highly trained fighters, also appears to have played a central role on Oct. 7.


Trying to eliminate Hamas entirely would require fighting from street to street and house to house, and Israel lacks both the time and personnel, said Elliot Chapman, a Middle East analyst with Janes, a defense analysis firm.


As the United States found in attempting to squash Al Qaeda or the Taliban, the organizations tend to spring back once the armed pressure is lifted. The Gaza fight has been compared to the campaign to wrest Mosul, Iraq, from the Islamic State less than a decade ago, but there are significant differences.


Notably, Hamas is organic to Gaza — it grew out of frustration with the mainstream factions abandoning the armed struggle against the Israeli occupation. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, and according to its founding charter, is committed to its destruction.


The scale of Israel’s war is likely to radicalize a new generation: More than 20,000 Gazans have been reported killed thus far, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.


Some Gazans curse Hamas, even taking to the airwaves or social media to do it, despite the organization’s history of repressing opponents. Other Gazans, however, say that they still back “the resistance,” and Hamas has long attracted support by providing services like schools and clinics.


A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that most respondents endorsed the Hamas attack on Israel. Support for Hamas in Gaza since the war started has risen to 42 percent, from 38 percent, the poll reported.


At best, Israel can probably contain Hamas, experts said.


But even if Israel somehow succeeded in dismantling the group in Gaza, there are still branches in the West Bank and abroad, in places like Lebanon and Turkey, that could revive it.


“The right way to think about it is to degrade the organization to the point that it is no longer a sustainable threat,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired C.I.A. officer who specialized in Middle East counterterrorism.


“You cannot just have a strategy of killing everybody,” he added. “You have to have that day-after scenario.”


Aaron Boxerman, Hwaida Saad and Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.



6) Another video shows Gazan detainees stripped to their underwear.

By Vivian Yee, Arijeta Lajka and Christoph Koettl, Dec. 27, 2023


Screenshot of Palestinian men stripped and handcuffed surrounded by tanks and IDF armed forces.

More video footage has emerged showing dozens of Palestinians in Gaza lined up and stripped to their underwear as armed Israeli soldiers look on, in footage reminiscent of images of Palestinian detainees in Gaza that generated outrage earlier this month.


In the new video, men — and at least three young boys — wearing only their underwear are seen lined up in front of a row of soldiers in the grassy field at Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza City, their hands on their heads. The video shows Israeli soldiers supervising as dozens of men kneel on the grass, hands apparently tied behind their backs. Others walk in a line, their hands up, carrying pieces of paper.


The video also shows several women and children gathered together on the field, as well as several Israeli military vehicles, including bulldozers, tanks and trucks.


The New York Times verified the video, which was uploaded on Sunday by an Israeli photographer who said on his social media pages that he had embedded with a unit of the Israeli military, the Nahal Brigade’s 932nd battalion. It was likely filmed around mid-December.


The video, which spread quickly on Palestinian media and social media, mirrored previous footage and photos of Palestinian detainees stripped to their underwear in northern Gaza that prompted accusations that Israel was violating international law in its detention of Palestinians.


The Israeli military argued at the time that it had needed to round up the men en masse to determine if they were Hamas fighters, and it needed to strip them to their underwear to make sure they were not armed.


Earlier this month, the military said it was arresting military-age men found in northern Gaza. But, in addition to the boys among the stripped men, the video also shows several gray-haired men, one of whom appears to be leaning on two other men for support as he walks.


A spokesman for Israel’s military, Nir Dinar, declined to comment on the video because it had not been released by the military. In general, Mr. Dinar said in a statement, the Israeli military treats detainees in accordance with international law, adding that detainees are often made to hand over clothing to be searched for weapons or explosives.


“Detainees are given back their clothes when it’s possible to do so,” he said, without giving a specific time frame, and detainees were released if found not to be participating in “terrorist activities.”



7) Tom Smothers, Comic Half of the Smothers Brothers, Dies at 86

Though he played a naïve buffoon onstage, he was the driving force behind the folk-singing duo’s groundbreaking TV show.

By William Grimes, Dec. 27, 2023


A black-and-white photo of Tom and Dick Smothers standing in front of an audience in a television studio. They have short hair and are wearing identical suits and ascots. Tom holds an acoustic guitar, and Dick leans against a string bass.

Tom, left, and Dick Smothers, the hosts of the CBS variety show “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” in 1969. Credit...CBS Photo Archive

Tom Smothers, the older half of the comic folk duo the Smothers Brothers, whose skits and songs on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in the late 1960s brought political satire and a spirit of youthful irreverence to network television, paving the way for shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show,” died on Tuesday at his home in Santa Rosa, Calif., a city in Sonoma County. He was 86.


He died “following a recent battle with cancer,” a spokesman for the National Comedy Center announced on behalf of the family.


The Smothers Brothers made their way to network television as a folk act with a difference. With Tom playing guitar and Dick playing stand-up bass, they spent as much time bickering as singing.


With an innocent expression and a stammering delivery, Tom would try to introduce their songs with a story, only to be picked at by his skeptical brother. As frustration mounted, he would turn, seething, and often deliver a trademark non sequitur: “Mom always liked you best.”


Hoping to reach a younger audience, CBS gave the brothers creative control over “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” a one-hour variety show that made its debut in February 1967. For the next three seasons it courted controversy as it addressed American policy in Vietnam, religious fundamentalism, racial strife and recreational drug use.


Running features like Leigh French’s “Share a Little Tea With Goldie,” replete with drug references, either delighted or scandalized, depending on the age and the politics of the viewer.


“During the first year, we kept saying the show has to have something to say more than just empty sketches and vacuous comedy,” Mr. Smothers said in a 2006 interview. “So we always tried to put something of value in there, something that made a point and reflected what was happening out in the streets.”


Tom, more liberal than his brother and largely responsible for the production of the show, brought in writers attuned to the thinking of the Baby Boom generation — among them Rob Reiner, Steve Martin, Pat Paulsen, and Mason Williams — and stretched the boundaries of taste at every turn.


“Easter is when Jesus comes out of his tomb, and if he sees his shadow he goes back in and we get six more weeks of winter,” Tom said on one show.


Far more combative than his mild-mannered brother, who survives him, Tom fought network executives and censors until CBS, tired of complaints from its rural affiliates, especially in the South, abruptly canceled the show in April 1969 and replaced it with “Hee Haw,” a corn-pone counterpart to the fast-paced (and often controversial) “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” that featured country music stars.


“In any other medium we would be regarded as moderate,” Tom Smothers told reporters at a news conference the day after the show was canceled. “Here we are regarded as rebels and extremists.”


An Army Family


Thomas Bolyn Smothers III was born on Feb. 2, 1937, on Governors Island in New York Harbor, where his father, a West Point graduate and Army major, was stationed. The family relocated to Manila when Major Smothers was reassigned. Shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the family moved again, to the Los Angeles area, where Tom and Dick’s mother, Ruth (Remick) Smothers, had grown up. She found work in an aircraft factory.


Major Smothers remained on Corregidor in Manila Bay to fight and was taken prisoner on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. He survived the Bataan death march, but in 1945 he died of injuries sustained when American planes mistakenly bombed the prison ship transporting him to a camp in Japan.


Tom attended an assortment of schools as his mother descended into alcoholism and moved from husband to husband. In 1955, he graduated from Redondo Union High School, where he was a state champion on the parallel bars.


While in high school, he and Dick, two years his junior, sang in a barbershop group that won second prize on “Rocket to Stardom,” a local talent contest broadcast from the showroom of a Los Angeles Oldsmobile dealer.


At San Jose State College (now University), where Tom studied advertising, the brothers decided to ride the folk music wave and formed the Casual Quintet. In early 1959, by then a trio with Bobby Blackmore as lead singer, they began performing at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, a popular showcase for folk singers and comedians, billed as the Smothers Brothers and Gawd.


Gradually, the brothers introduced comic patter into their act, satirizing the folk music scene and turning their sibling rivalry — which was genuine — into shtick. The act “slowly evolved to be a running argument between two brothers who sang but never finished a song,” Mr. Smothers said in 2006.


Audiences loved it. Their two-week engagement at the Purple Onion was extended to nine months, and in 1961 the Smothers Brothers, now a duo, were booked into the Blue Angel in New York.


Robert Shelton, reviewing the show in The New York Times, compared Tom’s delivery to “a frightened 10th grader giving a memorized talk at a Kiwanis meeting.”


He added, “He speaks in a nervous, distracted sort of cretin double-talk that has him stumbling over big words, muffing lines with naïve unconcern, singing off-key, committing malapropisms, garbling lyrics and eternally upstaging his younger brother.”


The brothers became regulars on “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar, “The Garry Moore Show” and “The New Steve Allen Show.” They signed with Mercury Records and recorded “The Smothers Brothers at the Purple Onion,” the first of several successful albums. They toured college campuses nonstop.


In 1963, Tom married Stephanie Shorr. The marriage ended in divorce, as did his marriage to Rochelle Robley. In addition to his brother, he is survived by his wife, Marcy Carriker Smothers; their son, Bo, and daughter, Riley Rose Smothers; and a grandson. His son from his first marriage, Thomas Bolyn Smothers IV, died last year.


In a statement, Dick Smothers said, “Tom was not only the loving older brother that everyone would want in their life, he was a one-of-a-kind creative partner.”


In 1965, CBS gave the brothers their own sitcom, “The Smothers Brothers Show,” produced by Aaron Spelling. It did not play to their strengths: Tom played a probationary angel sent back to earth to move in with and watch over his brother, a swinging bachelor played by Dick.


The ratings were strong, but it was a miserable experience. Deprived of their instruments and a live audience, and saddled with a laugh track, the brothers struggled.


“It was a nothing show,” Tom told The New York Times in 1967. “There was no point of reference, nothing meaningful, no satire in it.”


After “The Garry Moore Show” failed to challenge “Bonanza” on Sunday nights, Michael Dann, the head programmer at CBS, took a chance on a Smothers Brothers variety show.


Connecting With the Young


Expectations were low, but “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” connected with viewers, especially younger ones, and outperformed “Bonanza” in the ratings. The humor was irreverent, the writing was sharp, and musical guests like the Who and Jefferson Airplane broke the variety-show mold.


The brothers looked like clean-cut collegians, but their cheery, up-tempo songs could bite. “The war in Vietnam keeps on a-ragin’,” one began. “Black and whites still haven’t worked it out./Pollution, guns and poverty surround us./No wonder everybody’s droppin’ out.”


A war with CBS executives began almost immediately, and a pattern quickly developed. The censors would cut words, lines or entire sketches. Mr. Smothers would fight tooth and nail to have them reinstated, often successfully. When thwarted, he would complain loudly and publicly.


After CBS cut the words “breast” and “heterosexual” from an early sketch, written by Elaine May, about two professional censors (played by Tom Smothers and Ms. May), Mr. Smothers told The Times: “The censors censored the censorship bit. It’s a real infringement of our creative rights.”


He lost the first round of his campaign to have Pete Seeger, absent from television after being blacklisted in the 1950s, perform his antiwar ballad “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.” The segment was pulled in 1967 but broadcast a year later.


“Television is old and tired,” Mr. Smothers told McCall’s magazine in 1968. “Television is a lie. The people who censor our shows are all conditioned to a very scared way of thinking, which is reflected in the kind of programs the networks put on. Television should be as free as the movies, as the newspapers, as music to reflect what’s happening.”


CBS began insisting that an advance tape of each week’s show be sent to the network and its affiliates for their review. In April 1969, when the tape of a show that included a satirical sermon, delivered by the comedian David Steinberg, failed to arrive on schedule for the second time, CBS informed the brothers that they had broken their contract and that the show, whose option had been renewed two weeks earlier, would be canceled.


The move was not a complete surprise.


“Tommy has been sticking pins in CBS ever since he started feeling his oats when he found he could command good ratings,” Percy Shain, the television critic for The Boston Globe, wrote. “He has been at times snide, ugly, resentful, bullheaded. In his various arguments with the network he has refused to compromise one iota. Every deletion meant a battle.”


TV Guide, in a stern editorial, deemed the cancellation “wise, determined and wholly justified.”


For the rest of his life, Mr. Smothers remained convinced that President Richard M. Nixon, who had assumed office just three months earlier after defeating Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, had pressured CBS to cancel the show.


“When Nixon said, ‘I want those guys off,’ they were off,” he told “Speaking Freely,” a television program produced by the First Amendment Center, in 2001. “If Humphrey had been elected, we would have been on.”


The brothers briefly returned to network television in 1970 with the tepid “Smothers Brothers Summer Show” on ABC. The next year Tom, increasingly outspoken on politics, starred, without his brother, in “Tom Smothers’ Organic Prime Time Space Ride,” a syndicated half-hour variety show that was long on relevance and short on laughs.


“I lost perspective, my sense of humor,” he said in the 2006 interview. “I became a poster boy for the First Amendment, freedom of speech, and I started buying into it. It was about three years when I was deadly serious about everything.”


Hollywood and Broadway


Tom pursued a career as an actor, in “Serial,” “The Silver Bears” and other movies. With his brother, he appeared in the comedy “I Love My Wife” on Broadway in 1978 and on a national tour.


The brothers reunited on television in 1975 for a new, tamer version of “The Smothers Brothers Show,” broadcast on NBC, and a 1988 reunion show. They also appeared (not as brothers) in a short-lived 1981 drama series, “Fitz and Bones.” But their career ended as it had begun, in concert performances.


Tom added a new comic persona to the act, Yo-Yo Man, performing dazzling yo-yo tricks that he learned after falling in love with the song “(I’m a) Yo-Yo Man.” In 2010, Tom announced that he and his brother were retiring as an act.


At the 1969 Emmys, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” received an award for outstanding writing achievement in comedy, variety or music. Mr. Smothers had removed himself from the show’s list of writers on the ballot, worried that his name might alienate voters. In 2008 the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences gave him a special commemorative Emmy for the show, presented by Steve Martin.


In an interview for the Archive of American Television in 2000, Mr. Smothers looked back on the show and its impact. “It was the ’60s that we reflected,” he said. “The country was going through a revolution — a social revolution, a political and consciousness revolution, about government and its part. We tried to reflect that.”


Alex Traub contributed reporting.



8) Report of Leaked Judicial Draft Threatens Israel’s Wartime Unity

Aaron Boxerman reporting from Jerusalem, Dec. 28, 2023


Protesters lit up at night by the red light of a burning torch. Some are waving flags.

Protesting against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv in August. Credit...Corinna Kern/Reuters

A looming Supreme Court decision on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive plan to overhaul Israel’s courts threatened to disrupt his fragile wartime government, after an Israeli television report revived the fissures around the ruling.


Channel 12, a major Israeli broadcaster, reported on Wednesday night on what it called a leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision to strike down part of his plan, which would weaken the judiciary and strengthen the government. Before the war, the plan, backed by Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-right allies, had been opposed by huge, monthslong protests.


A spokeswoman for Israel’s courts said on Thursday that “the writing of the ruling is not yet complete.” The court is expected to rule by mid-January.


Whatever the decision, it has potential to throw Israel’s unity government, formed after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led terrorist attacks, into disarray as the country wages war in Gaza and faces international pressure over the scope of its military campaign.


Two members of Israel’s war cabinet, one of Mr. Netanyahu’s longtime rivals, Benny Gantz, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, both criticized the government’s pursuit of the overhaul. Mr. Netanyahu had tried to fire Mr. Gallant after the defense minister criticized the pace of the plan, only to reverse the decision amid widespread outrage.


And should the court rule against Mr. Netanyahu, it could set off a constitutional crisis within Israel if his allies try to defy it. Regardless of the outcome, the case is considered one of the most consequential in Israel’s history, because it could determine the extent to which politicians will be subject to judicial oversight.


Israel’s Channel 12 broadcaster reported on Wednesday night that a slim majority of the court — eight of 15 judges — are set to overturn a law passed in July that stripped Israel’s Supreme Court of the power to overturn government actions and appointments it deems “unreasonable.” Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing governing coalition had passed the law in an effort to remove what it said was the court’s ability to overrule the will of the majority.


The law was part of Mr. Netanyahu’s wider plan to weaken the country’s judiciary, which divided the country and led hundreds of thousands of Israelis to stage months of street protests. Opponents, including Israel’s chief justice and attorney general, said the plan — if fully carried out — would deal a fatal blow to the country’s separation of powers.


The dispute posed one of the gravest domestic political crises Israel had faced in the 75 years since the nation’s founding. But it faded to the background after the Hamas attacks, in which roughly 1,200 people were killed and more than 240 were taken hostage to Gaza, according to the Israeli authorities.


Four days after the attack, Mr. Netanyahu formed a wartime government with opponents including Mr. Gantz, the leader of the opposition National Unity alliance, who opposed the judicial overhaul.


The crisis over the judicial changes was a proxy for deeper rifts over Israel’s future. Secular and liberal Israelis view the Supreme Court as a bulwark in a country that is becoming more conservative and religious.


The New York Times has not obtained a copy of the leaked decision, and Channel 12 did not publish the full document. At a hearing on the matter in September, questions and statements by the judges indicated that several had concerns about the law.



9) Deadly strikes deepen the suffering at one of southern Gaza’s last working hospitals.

By Anushka Patil and Raja Abdulrahim, Dec. 28, 2023


A young man in a tank top cradles the head of another man, next to a body wrapped in white cloth.

Mourning on Thursday over the body of a person killed in bombardment in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. The Israeli military has announced an expanded offensive in the city. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said Israeli forces struck near a hospital it operates in southern Gaza on Thursday, killing several people, a day after another deadly Israeli attack in front of the same medical facility.


On Wednesday, the health ministry in the enclave said nearly two dozen people had been killed after Israeli forces struck the entrance of the facility, Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis. The Israeli military has announced an expanded offensive in Khan Younis, the biggest city in southern Gaza.


Most of those killed on Wednesday were displaced people who were seeking shelter in and around the hospital, said Nebal Farsakh, a spokeswoman for the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Some 14,000 displaced Palestinians were sheltering at Al-Amal, according to the World Health Organization, which sent a team to visit the hospital on Tuesday.


Medical centers have become places of refuge for many of the nearly two million Palestinians who have been forced to flee for safety again and again because of Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground offensive, even as Israel launches strikes that hit the hospitals themselves. Most of Gaza’s nearly three dozen hospitals are no longer functioning as medical facilities, according to the W.H.O.


Ms. Farsakh said that Al-Amal Hospital and its immediate surroundings had been struck five times in less than a week.


The Palestine Red Crescent Society posted videos on social media of the aftermath of the strike on Wednesday, in which Ms. Farsakh said artillery and airstrikes hit just in front of the hospital’s emergency ward. The videos show bodies lying in the streets and medics rushing injured people, including children, into ambulances. The videos could not be independently verified.


The Israeli military did not respond to a question about the locations of its strikes in Khan Younis on Wednesday. Its chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said at a daily news briefing that the military had added another brigade to its forces in the city, which he described as a “main Hamas terror center.”


The Gazan Health Ministry said that dozens of people were killed overnight and Thursday morning in Israeli strikes across the Gaza Strip, including in Khan Younis.


Shelling around Al-Amal Hospital has been “relentless” in recent days, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said. On Tuesday, it shared video of its medics looking for bodies and injured people in the rubble of a bombed-out house in the neighborhood; less than an hour later, the organization said that shelling had hit the upper floors of its nearby headquarters and injured several displaced people sheltering there.


The W.H.O. team that visited Al-Amal Hospital on Tuesday reported dire conditions there for both patients and sheltering civilians.


“It was impossible to walk inside the hospital without stepping over patients and people seeking refuge,” it said, adding that only a few toilets and five of the hospital’s nine ambulances were functioning.


The W.H.O. said its staff members also saw “tens of thousands of people fleeing heavy strikes” in Khan Younis and central Gaza on Tuesday. People were traveling by foot, donkey or car, and building makeshift shelters along the road, it said.


The Israeli military advanced into central Gaza in recent days, and nearly two million people have now squeezed into the southern part of the tiny enclave, deepening the dire humanitarian crisis.


The W.H.O. is “extremely concerned” about the additional strain the latest wave of displacement will put on overwhelmed health facilities in the south, the organization’s representative for the West Bank and Gaza, Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, said in a statement on Wednesday.


“This forced mass movement of people will also lead to more overcrowding, increased risk of infectious diseases, and make it even harder to deliver humanitarian aid,” he said.



10) The human rights situation in the West Bank has ‘deteriorated rapidly,’ a U.N. report finds.

Nick Cumming-Bruce reporting from Geneva, Dec. 28, 2023


Nine armed soldiers are seen from above walking down a road. Some have their weapons raised.

Israeli soldiers conducting a raid in the occupied West Bank in November. Credit...Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United Nations said on Thursday that respect for human rights had “deteriorated rapidly” in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since Oct. 7, calling on Israel to take immediate action to end settler violence and the excessive use of force by its military.


The office of the U.N.’s human rights commissioner said it had documented the deaths of 300 Palestinians, along with mass arrests and ill treatment that it said could amount to torture in the West Bank after the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel.


“The use of military tactics means and weapons in law enforcement contexts, the use of unnecessary or disproportionate force, and the enforcement of broad, arbitrary and discriminatory movement restrictions that affect Palestinians are extremely troubling,” the U.N.’s human rights chief, Volker Türk, said in a statement accompanying a new 22-page report from his office about the situation in the West Bank.


“The intensity of the violence and repression is something that has not been seen in years,” he added.


The report said that the Israeli military was responsible for 291 of the 300 deaths it had verified. Most of the fatalities occurred in clashes and confrontations during Israeli military operations using disproportionate and lethal force, the report said. The Israeli military’s increased use of airstrikes also resulted in civilian casualties, it said.


Israeli settlers killed eight Palestinians from Oct. 7 to Dec. 27, according to the report, which said that another Palestinian was killed either by Israeli forces or by settlers.


Even before Oct. 7, settler violence was hitting its highest levels since the United Nations began keeping records in the mid-2000s. But Palestinians have said that settlers have since become increasingly emboldened, and U.S. officials have expressed concern that the surge in attacks could be a potential trigger for wider violence as Israel wages war in Gaza against Hamas.


The report said that 254 settler attacks on Palestinians were recorded from Oct. 7 to Nov. 20 that included shooting, burning homes, uprooting olive trees and forcing more than 1,000 Palestinians from herding communities off their land.


Settlers were “in many” cases accompanied by Israeli soldiers or wore Israeli military uniforms during the attacks, according to the report.


“The dehumanization of Palestinians that characterizes many of the settlers’ actions is very disturbing,” Mr. Türk said, urging Israel to prosecute those who have carried out or instigated the violence.


The report also found that Israeli security forces have arrested more than 4,700 Palestinians — including 40 journalists — in a near-nightly raids on the West Bank since Oct. 7. Detainees have been subjected to beating and other “inhuman and degrading treatment” that could possibly qualify as torture, the report said.


“Palestinians were stripped naked, blindfolded and restrained for long hours with handcuffs and with their legs tied, while Israeli soldiers stepped on their heads and backs, were spat at, slammed against walls, threatened and insulted,” the report said, adding that several cases raised concerns about potential sexual and gender-based violence.



11) How the Russian Government Silences Wartime Dissent

By Anton Troianovski, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Oleg Matsnev, Alina Lobzina, Valerie Hopkins and Aaron Krolik, Dec. 29, 2023


Marina Tsurmast at her flat in Novosibirsk, Russia. Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times

Just days after invading Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia signed a censorship law that made it illegal to “discredit” the army. The legislation was so sweeping that even his spokesman acknowledged it was easy to cross the line into prohibited speech. In the first 18 months of the war, the law scooped up a vast array of ordinary Russians — schoolteachers, pensioners, groundskeepers, a carwash owner — for punishment.


The law has led to more than 6,500 cases of people being arrested or fined, more than 350 a month on average, according to a New York Times analysis of Russian court records through last August. That’s a small percentage of Russia’s population of 146 million, but The Times analyzed the details of every case, revealing the extraordinary reach and invasiveness of the Kremlin’s crackdown; anyone questioning the war or revealing sympathy with Ukraine — even in a private conversation — is now liable to prosecution in Russia.


No gesture, apparently, is too small. Judges have ruled that simply wearing blue and yellow clothing — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — or painting one’s fingernails blue and yellow can be punished. And there are few safe havens as people increasingly inform on their fellow citizens. In dozens of cases, people were prosecuted after someone reported them for comments they made on the train, in a cafe or in a liquor store.


The censorship law has enabled Mr. Putin to perpetuate a nearly two-year invasion that has killed or maimed hundreds of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians, with minimal resistance from those at home who oppose it. While most Russians tell pollsters they support the war, close to 20 percent say they don’t.


In the past, the government would make examples of a few individuals, some prominent; now it is practicing widespread censorship. This year, with antiwar speech in public largely eliminated, the records show that authorities remained intent on stamping out criticism expressed online and in private. More than 3,000 cases involved social media or messaging platforms popular in Russia.


“A large number of totally unknown, nameless, nonpublic people, who simply wrote something or said something somewhere, are getting hit,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.


To better understand the extent of this censorship, we spent months analyzing a database of every available public record of prosecutions under the new law provided by OVD-Info, a Russian human rights and legal aid group.


First-time offenders are typically handed a fine of 30,000 rubles — around $300 at the current exchange rate, about half the average monthly salary in Russia — while repeat offenders can receive prison time. Known as article 20.3.3, the law has become the most widely used tool in Russia’s wartime crackdown, and it is the focus of our analysis; another law punishes spreading “false information” about the Russian army with up to 15 years in prison.


Experts say the wartime censorship is transforming Russian society and setting the stage for even more widespread repression in the future, as the authorities automate their monitoring of the internet and encourage people to denounce each other online. Mr. Putin set the tone last year when he referred to opponents of the war as “scum and traitors” to be cleansed from society.


In response to the crackdown, many Russians have begun to self-censor. Demyan Bespokoyev, a private school tutor who was prosecuted for writing an antiwar message on his coat, described the process this way: “The prison forms inside your head.”


Silencing Protest


In the first months of the war, the documents show, Russia was focused on stamping out dissent in public spaces.


Russia’s crackdowns on free speech used to garner global headlines. Now they are noticed less and less. One reason is the sheer scale: On each of the 530 days of the war for which we have near-complete data, an average of 13 cases were heard in court involving people opposing the war — and that’s just under the discreditation law. The indignities of the crackdown, and the long arm of the Russia law, is being lost in the numbers.


In villages and far-flung regions, in schools and hospitals, in chat groups and local news outlets, and in a prison and on a military base, people were accused of speaking out against the war.


The analysis challenges the notion that opposition sentiment in Russia is concentrated among the elite in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major cities. The documents show that two-thirds of the cases were heard in courts located in cities and towns with a population of less than a million.


In the small town of Iglino in western Russia, a retired train driver named Zaynulla Gadzhiyev, now 76, predicted on his social media page: “Nothing will save Russia now from collapse.”


Mr. Bespokoyev, 22, the private school tutor, walked through a St. Petersburg subway station wearing the overcoat his grandfather wore in World War II, on which Mr. Bespokoyev had written: “I’m hurting and afraid. I don’t want war.”


In Novosibirsk in Siberia, Marina Tsurmast, a local journalist, scrawled “Bucha” in red on a piece of paper and pasted it over an exhibition stand celebrating the anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Police officers detained her on the spot.


In dry legalese, the court documents recount the Russian state’s case against these statements and protests.


The judge in the case of Ms. Tsurmast, the journalist, ruled that she had “distorted the true goals” of Mr. Putin’s war. A St. Petersburg judge ruled that Mr. Bespokoyev, the tutor, had undermined “the authority, image and trust in the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” And Mr. Gadzhiyev, the retired train driver, was cited for “undermining trust in the decisions of the state authorities of the Russian Federation on the conduct of the special military operation.”


All three were fined 30,000 rubles, about $500 at the time. In those first three months of the war, the data shows that at least 1,662 other Russians faced prosecution for antiwar speech.


Other critics, some of them prominent opposition figures, have received much harsher sentences under other more punitive laws, like the politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who received a 25-year term on treason charges after criticizing the war. A pacifist artist, Aleksandra Y. Skochilenko, 33, was sentenced in November to seven years in a penal colony for placing price tags with small antiwar messages in a supermarket.


But for the thousands convicted of discrediting the army, the fines are a small part of the trouble they face. Interviews with 10 of them show that convictions bring social opprobrium and complications in finding work, spurring some people to leave Russia altogether.


The law has seeped into the fabric of Russia’s society, adding to the dread of anyone opposing the war. Ms. Tsurmast, the journalist in Novosibirsk, says her anxiety level rises when she notices car headlights outside her apartment window or hears a sound at a late hour.


“I had these attacks of paranoia,” she said in a phone interview, adding that she still felt it sometimes. “The elevator at night — is it coming for me?”


Reaching Into Private Life


The number of cases grew amid the outcry over Mr. Putin’s draft in September 2022. The crackdown reached increasingly into people’s personal lives.


On the morning of Sept. 25, 2022, police officers burst into the Moscow apartment of Daria Ivanova, 29, and, she said, carried her out by her arms and legs before she had time to put on her shoes. Surveillance cameras had identified her and a friend, the police told her, as being the ones who put up prank posters to protest Mr. Putin’s mobilization: “To order a coffin, go to the nearest draft office.”


Ms. Ivanova says she was beaten while in custody for 11 hours. Still in Moscow, she now takes a dim view of her job prospects. A friend told her that, given her conviction, “you’ll never be approved by the security service” at the state company where the friend worked.


The episode highlights the Kremlin’s reach in trying to catch the war’s opponents: It has deployed the police, electronic surveillance and fellow citizens against them.


In smaller towns, the residents do the surveillance themselves. Anton Redikultsev, now 48, was an art teacher in the town of Kalga near the Chinese border — population: 2,545. This past June, a deputy district prosecutor filed charges against him, citing as evidence five social media posts, including links to antiwar songs and a picture of a child’s drawing with the words: “No need for bombs!” He was fined 30,000 rubles. On Sept. 1, the first day of school, he was fired.


Mr. Redikultsev, who is also a competitive powerlifter and goes by the nickname “Lifter,” said the conviction had turned him into an outcast. People who always greeted him on the street now turn away, he said. “People like to overstate, make up details and exaggerate.”


But Mr. Redikultsev insists he has no regrets. Keeping quiet, he said, “seems comparable to a sort of dishonor — to silent agreement.” In court, he said, he asked the prosecutor how he was supposed to exercise his right to express his opinion, which the Russian Constitution technically still guarantees.


“He didn’t respond,” Mr. Redikultsev recalled.


Policing the Internet


By this year, with public protest all but gone because of the crackdown, the internet was left as the main vehicle for dissent.


In June, Russia’s Constitutional Court upheld the censorship law in the face of a challenge from OVD-Info, the legal aid group. People’s “negative assessment” of the Russian military could adversely affect its performance, the court said, presenting a national security risk. But the court left it up to individual judges to decide what exactly qualified as illegal speech — a remarkable acknowledgment of the law’s arbitrariness that the Kremlin has embraced.


Asked in a November interview to explain the difference between justified criticism of the war and “discreditation,” Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, said it was hard to determine. “Where’s the line? I can’t tell you,” he said. “It’s very thin.”


In Moscow courtrooms, the cases have become routine. Last month, a prosecutor in a navy blue uniform quietly read out the sections of the administrative code that the 60-year-old defendant, Sergei Platonov, stood accused of violating. Addressing Russian soldiers on social media, he had written, “You are going to kill other children in order to feed your own.”


Mr. Platonov, dressed in white and without a lawyer, said nothing. Within 20 minutes, the judge returned with the guilty verdict and ordered him to pay 30,000 rubles. In an interview afterward, he referred to the officers who investigated him as the “Russian Gestapo” and said he would try to avoid paying: “The money will go into the budget, toward the war. And I very much don’t want this.”


For the moment, lawyers say, the volume of prosecutions is held in check by the large amount of paperwork that every case requires; as a result, many instances of antiwar speech still go unpunished. But experts fear that as prosecutions become ever more routine and as the authorities focus on policing online speech, they could develop automated ways to launch investigations and to file cases.


“There certainly is that fear, given the reports that instruments for automatization are being developed,” Polina Kurakina, an OVD-Info lawyer, said.


Russia’s Pacific Coast region of Primorye, for example, launched an anonymous Telegram service last month allowing people to inform on anyone who, among other things, “promotes evil.” And a leak last year from Russia's internet regulator showed it was developing automated systems to scan social media and news websites for politically sensitive content.


In many ways, though, the Kremlin’s campaign of repression has already achieved the desired result. Some of those prosecuted have fled the country, while others have squelched any impulse to protest the war.


Mr. Kolesnikov, the political scholar, who is based in Moscow, sees the law as an indicator of Russia’s descent into an even more controlling, totalitarian system, with anyone anywhere speaking against the Kremlin becoming vulnerable to prosecution.


And yet, some people still protest. In October, a judge ordered Anna Sliva, 18, to pay a 50,000 ruble fine — about $500 at the exchange rate then — for holding up a sign at a Moscow memorial to the Soviet gulag labor camps: “Stop killing and imprisoning civilians.” In an interview, Ms. Sliva said that her action would give her an answer if she were to have children who asked her: “Mom, what did you do when the war came?”


About the data

The New York Times analyzed 6,771 cases tried under Mr. Putin’s new censorship law, article 20.3.3 of the administrative offenses code. The cases range from when Mr. Putin signed the law on March 4, 2022, to the end of August 2023. They are a subset of a larger dataset of more than 9,000 cases provided by OVD-Info, a Russian human rights and legal aid group. Cases without detailed accounts of what happened were excluded from the analysis, as were cases we identified as appeals. A small number of cases may have appeared more than once in the database because multiple records were created for them in the court system, oftentimes to correct an error in the previous record. Individuals in the illustrated crowds are placed based on the dates when hearings were held. Highlighted cases in the illustrations are placed within a month of the hearing for legibility. Their descriptions are based on court documents.

To tally the cases in categories of cases — such as the number of defendants alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol — we searched the database for cases with related keywords and manually checked the results. The numbers of cases tallied in each category may be an undercount.

An unsupervised machine learning algorithm classified whether each incident happened online, based on patterns of language in court documents. A representative subset of these results was then manually checked to confirm the approximate number of online and offline cases.



12) Deadly Strike Hits Southern Gaza Area Where Many Are Sheltering

By Anushka Patil, Dec. 29, 2023


A small child dressed in blue and white and covered in dirt is held on his side. Several medical workers are gathered around him.

A wounded child in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday. Credit...Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An airstrike on Thursday hit an area of southern Gaza where Israel has ordered civilians to seek shelter from its military offensive, according to a nearby hospital, which said that at least 18 people were killed and dozens of others injured.


The hospital, the Kuwait Specialty Hospital, said the strike hit a house in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost area, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled following Israeli military orders to move south.


The Israeli military did not immediately respond to questions about the strike, and the circumstances could not be independently verified.


The strike came as Israeli forces intensified their offensive in southern Gaza against Hamas, the armed group that controls the territory.


On Friday, the Israeli military said that it had carried out a series of attacks over the past day in Khan Younis, the biggest city in the south, using airstrikes, sniper fire and tank rounds, and that “dozens of terrorists” had been killed. It also said that ground troops were fighting in an area of southern Gaza known as Khuza’a, near the Israeli border, describing it as a staging ground for Hamas’s raid on Nir Oz, a kibbutz that was one of many southern Israeli communities that the militant group targeted during the deadly Oct. 7 attacks. Israel’s accounts of its military operations could not be independently verified.


About 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced, and those sheltering near the Kuwait hospital have hardly anywhere farther south to go. The hospital is less than a mile from Gaza’s border with Egypt, which Egypt is determined to keep closed.


The city’s border crossing with Egypt is also the main entry point for aid into the territory. Israel has continued bombing areas it has told people to move to.


After Thursday’s strike, many who arrived at the Kuwait hospital had serious injuries, including head wounds and severed limbs, the hospital’s director, Dr. Suhaib Al Hams, said in a video on social media.


News photos from the scene of the strike showed people pulling young children from the rubble. In one, a girl in colorful pajamas appeared limp as she was carried away.


Photographs from the hospital showed several medics treating a young boy covered in dust and blood; at his feet, on the same stretcher, lay the girl in the colorful pajamas.


An Al Jazeera correspondent who saw the strike and visited the hospital in the immediate aftermath, Tareq Abu Azzoum, reported that it had destroyed a residential building.


Nesreen Joudeh, who has been sheltering with 29 members of her extended family in a two-bedroom apartment in Rafah, told The New York Times over text messages that strikes on Thursday night “were very intense, loud and close. We are all terrified.”


Airstrikes hit near the apartment and the blasts smashed the windows, she said. The apartment was already freezing cold for Ms. Joudeh, 38, and her family, who have been sleeping on the floor with no winter clothes or blankets.


If Israeli ground forces move into Rafah, she said, they wouldn’t know where to go.


“It is supposed to be safe, but no place is safe in Gaza,” she said.


Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.



13) The U.N. says Israeli forces fired on an aid convoy in central Gaza.

By Raja Abdulrahim Reporting from Jerusalem, Dec. 29, 2023


Trucks, one flying a blue United Nations flag, are lined up on a road, with men in orange high-visibility vests alongside.

An aid convoy waiting to head toward northern Gaza last month. Credit...Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

Israeli forces shot at a United Nations convoy of armored vehicles in central Gaza on Thursday evening as it was returning from delivering aid in the northern part of the territory, U.N. officials said.


No one in the convoy was injured, the officials said, but the episode highlighted the severe challenges facing humanitarian efforts to help Palestinians struggling to survive amid Israel’s nearly 12-week bombardment of the enclave.


“Israeli soldiers fired at an aid convoy as it returned from northern Gaza along a route designated by the Israeli Army,” Thomas White, the Gaza director for UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency for Palestinian refugees, wrote on social media. He said that one vehicle in the convoy had been damaged, adding: “Aid workers should never be a target.”


The Israeli military did not immediately comment when asked about the episode.


The convoy, whose vehicles were marked with U.N. insignia, was returning from delivering aid, including flour. It was south of Gaza City when it came under fire, Juliette Touma, spokeswoman for UNRWA, said in an interview. Before setting out to deliver the aid, the convoy had coordinated its plans with the Israeli military and notified it of the routes it would take, she added.


Ms. Touma said that the Israeli military had told the convoy to take a different route, which it did. “They rerouted and then the shooting happened,” she said.


Aid workers and deliveries have come under fire before during Israel’s nearly 12-week military offensive in Gaza.


UNRWA says that 142 of its employees have been killed, among the more than 20,000 Palestinians that the Gazan Health Ministry says have been killed in the Israeli air and ground offensive. Israel began striking Gaza on Oct. 7 after Hamas, the armed group which controls Gaza, carried out an attack in southern Israel that killed some 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.


Most UNRWA staff members have been forced to flee their homes, and the severe restrictions on aid and fuel entering the territory, as well as road closures ordered by the Israeli military and extensive damage from its bombardment, have vastly limited the agency’s ability to work. The situation has remained dire despite the passage last week of a U.N. Security Council resolution that would allow more aid to reach Gazan civilians and that demanded “safe and unhindered humanitarian access.” The resolution stopped short of calling for a cease-fire.


“It’s very difficult to deliver assistance and humanitarian relief during a war zone when there is active conflict,” Ms. Touma said.


On Nov. 18, a Doctors Without Borders convoy attempting to evacuate people sheltering in a hospital came under fire in Gaza City, killing two people, the group said. It blamed Israel for what it said was a deliberate attack against vehicles emblazoned with the group’s logo.


Two days later, the group’s facilities in Gaza City came under attack when shots were fired while its employees were sheltering inside, the group said. Doctors Without Borders asked the Israeli authorities for a formal explanation and called for an independent investigation. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


On Nov. 7, a medical convoy of the International Committee of the Red Cross came under fire in Gaza City, lightly wounding a driver and damaging two trucks, the aid group said. It did not say who was to blame for the attack.


UNRWA says that up to 1.9 million people — more than 85 percent of Gaza’s population — have been displaced from their homes, and that nearly 1.4 million are sheltering in facilities operated by the agency.


As it struggles to deliver aid, agency officials say that desperate Gazans facing acute hunger are stopping U.N. aid trucks, taking food off them and devouring it on the spot.


“The very little supplies that continue to be allowed into Gaza have led to very high levels of desperation among the communities,” Ms. Touma said. “So it’s no surprise that people are coming to aid trucks and taking food and in many cases they are eating it then and there.”



14) Gazans face an endless trek for safety as the evacuation orders keep coming.

By Raja Abdulrahim and Ameera Harouda, Dec. 29, 2023


Two people, wounded and bloodied, on the ground.

Palestinians seeking help after an Israeli strike in central Gaza on Thursday. Credit...Mohammed Asad/Associated Press

When Samir Hassan and his surviving family members fled their home in the town of Mughraqa in the central Gaza Strip weeks ago, they did so under intense Israeli airstrikes, which killed a number of family members, including an uncle, and severely injured his brother.


They settled in a tent in the nearby Nuseirat area, where tens of thousands of Palestinians forced by Israel’s air and ground offensive had also fled and were finding what shelter they could in overcrowded schools, ramshackle tents or even out in the streets.


Now Mr. Hassan’s family has been warned they must move again.


The Israeli military this week ordered more than 150,000 people to leave parts of central Gaza. “The area you are in is considered an area of deadly fighting,” warned leaflets that were dropped over homes, shelters and encampments.


“God willing this will be the last time we are displaced,” said Mr. Hassan, 22, a taxi driver. The family lost everything the first time it fled, he said.


Israel’s war on Hamas has forced many of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians to repeatedly flee for their lives as airstrikes bombard their towns and cities and Israeli forces advance their ground invasion.


The area now under threat, roughly nine square kilometers, has six shelters housing about 61,000 displaced people, mostly from northern Gaza, according to the United Nations. That is in addition to the 90,000 original residents of the area.


In its latest evacuation orders, Israel instructed people to move immediately to shelters that, the U.N. says, can barely hold the several hundred thousand people already there.


Some 1.9 million people in Gaza, or nearly 85 percent of the population, are estimated to be displaced, according to the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians.


“Forced to move again,” the agency said on Thursday. “Evacuation order by Israeli authorities of middle Gaza causes ongoing forced displacement. Over 150,000 people — young children, women carrying babies, people with disabilities & the elderly — have nowhere to go.”


The only remaining hope for Gazans, the agency said, is a cease-fire.


Israel’s evacuation orders — which the United Nations has said risk forced displacement, which is a war crime — have at times been contradictory and confusing. And even when Gazans make the wrenching decision to uproot their families yet again, they are forced to make impossible choices, with no safe places to go.


The Israeli bombardment and the siege of Gaza have decimated large parts of the Palestinian enclave and its infrastructure, leaving millions hungry and exposed to the elements and creating a public health disaster in the making.


Israel has said it is addressing the humanitarian concerns, including those voiced by the United States. A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, said on social media that in an effort to help Gazans understand the evacuation directives, they had published maps divided into grids “in order to preserve your security and safety.”


But Israel has routinely used 2,000-pound bombs — one of the biggest and most destructive supplied by the United States — in densely populated areas in southern Gaza where civilians were told to move for safety, according to an analysis of the visual evidence by The New York Times.


At the Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, a mother of five said that she and 20 members of her extended family had arrived there the previous day. It is the fourth time the family, including a 10-month-old baby, have been forced to flee since the war began.


“They threatened the entire block around us, even the new camp, even the market street — all of it they threatened,” she said. “They dropped leaflets ordering us to leave within three days. So we had to come here.”


Living in a thin tent in the winter cold has made all her children sick, she said. Now they are living on the cold pavement outside the hospital.


“We don’t have mattresses,” she said. “We only have blankets. Either we cover ourselves with them, or we sleep on them.”



15) Israeli military admits fault in two Dec. 24 strikes.

By Isabel Kershner reporting from Jerusalem, Dec. 29, 2023


An overhead image of destroyed buildings.

Dozens of civilians were killed by Israeli airstrikes on Al Maghazi, a neighborhood in central Gaza. Credit...Shadi Tabatibi/Reuters

The Israeli military acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that it had carried out two airstrikes in the central Gaza Strip on Dec. 24, which according to health officials in the enclave killed dozens of civilians.


It was a rare admission of fault regarding a specific event during a war that has so far claimed more than 20,000 lives in the enclave, the majority of them women and children, according to the Gazan health ministry. The Israeli military said in a statement that it  “regrets the harm to uninvolved individuals, and is working to draw lessons from the incident.”


Referring to strikes in Al Maghazi, a neighborhood in central Gaza, the military said in the statement that as part of its operations in the area, Israeli fighter jets had struck two targets adjacent to where “Hamas operatives” were located.


Despite steps that were taken to mitigate harm to civilians in the area, the military said, “A preliminary investigation revealed that additional buildings near the targets were also hit during the strikes, which likely caused unintended harm to additional uninvolved civilians.”


An unidentified military official told Kan News, Israel’s public broadcaster, on Thursday that an improper choice of weaponry was to blame for the extensive damage and high civilian death toll, adding that the type of munition used did not match the nature of the attack.


A military fact-finding committee will further investigate the event, the military said in its statement.


Khalil Deqran, the spokesman for a hospital in nearby Deir al Balah, told the broadcast network Al Araby on the night of the attack that the hospital had received more than 70 bodies from strikes in Al Maghazi and Al Bureij, another neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip, and that the dead included many women, children and older people.


Al Maghazi was created in 1949 as one of eight camps in Gaza established to house Palestinians who fled or were expelled during the wars surrounding Israel’s creation. The camps have generally been built up over time to become tightly packed neighborhoods.


Al Maghazi is densely packed, with a prewar population of 33,255 people in 0.6 square kilometers, or 0.2 square miles, according to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and operates the camps.


Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting.



16) Israel’s ‘Third Phase” is a Redoubling of Genocide

By Paul Larudee, Dec. 29, 2023

VIA Email


Less than a month ago, I wrote that Israel’s strategy is genocide. Now Israel apparently recognizes that it is losing the ground war to Hamas and allied groups in the Palestinian resistance. Israel is casualty-averse, and it is taking a lot more casualties in Gaza than it can accept. In fact, Israel refuses to disclose more than a fraction of its casualties, and their strict military censorship won’t let others disclose such information, either.


The resistance, on the other hand, is showing the same brilliant preparations for a prolonged battle that it showed on October 7, 2023, in overcoming Israel’s vaunted military technology, strategy and capability. The Internet is full of Go-Pro videos filmed by impeccably trained and apparently fearless resistance fighters, blasting Israeli troops and equipment even in the north of Gaza, which Israel supposedly leveled to the ground and from which it drove out most of the population. Israel wants to blow up the tunnels, too, but the resistance welcomes the attempt, trying to lure them into the traps set for them.


The Israeli public, in the meantime, is impatient with the lack of progress – in freeing the captives/hostages, in winning the ground war, and with both the lack of transparency and the unaccustomed sacrifices. In the last month, the flight abroad by Israelis has doubled from 250,000 to more than 500,000. Prime Minister Netanyahu is the most unpopular person in Israel, and crowds of his constituency are confronting him at public events to make any deal that brings the captives/hostages home.


He's trying to make a deal, but his hand is weak, and the Hamas government is driving a hard bargain, saying that they won’t even negotiate unless and until all fighting stops. Netanyahu can’t do that. If he tries, he will lose his uncompromising and racist partners in the governing coalition, and if he is no longer Prime Minister, he will be subject to prosecution and imprisonment for corruption. Hamas knows how to put him in a corner.


As a result, Israel is planning to withdrew most of its ground troops from Gaza, a tacit admission that Hamas forces have won the ground battle. Israeli media describe this as the beginning of the “third phase”, which will include a buffer zone on the border of the Gaza Strip, and (what else?) more intensive bombing than ever before.


The third phase of what? Surely not a war. Israel is abandoning the only fighting that resembles a war, i.e. combat. The Israeli leadership has said that it wants to eliminate Hamas, but their “third phase” strategy seems to disengage from Hamas, and eliminate instead the entire Palestinian population - women, children and all. The correct name for this is genocide.


Nevertheless, this is clearly Israel’s strategy. Is it achievable? With enough US bombs, rockets and other airborne munitions supplied by the U.S., why not? It’s not as if unarmed civilians are capable of fighting back against such an onslaught from the air. So yes, with the complicity and underwriting of the US, they are realistically capable of committing a thorough genocide.


In fact, beyond a certain point, Israel doesn’t need bombs and missiles except to hasten the end of more than 2 million lives. The buffer zone alone can be the killer, by denying food, water, shelter, medical supplies and services, as well as everything else necessary to sustain life. Israel has already informed Egypt and other countries that it intends to re-occupy the “Philadelphi corridor,” a strip of land several hundred meters wide and fourteen kilometers long, that Israel bulldozed through the city of Rafah and to the Mediterranean along the border of Egypt in 2003-4, destroying thousands of homes in the process and killing American nonviolent resistor Rachel Corrie, who was trying to block them. Among other interdictions, the buffer zone will presumably also be used to stop communication with the outside world, as well, by jamming and other measures, so that the scenes of living skeletons and their faint cries for help will be blocked from the eyes of the world until the job is done, perhaps before spring, perhaps sooner.


This, or something very like it, appears to be the plan. It assumes that, eventually, the resistance fighters in their underground fortress will also disappear, to be seen never again, along with their Israeli captives. Never again. How ironic that the Zionist Movement, claiming to represent all Jews, should seek to commit the greatest genocide of our time, with unlimited means provided by the country most able to prevent it.


Paul Larudee is a retired academic and current administrator of a nonprofit human rights and humanitarian aid organization.