Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, March 21, 2024


Pita bread made from animal feed.

See Gaza Strip Access Restrictions.pdf since 2007 at:


Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel:
As of March 21, 2024the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 31,988,* 74,188 wounded, and more than 435 Palestinians have been killed and 4,600 wounded by Israel in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.***  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 more than 6,115.

Israel lowers its estimated October 7 death toll from 1,400 to 1,147—594 Israeli soldiers killed since ground invasion, 3,221 wounded**

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on Telegram channel. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 40,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.”

*** The death toll in West Bank and Jerusalem is not updated regularly. According to PA’s Ministry of Health on March 6, this is the latest figure.

Source: mondoweiss.net




*Major Announcement*

Claudia De la Cruz wins

Peace and Freedom Party primary in California!

We have an exciting announcement. The votes are still being counted in California, but the Claudia-Karina “Vote Socialist” campaign has achieved a clear and irreversible lead in the Peace and Freedom Party primary. Based on the current count, Claudia has 46% of the vote compared to 40% for Cornel West. A significant majority of PFP’s newly elected Central Committee, which will formally choose the nominee at its August convention, have also pledged their support to the Claudia-Karina campaign.


We are excited to campaign in California now and expect Claudia De la Cruz to be the candidate on the ballot of the Peace and Freedom Party in November.


We achieved another big accomplishment this week - we’re officially on the ballot in Hawai’i! This comes after also petitioning to successfully gain ballot access in Utah. We are already petitioning in many other states. Each of these achievements is powered by the tremendous effort of our volunteers and grassroots organizers across the country. When we’re organized, people power can move mountains!


We need your help to keep the momentum going. Building a campaign like this takes time, energy, and money. We know that our class enemies — the billionaires, bankers, and CEO’s — put huge sums toward loyal politicians and other henchmen who defend their interests. They will use all the money and power at their disposal to stop movements like ours. As an independent, socialist party, our campaign is relying on contributions from the working class and people like you.


We call on each and every one of our supporters to set up a monthly or one-time donation to support this campaign to help it keep growing and reaching more people. A new socialist movement, independent of the Democrats and Republicans, is being built but it will only happen when we all pitch in.


The Claudia-Karina campaign calls to end all U.S. aid to Israel. End this government’s endless wars. We want jobs for all, with union representation and wages that let us live with dignity. Housing, healthcare, and education for all - without the lifelong debt. End the ruthless attacks on women, Black people, immigrants, and LGBTQ people. These are just some of the demands that are resonating across the country. Help us take the next step: 


Volunteer: https://votesocialist2024.com/volunteer


Donate: https://votesocialist2024.com/donate


See you in the streets,


Claudia & Karina


Don't Forget! Join our telegram channel for regular updates: https://t.me/+KtYBAKgX51JhNjMx



We are all Palestinian

Listen and view this beautiful, powerful, song by Mistahi Corkill on YouTube at:



Here is my new song and music video, We are all Palestinian, linked below. If you find it inspiring, please feel free to share with others. All the best!


Thousands at stadium sing, "You'll Never Walk Alone," and wave Palestinian flags in Scotland.

We are all Palestinian



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


For More Information:


Production of Labor Video Project





Just Like The Nazis Did

By David Rovics


After so many decades of patronage

By the world’s greatest empire

So many potential agreements

Were rejected by opening fire

After crushing so many uprisings

Now they’re making their ultimate bid

Pursuing their Final Solution

Just like the Nazis did


They forced refugees into ghettos

Then set the ghettos aflame

Murdering writers and poets

And so no one remember their names

Killing their entire families

The grandparents, women and kids

The uncles and cousins and babies

Just like the Nazis did


They’re bombing all means of sustaining

Human life at all

See the few shelters remaining

Watch as the tower blocks fall

They’re bombing museums and libraries

In order to get rid

Of any memory of the people who lived here

Just like the Nazis did


They’re saying these people are animals

And they should all end up dead

They’re sending soldiers into schools

And shooting children in the head

The rhetoric is identical

And with Gaza off the grid

They’ve already said what happens next

Just like the Nazis did


Words of war for domestic consumption

And lies for all the rest

To try to distract our attention

Among their enablers in the West

Because Israel needs their imports

To keep those pallets on the skids

They need fuel and they need missiles

Just like the Nazis did


They’re using food as a weapon

They’re using water that way, too

They’re trying to kill everyone in Gaza

Or make them flee, it’s true

As the pundits talk of “after the war”

Like with the Fall of Madrid

The victors are preparing for more

Just like the Nazis did


But it’s after the conquest’s complete

If history is any guide

When the occupying army

Is positioned to decide

When disease and famine kills

Whoever may have hid

Behind the ghetto walls

Just like the Nazis did


All around the world

People are trying to tell

There's a genocide unfolding

Ringing alarm bells

But with such a powerful axis

And so many lucrative bids

They know who wants their money

Just like the Nazis did


There's so many decades of patronage

For the world's greatest empire

So many potential agreements

Were rejected by opening fire

They're crushing so many uprisings

Now they're making their ultimate bid

Pursuing their final solution

Just like the Nazis did

  Just like the Nazis did

    Just like the Nazis did



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 

Sign the petition:




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

Join the Fight for Mumia's Life

Since September, Mumia Abu-Jamal's health has been declining at a concerning rate. He has lost weight, is anemic, has high blood pressure and an extreme flair up of his psoriasis, and his hair has fallen out. In April 2021 Mumia underwent open heart surgery. Since then, he has been denied cardiac rehabilitation care including a healthy diet and exercise.

Donate to Mumia Abu-Jamal's Emergency Legal and Medical Defense Fund, Official 2024

Mumia has instructed PrisonRadio to set up this fund. Gifts donated here are designated for the Mumia Abu-Jamal Medical and Legal Defense Fund. If you are writing a check or making a donation in another way, note this in the memo line.

Send to:

 Mumia Medical and Legal Fund c/o Prison Radio

P.O. Box 411074, San Francisco, CA 94103

Prison Radio is a project of the Redwood Justice Fund (RJF), which is a California 501c3 (Tax ID no. 680334309) not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the defense of the environment and of civil and human rights secured by law.  Prison Radio/Redwood Justice Fund PO Box 411074, San Francisco, CA 94141



Leonard Peltier “Why?” (Henry CrowDog)

Leonard Peltier Update—Experiencing the Onset of Blindness


Greetings Relatives,

Leonard is in trouble, physically. He is experiencing the onset of blindness. He is losing strength in his limbs. His blood sugar is testing erratically. This, on top of already severe conditions that have become dire. Leonard has not seen a dentist in ten years. His few remaining teeth are infected. He is locked down, in pain.

As always, Leonard’s fortitude remains astonishing. He is not scared of dying. He does not want to die in lockdown.

Our legal team has an emergency transfer underway. They are going to extraordinary lengths. We must get a top ophthalmologist to him. Thanks to your calls, the BOP did see him. They told him a specialist would be 8 - 10 weeks out.

Leonard does not have eight to ten weeks. He needs emergency care immediately.

If you can, please donate to this GoFundMe. Every penny matters. If you cannot, please share. If you are so inclined, go to www.freeleonardpeltiernow.org and contact the officials listed.


As always, thank you for your support.


Dawn Lawson

Personal Assistant Leonard Peltier

Executive Assistant Jenipher Jones, Esq.

Secretary Leonard Peltier Ad Hoc Committee




Leonard Peltier Update - Not One More Year


Coleman 1 has gone on permanent lockdown.

The inmates are supposed to be allowed out two hours a day. I have not heard from Leonard since the 18th. 

The last time I talked to Leonard, he asked where his supporters were. He asked me if anyone cared about these lockdowns.

Leonard lives in a filthy, cold cell 22 to 24 hours a day. He has not seen a dentist in ten years. I asked him, “On a scale of 1 to 10, is your pain level at 13?” He said, “Something like that.” Leonard is a relentless truth-teller. He does not like it when I say things that do not make sense mathematically. 

That is why Leonard remains imprisoned. He will not lie. He will not beg, grovel, or denounce his beliefs. 

Please raise your voice. Ask your representatives why they have abdicated their responsibility to oversee the Bureau of Prisons and ensure they adhere to Constitutional law.

Uhuru, The African People’s Socialist Party, has stepped up for Leonard. NOT ONE MORE YEAR.


Fight for Free Speech – YouTube:



Leonard should not have spent a day in prison. Click “LEARN” on our website to find out what really happened on that reservation: 


Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

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 

A Never-ending Constitutional Violation

A summary of the current status of Kevin Cooper’s case by the Kevin Cooper Defense Committee


      On October 26, 2023, the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP wrote a rebuttal in response to the Special Counsel's January 13, 2023 report upholding the conviction of their client Kevin Cooper. A focus of the rebuttal was that all law enforcement files were not turned over to the Special Counsel during their investigation, despite a request for them to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office.

      On October 29, 2023, Law Professors Lara Bazelon and Charlie Nelson Keever, who run the six member panel that reviews wrongful convictions for the San Francisco County District Attorney's office, published an OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle calling the "Innocence Investigation” done by the Special Counsel in the Cooper case a “Sham Investigation” largely because Cooper has unsuccessfully fought for years to obtain the police and prosecutor files in his case. This is a Brady claim, named for the U.S. Supreme court’s 1963 case establishing the Constitutional rule that defendants are entitled to any information in police and prosecutor's possession that could weaken the state's case or point to innocence. Brady violations are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. The Special Counsel's report faults Cooper for not offering up evidence of his own despite the fact that the best evidence to prove or disprove Brady violations or other misconduct claims are in those files that the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office will not turn over to the Special Counsel or to Cooper's attorneys.

      On December 14, 2023, the president of the American Bar Association (ABA), Mary Smith, sent Governor Gavin Newsom a three page letter on behalf of the ABA stating in part that Mr.Cooper's counsel objected to the state's failure to provide Special Counsel all documents in their possession relating to Mr.Cooper's conviction, and that concerns about missing information are not new. For nearly 40 years Mr.Cooper's attorneys have sought this same information from the state.

      On December 19, 2023, Bob Egelko, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about the ABA letter to the Governor that the prosecutors apparently withheld evidence from the Governor's legal team in the Cooper case.

      These are just a few recent examples concerning the ongoing failure of the San Bernardino County District Attorney to turn over to Cooper's attorney's the files that have been requested, even though under the law and especially the U.S. Constitution, the District Attorney of San Bernardino county is required to turn over to the defendant any and all material and or exculpatory evidence that they have in their files. Apparently, they must have something in their files because they refuse to turn them over to anyone.

      The last time Cooper's attorney's received files from the state, in 2004, it wasn't from the D.A. but a Deputy Attorney General named Holly Wilkens in Judge Huff's courtroom. Cooper's attorneys discovered a never before revealed police report showing that a shirt was discovered that had blood on it and was connected to the murders for which Cooper was convicted, and that the shirt had disappeared. It had never been tested for blood. It was never turned over to Cooper's trial attorney, and no one knows where it is or what happened to it. Cooper's attorneys located the woman who found that shirt on the side of the road and reported it to the Sheriff's Department. She was called to Judge Huff's court to testify about finding and reporting that shirt to law enforcement. That shirt was the second shirt found that had blood on it that was not the victims’ blood. This was in 2004, 19 years after Cooper's conviction.

      It appears that this ongoing constitutional violation that everyone—from the Special Counsel to the Governor's legal team to the Governor himself—seems to know about, but won't do anything about, is acceptable in order to uphold Cooper's conviction.

But this type of thing is supposed to be unacceptable in the United States of America where the Constitution is supposed to stand for something other than a piece of paper with writing on it. How can a Governor, his legal team, people who support and believe in him ignore a United States citizen’s Constitutional Rights being violated for 40 years in order to uphold a conviction?

      This silence is betrayal of the Constitution. This permission and complicity by the Governor and his team is against everything that he and they claim to stand for as progressive politicians. They have accepted the Special Counsel's report even though the Special Counsel did not receive the files from the district attorney that may not only prove that Cooper is innocent, but that he was indeed framed by the Sheriff’s Department; and that evidence was purposely destroyed and tampered with, that certain witnesses were tampered with, or ignored if they had information that would have helped Cooper at trial, that evidence that the missing shirt was withheld from Cooper's trial attorney, and so much more.

      Is the Governor going to get away with turning a blind eye to this injustice under his watch?

      Are progressive people going to stay silent and turn their eyes blind in order to hopefully get him to end the death penalty for some while using Cooper as a sacrificial lamb?

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)




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



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) New ways to get aid into Gaza are not yet relieving hunger, experts say.

By Gaya Gupta and Vivek Shankar, March 17, 2024


Three men, one of them wearing a camouflage uniform, load a cargo plane.

U.S. Air Force members at a base in Jordan on Thursday, loading a plane with aid to be dropped into Gaza. Credit...Dylan Collins/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With the humanitarian crisis worsening in the Gaza Strip, the United States this month started airdropping food and water into the enclave. This weekend, a maritime shipment of aid reached northern Gaza’s shores, the first to do so in nearly two decades. Another batch of essentials is expected to soon set sail for Gaza from Cyprus.


Over the next few weeks, the United States is planning to build a floating dock off Gaza's shores that the White House has said could eventually help two million meals arrive in Gaza each day.


All of these efforts are designed to get more aid into Gaza, where the United Nations says severe hunger and malnutrition are alarmingly rampant. But diversifying the methods of delivery has not curtailed widespread malnutrition, experts and humanitarian groups say. While those efforts are welcome, they say the best way to stave off a famine is to broker a cease-fire. Talks are expected to resume in the coming days.


“We cannot stack up aid to the level that is needed, and we cannot keep it safe for both people delivering it and the people receiving it as long as there’s still an active war going on,” said Sarah Schiffling, an expert on humanitarian logistics and supply chains at the Hanken School of Economics in Finland.


As long as war endures, though, the main method for delivering aid should be over land, Dr. Schiffling said, because Gaza already has the infrastructure needed in place. Other mechanisms for transporting aid into Gaza by air or sea are “nice to have,” she added, but they are not likely to be as effective in addressing the dire hunger crisis there.


For instance, the 200-ton shipment — containing rice, flour, lentils and canned tuna, beef and chicken supplied by the charity World Central Kitchen — that reached Gaza this weekend was equivalent of what roughly 10 trucks could carry. In comparison, around 150 trucks are entering Gaza each day, which is less than a third of what was entering daily before the war, according to data from the main United Nations aid agency that serves Palestinians in Gaza, known as UNRWA.


The U.S. military, in partnership with the Jordanian Air Force, made an airdrop on Saturday that included about eight tons of food — less than half of what one truck can hold.


Juliette Touma, the director of communications at UNRWA, agreed. She said that while the arrival of additional aid by sea or air would undoubtedly help Palestinians, it serves as a Band-Aid so that a “crisis does not turn into a catastrophe.”


Israel maintains that it has placed no limit on the amount of aid that can enter Gaza and that it supports efforts to flood Gaza with food and supplies. But aid groups point out that Israel has closed all but two border crossings in the south and that its onerous inspections of aid convoys for arms slow down deliveries. Last week, Israel allowed a convoy of trucks carrying food to enter directly into northern Gaza for the first time since the war began.


The desperation and lawlessness in Gaza has also made distributing food and other supplies difficult and, in some cases, deadly. In several attacks over this past month, dozens of Palestinians have been killed or wounded while waiting to receive aid. At least two truck convoys within two weeks have ended in death and disaster after shots were fired as crowds pressed in around them.



2) Israel’s military says Hamas had returned to Gaza’s largest hospital.

By Yan Zhuang, Ameera Harouda and Hiba Yazbek, March 18, 2024


A woman holding a young girl while walking through dust and debris.

Palestinians flee the area after Israeli bombardment in central Gaza City on Monday. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Israeli military said on Monday that it was conducting a “high-precision” operation at Al-Shifa Hospital, claiming that senior Hamas officials had regrouped at the medical facility, which is Gaza’s largest and has been a flashpoint of the war.


In a video address posted to social media at about 3:30 a.m. local time on Monday, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said the military was in the process of conducting a raid in “limited areas” of the hospital complex, which is in northern Gaza.


The Israeli military said that during the operation, Hamas fighters shot at its soldiers from within the complex and soldiers returned fire. The Health Ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, said Israeli forces had fired missiles at the complex and shot into surgery rooms. Neither the ministry’s claims nor the Israeli military’s could be independently verified.


Later, the Israeli military said that its forces had killed a senior Hamas official during the operation. It identified him as Faiq Mabhouh, the head of operations for the internal security forces of the Hamas government in Gaza and said he had been killed while “armed and hiding in a compound” at the hospital. Hamas did not confirm his death or role in the organization and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


The Israeli military also said one of its soldiers had been killed in the fighting at Al-Shifa.


The hospital and the surrounding area house about 30,000 patients, medical workers and displaced civilians, and a number of people were killed and wounded in the raid, the health ministry said. It added that a fire had broken out at the gate of the complex, which caused some people to suffocate and made it difficult to reach those who were injured.


By midday the raid was continuing, and 15 Israeli tanks and several bulldozers were inside the hospital grounds, said Alaa Abu al-Kaas, who was staying at the hospital to accompany her father who was being treated there.


“The fear and terror are really eating us alive,” she said in a phone call from a corridor of one of the hospital’s buildings where she was hiding. Her voice was barely audible amid loud booms and explosions.


Ms. al-Kaas, 19, said that around 2 a.m. she heard shots and the sound of tanks before Israeli soldiers, using loudspeakers, ordered people in the complex to stay inside and close the windows. She said Israeli forces told people that they would be moved to the Al-Mawasi area in southern Gaza, although it was not immediately clear when or how they would be moved. Israel has sought to create a humanitarian “safe zone” in Al-Mawasi, although civilians have found little shelter there.


“We are just sitting here anxiously waiting for them to evacuate us out of here,” she said.


Ms. al-Kaas said that she had seen Israeli soldiers holding several people, their hands bound and clothes partially stripped off, in the courtyard of the hospital complex. She added that bodies of people who had apparently been shot were lying in the courtyard.


Israel has said that the hospital complex doubled as a secret Hamas military command center, calling it one of many examples of civilian facilities that Hamas uses to shield its activities.


Hamas has denied the accusations, and Israel came under criticism from health and humanitarian organizations after storming the hospital in November. Evidence examined by The New York Times suggests Hamas did use the hospital for cover and maintained a hardened tunnel beneath it that was supplied with water, power and air-conditioning. But the Israeli military has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under the facility.


“We know that senior Hamas terrorists have regrouped inside Al-Shifa Hospital and are using it to command attacks against Israel,” Mr. Hagari said. He added that there would be “no obligation” for staff and patients to evacuate, but said a passage would be provided for civilians to leave the hospital.


The Gaza Health Ministry said the operation began at about 2 a.m. “Everyone who tries to move is targeted by sniper bullets and quadcopters,” it said.


After Israel’s high-profile raid of Al-Shifa, it took reporters to see a shaft at the complex leading to a tunnel network. While Israel has publicly revealed the existence of only one tunnel entrance on the hospital grounds, U.S. spy agencies say that their own intelligence indicates that Hamas and another Palestinian group used Al-Shifa to command forces and hold some hostages.


Myra Noveck contributed reporting.



3) Experts predict northern Gaza will soon face a famine.

By Gaya Gupta and Shashank Bengali, March 18, 2024


A crowd of children holding plates and other receptacles for food.

Palestinian children waiting in line for food provided by donors in Deir al Balah, Gaza, in February. Credit...Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

Experts anticipate a steep rise in malnutrition-related deaths in children in Gaza, according to a new report from a global authority on food security and nutrition, which warned of especially dire circumstances for 300,000 people in the northern part of the territory.


“Famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024,” said the report released Monday by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative. The group — set up in 2004 by U.N. agencies and international relief groups — has classified a famine only twice before: in Somalia in 2011 and in South Sudan in 2017.


In the coming months, the report said, as many as 1.1 million people could face the severest level of hunger classified by the group, with “alarmingly high acute malnutrition rates among children under 5, significant excess mortality and an imminent risk of starvation.”


The group said that continued fighting and aid organizations’ lack of access to northern Gaza, the first part of the territory that Israeli forces invaded in October, have worsened the vulnerability of the 300,000 Palestinian civilians who remain there.


Across the Gaza Strip, people are facing severe shortages of food and other basic goods amid Israeli’s bombardment and a near-total blockade.


The other parts of Gaza, including the central and southern areas, also face a risk of famine by July if the worst-case scenarios come to pass, the group said, warning that all of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are “facing high levels of acute food insecurity.”


Last December, the group found that famine could occur within six months in Gaza unless fighting stopped immediately and more humanitarian supplies made it into the territory.  “Since then, the conditions necessary to prevent famine have not been met,” the latest report said.


According to the group’s classifications, a famine is classified by three conditions: when at least 20 percent of households have an extreme lack of food; at least 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition; and at least two adults or four children for every 10,000 people die daily from starvation or from disease linked to malnutrition.



4) José Andrés, the chef helping send aid ships to Gaza, calls for a cease-fire.

By Vivian Yee, March 18, 2024

"Mr. Andrés on Sunday wondered aloud why Israel’s military was bombing buildings in Gaza that might house the hostages Israel says it wishes to see returned to safety. He also issued a plea for peace, saying he had seen great humanity on both sides of the conflict."


A red-and-white ship with ”Open Arms” on the side, next to a pier.

World Central Kitchen is the only aid group that has successfully delivered aid directly to Gaza by sea. Credit...Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters

As a second ship towing desperately needed aid prepared to depart for Gaza on Sunday, José Andrés, the founder of the food charity sending the vessels, called for a cease-fire and said that Israel should be doing more to prevent hunger in Gaza.


“At the very least,” Mr. Andrés, the celebrity chef, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Israel should “make sure that nobody’s hungry and that nobody’s without food and water.”


“This is something that should be happening overnight,” he added. “But for political reasons, I guess it’s not happening there.”


Mr. Andrés said he hoped his group, World Central Kitchen, would be able to scale up its nascent effort and eventually bring “huge quantities of food daily into the shores of Gaza,” where United Nations officials have said 2.2 million people are on the brink of famine.


Though the Open Arms, the first ship dispatched by the group, attracted global attention in recent days, the maritime route is so far delivering just a tiny fraction of the aid that the United Nations  says is needed to stave off famine. The Open Arms towed a barge to a makeshift jetty off Gaza on Friday with the equivalent of about 10 truckloads of food — far less than the 500 trucks a day aid groups say are needed.


Aid groups — including World Central Kitchen, which has sent more than 1,400 aid trucks into Gaza — have pleaded for Israel to allow more trucks in through more land crossings, saying that only a fast stream of trucks can sustain Gaza’s population.


But only about 150 trucks have been entering Gaza through the two open land crossings each day, according to U.N. data, because of several factors, including lengthy Israeli inspections to enforce stringent restrictions on what can enter Gaza.


The limitations at those entry points have set off a scramble for creative solutions among donors such as the European Union, which helped set up a maritime route from Cyprus to Gaza, and the United States, which has been airdropping aid and is leading an effort to build a temporary pier off Gaza’s coast to accommodate more deliveries by ship. John Kirby, the spokesman for White House National Security Council, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that it would take six to eight weeks to complete construction.


So far, only World Central Kitchen, which Mr. Andrés founded after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, has successfully delivered aid directly to Gaza by ship. The first delivery consisted of about 200 tons of rice, flour and lentils, and canned tuna, chicken and beef.


The second, which was still anchored in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Sunday night, is set to bring food and equipment to help with future maritime deliveries.


Mr. Andrés on Sunday wondered aloud why Israel’s military was bombing buildings in Gaza that might house the hostages Israel says it wishes to see returned to safety. He also issued a plea for peace, saying he had seen great humanity on both sides of the conflict.


“The time I’ve spent in Israel, the time I’ve been spending in Gaza, seems everybody loves falafel and everybody loves hummus with equal intensity,” said Mr. Andrés, whose group has opened more than 60 community kitchens within Gaza to serve hot meals. “It makes you wonder how people that loves the same foods, they can be at odds with each other.”



5) VW Workers Seek Union Vote at Tennessee Plant for Third Time

The United Automobile Workers union said that 70 percent of the 4,000 eligible Volkswagen workers at a Chattanooga factory had signed cards expressing support.

By Neal E. Boudette, March 18, 2024


A view of a factory building, with a Volkswagen sign on the facade and cars parked in the foreground.

The Volkswagen plant where the union says 70 percent of roughly 4,000 eligible workers have signed cards declaring support for unionizing. Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times

Volkswagen employees in Tennessee who are hoping to join the United Automobile Workers asked a federal agency on Monday to hold an election, a key step toward the union’s longtime goal of organizing nonunion factories across the South.


With the union’s backing, Volkswagen workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking for a vote on U.A.W. representation, saying that more than 70 percent of the 4,000 eligible workers at the plant had signed cards supporting the union.


“Today, we are one step closer to making a good job at Volkswagen into a great career,” Isaac Meadows, an assembly worker at the plant, said in a statement.


If held, an election would be the first test of the U.A.W.’s newfound strength after staging a wave of strikes in the fall against the three Detroit automakers — General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis — and winning record wage increases.


The U.A.W. has been hoping to use momentum from its bargaining with the Detroit-based manufacturers to organize nonunion plants in Southern states that pay significantly lower wages than union factories. The U.A.W. says it plans to spend $40 million over the next three years on its campaign.


Chattanooga workers have voted on U.A.W. representation twice before, and slim majorities rejected unionization each time. In a 2014 vote, the union had no opposition from Volkswagen management, but there was vocal resistance from state Republican leaders, who suggested that unionizing would jeopardize expansion and job growth at the plant. A second narrow loss came in 2019.


In addition to the Volkswagen effort, union campaigns are underway at a Mercedes-Benz plant and a Hyundai factory, both in Alabama. The union says more than half of the Mercedes workers and more than 30 percent of the Hyundai workers have signed cards supporting U.A.W. membership.


A simple majority is needed to win representation, but the union says it has advised workers at the plants to get the support of more than 70 percent of the hourly workers and establish a robust organizing committee before seeking an election.


Volkswagen workers said they wanted to join the U.A.W. to push for higher wages, more time off and improved safety measures. The Chattanooga factory opened in 2011 and makes the Atlas full-size S.U.V. and the ID.4 electric vehicle. It is the world’s only Volkswagen plant without union representation.


“VW has partnered with unionized work forces around the world to make their plants safe and successful,” Victor Vaughn, a logistics worker, said in a statement. “That’s why we’re voting for a voice at Volkswagen here in Chattanooga.”


A Volkswagen official told reporters last month that the company would stay neutral during a Chattanooga election campaign, but that “neutral doesn’t mean silent — it means impartial to what employees decide.”


The U.A.W. has sought for years to organize nonunion auto plants in the South, where it has had to overcome right-to-work laws and widespread suspicion of organized labor. But unions have had a resurgence in recent years, often with encouragement from the Biden administration.


The U.A.W. in particular has gained strength after winning lucrative contracts with G.M., Ford and Stellantis. All three companies agreed to roughly 25 percent wage increases for workers making the top U.A.W. wage, and even larger raises for workers further down on the pay scale.


Within a few years, almost all of the 146,000 U.A.W. workers at the Detroit companies will earn more than $40 an hour — the equivalent of about $83,000 a year for those working 40 hours a week.


The Volkswagen plant announced an 11 percent pay increase shortly after the strikes at the Big Three, bringing the top hourly wage for production workers to $32.40.


Nonunion auto plants generally start new workers at less than $20 an hour and pay a top wage under $30 an hour.



6) New Studies Find No Evidence of Brain Injury in Havana Syndrome Cases

The findings from the National Institutes of Health are at odds with previous research that looked into the mysterious health incidents experienced by U.S. diplomats and spies.

By Julian E. Barnes, Reporting from Washington, March 18, 2024


A red car driving past a black fence in front of an American flag and the U.S. Embassy building.

The U.S. Embassy in Cuba. Incidents of debilitating symptoms that included dizziness and migraines began to occur in greater concentrations at the end of 2016 and in 2017 in Havana. Credit...Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

New studies by the National Institutes of Health failed to find evidence of brain injury in scans or blood markers of the diplomats and spies who suffered symptoms of Havana syndrome, bolstering the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies about the strange health incidents.


Spy agencies have concluded that the debilitating symptoms associated with Havana syndrome, including dizziness and migraines, are not the work of a hostile foreign power. They have not identified a weapon or device that caused the injuries, and intelligence analysts now believe the symptoms are most likely explained by environmental factors, existing medical conditions or stress.


The lead scientist on one of the two new studies said that while the study was not designed to find a cause, the findings were consistent with those determinations.


The authors said the studies are at odds with findings from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, who found differences in brain scans of people with Havana syndrome symptoms and a control group.


Dr. David Relman, a prominent scientist who has had access to the classified files involving the cases and representatives of people suffering from Havana syndrome, said the new studies were flawed. Many brain injuries are difficult to detect with scans or blood markers, he said. He added that the findings do not dispute that an external force, like a directed energy device, could have injured the current and former government workers.


The studies were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association on Monday alongside an editorial by Dr. Relman that was critical of the findings.


The incidents began to occur in greater concentrations at the end of 2016 and in 2017 in Havana and later in China, Austria and elsewhere. The Biden administration took office in 2021 promising to improve health care for diplomats and spies suffering from the symptoms and vowing to get to the bottom of what was causing them.


Studies by the University of Pennsylvania in 2018 and 2019 suggested that people affected by the syndrome had possible brain injuries that were different from typical concussion injuries or other traumatic brain injuries.


The N.I.H. studies looked at a different group of people, with less than a third of the cases overlapping. Dr. Leighton Chan, the acting chief scientific officer for the N.I.H. Clinical Center and the lead author of one of the studies, said that of the 86 participants, 24 cases were from Cuba, six from China, 17 from Vienna, nine from around the United States and 30 from other locations.


While examining the brain scans, the researchers found no significant differences with the control group.


In a news conference discussing the results before their public release, the N.I.H. scientists said their scans, done in a research setting, were more precise than the scans produced primarily in clinical settings during earlier studies. They also said the control group was more closely matched to the study participants, improving the study’s rigor.


Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania said the two studies were “apples to oranges” comparisons because they looked at different groups of patients, and the N.I.H. study was not designed to replicate theirs.


The N.I.H. scientists said they did not diagnose the patients with traumatic brain injuries or concussions. The diagnoses they offered instead, all so-called “functional neurologic disorders,” are often caused by stress.


The studies did not rule out a potential external cause for Havana syndrome symptoms. But if one was not involved, Dr. Chan said, stress “may explain more of our findings.”


“It is important to note that individuals with functional neurological disorders of any cause have symptoms that are real, distressing and very difficult to treat,” Dr. Chan said.


The N.I.H. diagnosis angered several people with Havana syndrome symptoms who said it was insulting and misguided because it was tantamount to calling their symptoms psychosomatic or the result of mass hysteria.


Dr. Relman, who was among the leaders of an experts panel established by the intelligence agencies and another by the National Academy of Sciences, said the work of those groups had found that the symptoms of some of the affected government workers could not have been caused by stress or psychosocial factors alone.


The N.I.H. studies looked at a large group of people who reported diverse symptoms, rather than zeroing in on overseas cases where additional evidence shows something strange could have been going on, Dr. Relman said. In those cases, a concealable device, capable of delivering directed energy in a targeted way, could have been responsible.


“To lump all these cases together in the way they did is simply asking for trouble,” Dr. Relman said.


Mark Zaid, a lawyer for several people with Havana syndrome symptoms, said many current and former officials treated at N.I.H. were upset that they were not briefed on the study before it came out. Mr. Zaid said some patients were told that they had to participate in the study to receive treatment from the government for their symptoms. Mr. Zaid said that had raised ethical questions about the patients’ consent.


Dr. Chan disputed that and said that the people who participated did so willingly and could have left the study at any time.


But Mr. Zaid said he feared that the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies would improperly use the study to bolster their findings that they could not determine an external cause for Havana syndrome cases.


“The concern is that intelligence community is going to weaponize this study to show that the absence of evidence is evidence,” Mr. Zaid said. “And it is not.”



7) Netanyahu acknowledges a dispute with the U.S., but says Israel will press on into Rafah.

By Cassandra Vinograd, March 19, 2024


Netanyahu standing in front of a blue backdrop.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israeli forces must invade Rafah, in southern Gaza. Credit...Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel brushed aside disagreement with the Biden administration over a planned ground invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, saying Tuesday that his government would press ahead despite pleas for restraint from the United States and key allies.


Mr. Netanyahu made the remarks to Israeli lawmakers a day after speaking by phone with Mr. Biden, who the White House said had reiterated concerns that invading Rafah would be “a mistake.” Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Israel’s objectives in Rafah “can be done by other means,” and that Mr. Netanyahu had agreed to send a team of Israeli officials to Washington to hear U.S. concerns and to discuss alternatives.


But on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu insisted that sending troops into Rafah was necessary to eliminate what he said were Hamas battalions in the city.


“I made it as clear as possible to the president that we are determined to complete the elimination of these battalions in Rafah, and there is no way to do this without a ground incursion,” Mr. Netanyahu said.


The Israeli leader acknowledged the dispute with the Biden administration over invading Rafah, saying “we all know this.” The United States has expressed increasing concern over civilian deaths in Gaza, but Mr. Netanyahu insisted on Tuesday that he and Mr. Biden remained on the same page about the main objectives of the war.


“We have a debate with the Americans over the need to enter Rafah, not over the need to eliminate Hamas, but the need to enter Rafah,” he told the lawmakers.


He said that “out of respect for the president,” he had agreed to send a team to Washington so that the U.S. officials could “present us with their ideas, especially on the humanitarian side.”


The Biden administration has repeatedly warned Israel against sending ground troops into Rafah without a plan for getting the more than one million Palestinians sheltering there out of harm’s way. On Monday, Mr. Sullivan said that no such plan had been presented.



8) Israel’s military says its forces are still operating at Al-Shifa Hospital.

By Cassandra Vinograd, March 19, 2024


People huddle on a cart pulled by a donkey.

Palestinians arriving in Nuseirat, Gaza, on Monday after fleeing the area near Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Israeli military said its forces were pressing on with a raid of Al-Shifa Hospital and had detained scores of people there, in an operation that has drawn condemnation from Gazan health officials and raised questions about how much control Israeli forces have over northern Gaza.


The latest raid of Al-Shifa began on Monday in what Israeli officials said was an operation targeting senior Hamas officials who had regrouped there, setting off a battle that both sides said had resulted in casualties.


On Tuesday, Israel’s military said its troops were “continuing precise operations” in the sprawling complex of the hospital, which is Gaza’s largest. It said it had killed dozens of militants, though its account of the fighting could not be independently verified.


The Al Jazeera news network said that one of its journalists had been detained for 12 hours. It said the journalist, Ismail al-Ghoul, had been severely beaten. Israel’s military has not responded to the allegations, which drew outrage from the Committee to Protect Journalists.


The Gazan Health Ministry condemned the raid as a “crime against health institutions,” and humanitarian organizations expressed alarm over the situation at the complex. The hospital, along with the surrounding area, had been sheltering 30,000 patients, medical workers and displaced civilians.


“Hospitals should never be battlegrounds,” the director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a post on social media warning that the situation was “endangering health workers, patients and civilians.


Doctors Without Borders said it was “extremely concerned” for the safety of patients and medical staff in the hospital compound. In a statement on Monday, the organization urged “all warring parties to respect the grounds and perimeter of the hospital and ensure the safety of medical personnel, patients and civilians.”


Israel has said that the hospital complex doubled as a secret Hamas military command center, calling it one of many examples of civilian facilities that Hamas uses to shield its activities.


Four months ago, Israeli forces stormed the complex and found a tunnel shaft they said supported their contention that the armed group had used it to conceal military operations.


Since then, Israel has withdrawn many troops from northern Gaza and has shifted the focus of its invasion to the south. As a result, lawlessness has increasingly taken hold in the north, prompting international aid organizations to suspend operations despite a dire humanitarian crisis.


The Biden administration has grown increasingly critical of Israel’s conduct of the war and its toll on civilians. On Monday, President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that “more innocent civilians have died in this conflict, in this military operation, than in all the wars in Gaza combined, including thousands of children.”


“A humanitarian crisis has descended across Gaza, and anarchy reigns in areas that Israel’s military has cleared but not stabilized,” he said.


Gabby Sobelman and Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.



9) The U.N. human rights chief says Israel may be using starvation as a war weapon.

By Nick Cumming-Bruce reporting from Geneva, March 19, 2024


Volker Türk, seated, speaks into a microphone. A sign that reads "High Commissioner for human rights" is to his right.

Volker Türk, the U.N.’s leading human rights official, in Geneva last fall. Credit...Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone, via Associated Press

The United Nations human rights chief, Volker Türk, blamed Israel on Tuesday for what he said was the entirely preventable catastrophe of starvation and famine unfolding in Gaza, urging international pressure on the country to allow for the unimpeded entry of humanitarian aid.


International alarm has been growing over the hunger crisis in Gaza, with food experts predicting an imminent famine in the north of the enclave and foreign leaders and diplomats becoming increasingly blunt in pointing the finger at Israel.


“The situation of hunger, starvation and famine is a result of Israel’s extensive restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian aid and commercial goods, displacement of most of the population, as well as the destruction of crucial civilian infrastructure,” Mr. Türk said in a statement.


Mr. Türk said Israel’s restrictions on aid, together with its conduct in its campaign to destroy Hamas, including the displacement of people and the destruction of infrastructure, may amount to the use of starvation as a weapon of war, which is a war crime.


Israel has pushed back on criticism that it is restricting aid from entering Gaza, pointing to its support for several recent initiatives, including efforts to provide supplies by air and sea that aid groups say are far less efficient than road.


It has accused Hamas of diverting aid and of using Palestinian civilians as human shields. The country’s mission in Geneva said on Tuesday that Mr. Türk “seeks once again to blame Israel for the situation and completely absolve the responsibility of the U.N. and Hamas.”


A report released Monday by the U.N.-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification said that 1.1 million people, half the population of Gaza, would most likely face catastrophic food insecurity and predicted an imminent rise in hunger-related deaths.


“The coping mechanisms we have seen the past weeks, even months, are people eating bird seeds, animal fodder, wild grass and weeds,” Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. aid agency in Geneva, told reporters on Tuesday while discussing the report. “We are beyond that. There’s literally nothing left.”


The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that it had set up a center to try to stabilize malnutrition levels in the south of Gaza and was looking to set up another in the north, but it said that to bring in supplies at the scale needed would require a cease-fire. Talks in Qatar are continuing amid another intensive diplomatic push to secure a pause in the fighting.



10) Israel blocks the head of the U.N. agency for Palestinians from visiting Gaza.

By Anushka Patil and Adam Rasgon, March 19, 2024


Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner-general, said Israeli authorities had denied him entry to Gaza Strip, at a news conference in Cairo, on Monday. Credit...Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Israel denied the chief of UNRWA, the United Nations agency that supports Palestinians, entry to the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to the agency and the foreign minister of Egypt.


Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner general, said on social media on Monday that Israeli authorities had blocked him from making a visit that was “supposed to coordinate & improve the humanitarian response.” UNRWA, formally the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is the largest aid group on the ground in Gaza and a critical lifeline for more than 2.2 million people struggling to survive under a near-total Israeli siege.


The Israeli defense ministry’s agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said on social media that Mr. Lazzarini’s request for entry to Gaza “was not submitted by the necessary coordination processes and channels.”


“This is another attempt by UNRWA to blame Israel for their own mistakes,” the agency said. COGAT did not immediately respond to questions about the decision.


Juliette Touma, the director of communications for UNRWA, said COGAT’s explanation was “not accurate.”


Mr. Lazzarini’s trip was approved by Israel on Sunday night, she said, adding that he was the only person among a team of UNRWA workers to be denied access on Monday morning, even though all of their requests for entry were submitted as a group.


She described the denial as a “last-minute change” that came as Mr. Lazzarini was set to fly from Cairo to El Arish, Egypt, before traveling to the border and crossing into Gaza.


At a news conference with Mr. Lazzarini in Cairo, the foreign minister of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, expressed dismay over Israel’s denial.


The denial came on the same day that a new report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative projected that a full-scale famine will take hold in northern Gaza anytime between now and May.


Mr. Lazzarini — who had planned to visit northern Gaza as part of the trip, according to Ms. Touma — said on social media that “this man-made starvation under our watch is a stain on our collective humanity.” Averting the famine was a matter of “political will,” he added.


Israel has long argued that UNRWA is biased against Israel and influenced by Hamas, allegations that the agency strongly denies. In January, Israel accused 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in Gaza of participating in the Oct. 7 attacks or their aftermath, leading to several donor nations suspending funding. Israel Katz, the foreign minister, has called on Mr. Lazzarini to resign.


Mr. Lazzarini has said that the agency was facing a “deliberate and concerted campaign” to undermine its operations at a time when its services are most needed. Some countries have since resumed their donations to UNRWA, citing its role in mitigating the humanitarian crisis.



11) Goon Squad Officers Face Sentencing in Mississippi Torture Cases

Six officers pleaded guilty last year to assaulting two Black men and shooting one in the mouth during a raid on their home.

By Nate Rosenfield, Jerry Mitchell and Brian Howey, Brian Howey and Nate Rosenfield are examining the power of sheriffs’ offices in Mississippi as part of The Times’s Local Investigations Fellowship. Jerry Mitchell is an investigative reporter who has examined civil rights-era cold murder cases in the state for more than 30 years, March 19, 2024


Six mugshots showing men in prison clothes.

Top row: former Rankin County sheriff’s deputies Hunter Elward, Christian Dedmon and Brett McAlpin; bottom row: former deputies Jeffrey Middleton and Daniel Opdyke, and former Richland police officer Joshua Hartfield. All pleaded guilty this year to federal and state charges. Credit...Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Six former law enforcement officers who called themselves the Goon Squad face sentencing in Mississippi starting today, months after they pleaded guilty to federal civil rights offenses for torturing and sexually assaulting two Black men and a third white man who has remained anonymous until now.


Over the next three days, the officers, who each could be sentenced to a decade or more in prison, will appear in federal court in Jackson, Miss. Prosecutors are expected to detail the officers’ violent actions, and victims will have an opportunity to share their stories.


The officers could speak publicly for the first time if they choose to talk about their crimes or ask the judge for leniency.


Hunter Elward, who pleaded guilty to shooting one of the victims, is scheduled to be sentenced first, on Tuesday morning. The other officers will then be sentenced during individual hearings.


The sheriff’s department in Rankin County, a suburban community just outside Jackson, came to national attention last year after five Rankin County deputies and a Richland Police detective raided the home of Eddie Parker, 36, and his friend, Michael Jenkins, 33, following a tip about suspicious activity.


The officers handcuffed and tortured the men by shocking them repeatedly with Tasers, beating them and sexually assaulting them with a sex toy. Mr. Elward put his gun into Mr. Jenkins’s mouth and shot him, shattering his jaw and nearly killing him.


“I experienced looking the devil in the eye,” Mr. Parker said Monday at a press conference.


The officers destroyed evidence and, to justify the shooting, falsely claimed that Mr. Jenkins had pointed a BB gun at them, according to federal prosecutors.


Three of the department’s deputies also pleaded guilty in a separate incident, but prosecutors have so far provided few details about what happened. Prosecutors are expected to read a statement written by the victim in that case, 28-year-old Alan Schmidt.


So far charges against officers in Rankin County have been narrowly focused on these two incidents, but residents in impoverished pockets of the county say that the sheriff’s department has routinely targeted them with similar levels of violence.


Last November, The New York Times and Mississippi Today published an investigation revealing that for nearly two decades, deputies in the Rankin sheriff department, many of whom called themselves the Goon Squad, would barge into homes in the middle of the night, handcuff people and torture them for information or confessions.


In the pursuit of drug arrests, the deputies rammed a stick down one man’s throat until he vomited, dripped molten metal onto another man’s skin and held people down and beat them until they were bloody and bruised, according to dozens of people who said they witnessed or experienced the raids.


Many of those who said they had experienced violence filed lawsuits or formal complaints detailing their encounters with the department. A few said they had contacted Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey directly, only to be ignored.


Sheriff Bailey, who has denied knowledge of the incidents, has faced calls to resign by local activists and the N.A.A.C.P. He has said he will not step down.


Malcolm Holmes, a professor in the department of criminal justice and sociology at the University of Wyoming, said that the Goon Squad case was “going to be one that finds its way into the chronicles of history.”


“There’s so much well-documented evidence that this is a pattern of behavior,” he said, noting that the case revealed “something we’ve covered up for a long time, particularly in rural America.”


The sentencing hearings this week are expected to reveal more details about violence perpetrated by Rankin County deputies, including what happened to Mr. Schmidt.


In an interview with The Times and Mississippi Today last week, Mr. Schmidt spoke publicly for the first time about what happened in December 2022 when a Rankin County deputy pulled him over for driving with an expired tag.

According to the federal indictment, deputies Christian Dedmon, Hunter Elward and Daniel Opdyke arrived at the scene shortly afterward. Two other deputies, including the one who pulled Mr. Schmidt over, were also present throughout the arrest, Mr. Schmidt said. Neither has been criminally charged.


Mr. Schmidt said the deputies accused him of stealing tools from his boss, and then Mr. Dedmon pressed a gun to his head and fired it into the air before threatening to dump his body in the Pearl River.


“I thought this was it,” Mr. Schmidt said. “I’m never going to see my family again.”


Mr. Dedmon and the other deputies punched Mr. Schmidt and held his arm in a fire ant hill, then shocked him repeatedly with a Taser, Mr. Schmidt said.


Mr. Dedmon also pressed his genitals against the man’s face and bare buttocks as he yelled for help and kicked at the deputy, Mr. Schmidt said.


“It still goes through my head constantly,” Mr. Schmidt said of the experience.


Rankin County District Attorney Bubba Bramlett has begun to review and dismiss criminal cases that had involved Goon Squad members, his office confirmed last week, but Mr. Bramlett declined to share details about the cases under review.


State lawmakers introduced a bill in January that would expand oversight of Mississippi law enforcement, allowing the state board that certifies officers to investigate and revoke the licenses of officers accused of misconduct, regardless of whether they are criminally charged. Lawmakers have said that the Goon Squad and several other incidents of alleged police misconduct in Mississippi helped prompt the bill.


The Mississippi House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass the bill last week. The state senate is expected to vote on the measure in the coming weeks.



12) Israel’s return to Al-Shifa points to a power vacuum in northern Gaza.

By Adam Rasgon reporting from Jerusalem, March 20, 2024


Scattered people walking on a road amid damaged buildings.

Walking through destroyed streets in Gaza City on Wednesday. Credit...Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters

Since the start of the war in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has repeatedly spoken of the need to topple Hamas but has done little to address the power vacuum left behind by withdrawing Israeli forces.


Nowhere is that more apparent than in northern Gaza, where an Israeli military raid on a major hospital complex entered a third day on Wednesday, as Israel said the re-emergence of Hamas fighters had forced it to return to a site they first stormed in November.


Since Monday, the Israeli military said, troops have engaged in deadly gun battles with militants at the complex, Al-Shifa, leaving displaced people, medical teams and nearby residents caught in the crossfire. On Wednesday, the army said that it had killed dozens of militants in the operation and questioned or arrested hundreds of people. Its account of the operation could not be independently confirmed.


Israeli military analysts say that a coherent plan for governing Gaza could take months or years to put in place, and that troops would likely have had to return to Al-Shifa in the interim. But critics of Mr. Netanyahu say that he has failed to advance even an initial realistic proposal, leaving Palestinian civilians to bear the highest cost of the disorder.


“Lives have been transformed into hell,” said Talal Okal, a political analyst from Gaza City who fled northern Gaza in October and is now in the United Arab Emirates.


“Netanyahu and his partners don’t want to answer the question of the day after the war,” he said. “Complete chaos has taken hold and the people are paying the price. But what can they do? All they can do is raise their hands and pray to God.”


Following the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli forces launched a wide-scale invasion of northern Gaza, killing Hamas militants and causing immense civilian death and devastation. Its soldiers first raided Al-Shifa Hospital in November after accusing Hamas of using the hospital for military purposes.


That raid on Shifa revealed a stone-and-concrete tunnel shaft below the hospital. At the time, the Gaza Health Ministry said the incursion had put the hospital out of service.


Soldiers withdrew from the hospital in mid-November, but returned to the surrounding area in late January and pulled back again in February.


As Israeli forces have shifted the focus of their invasion to southern Gaza — and Mr. Netanyahu says they will soon invade the southernmost city of Rafah — the north of the enclave has been all but cut off from humanitarian aid. Lawlessness, damaged roads and attacks on convoys have led aid groups to suspend deliveries there, and the United Nations has said many of its relief missions have been blocked by Israel. Israeli officials say there are no limits on how much aid can enter Gaza.


Palestinians in the north are struggling to obtain basic services and food.


“We’re living but we’re dead,” said Rajab Tafish, 37, a resident of Gaza City. “We’re exhausted from all of this misery.”


Mr. Tafish, a telephone repairman, said he and his family could hear “terrifying” explosions and gunfire emanating from the Shifa Hospital area, where a family member had been receiving treatment but was no longer reachable.


He said his family had sent his brother to nearby schools on Wednesday in hopes of acquiring flour.


The U.N.-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative said this week that 1.1 million people, half the population of Gaza, would most likely face catastrophic food insecurity and predicted an imminent rise in hunger-related deaths. In the northern areas, it said, 300,000 people faced “imminent” famine.


Twice in the past month, attempts to distribute food ended in bloodshed as Palestinians seeking aid were killed.


More than 100 people were killed in Gaza City on Feb. 29, according to local health authorities, who said Israeli troops had opened fire on a crowd that massed around aid trucks. The Israeli military acknowledged opening fire, but said most of the deaths had occurred when people stampeded or were run over by truck drivers.


Last week, at least 20 people were killed while awaiting aid at a traffic circle in northern Gaza. Gazan officials said Israeli forces had “targeted” the crowds, a claim that Israel’s military has denied.



13) How Gazans have fared after Israel has asked them to flee.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg, March 20, 2024


People standing around a truck.

Palestinians leaving Gaza City for the south of the Gaza Strip in November. Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

For many civilians in Gaza, fleeing from Israeli attacks has become a grim cycle. Israeli evacuation orders have prompted more than a million people to move from one destination to another since October, each time packing belongings and seeking transport — by vehicle, cart or foot — to escape airstrikes and ground fighting between Israel and Hamas.


The latest example is Rafah, in southern Gaza, a city swollen to more than 1.4 million people by forced displacement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Tuesday that his military would invade the city to root out Hamas but that it would provide humanitarian aid and “facilitate an orderly exit of the population.”


Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, has said that a major ground invasion in Rafah would be a mistake, not least because it would further imperil humanitarian access. Displacement has contributed to a hunger crisis sweeping the territory, and the United Nations has said that an invasion could mean that an already catastrophic situation slides “deeper into the abyss.”


Some civilians say they have fled time and again. As many people face the prospect of being displaced again, here is a look at what happened on a few occasions when Israel has told civilians to evacuate.


Northern Gaza


Israel began telling more than one million civilians to evacuate northern Gaza about two weeks ahead of its ground invasion on Oct. 27, though the area was pummeled by Israeli airstrikes soon after the Hamas-led attack in Israel on Oct. 7.


“Hamas is using you as a human shield,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said on Oct. 22, calling on civilians still in northern Gaza to move south.


The Israeli military also dropped Arabic-language leaflets over the area, warning that anyone who did not move south “may be considered as a partner in a terrorist organization.”


The United Nations said that the evacuation order was impractical, and the U.S. asked Israel to delay its invasion to give civilians more time. Even so, hundreds of thousands of people obeyed the order and moved to southern Gaza, carrying a few possessions away from an area that had already been shattered by airstrikes before the full-scale invasion began.


The south proved to be no escape from peril. An investigation by The New York Times in December found that Israel had used some of the largest and most destructive bombs in its arsenal in southern Gaza, posing a pervasive threat to civilians.


Mr. Netanyahu says that Israel intends to minimize civilian casualties while fighting Hamas, and Israeli officials said that Hamas fighters had set up checkpoints to prevent people from complying with the orders to move.


Khan Younis


In early December, after a one-week cease-fire, Israel launched a major military operation in Khan Younis, southern Gaza’s largest city. Many civilians there had fled to the city from northern Gaza.


The Israeli military again warned civilians to leave parts of Khan Younis for Rafah and other places farther south, though residents said that they sometimes had mere hours of notice. Israel also dropped leaflets over Khan Younis and broadcast information about which parts of the city were safe at any given moment.


Several Palestinians said, however, that the orders to leave Khan Younis, or to move within it, were confusing, not least because they appeared to shift over time and left little opportunity to gather possessions. In addition, obeying the orders meant carting relatives — many of whom had been displaced several times previously — to a new place where the prospects for shelter and basic essentials were uncertain.


Civilians also said that when they fled as instructed, they sometimes found themselves at locations engulfed in fighting or subject to airstrikes.




The most recent designated large scale safe zone is Rafah, which lies against the closed Egyptian border and has been immensely swollen by displacement. Without sufficient accommodations, many of its new residents have pitched makeshift tents.


Rafah has been subject to airstrikes and fighting in recent weeks. In one example, the health authorities in Gaza said on Feb. 12 that at least 67 people had been killed overnight in airstrikes in the city. Israel’s military had launched an operation to rescue two people held hostage in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attack.




The Israeli authorities have asked people at least twice to head to Al-Mawasi, a coastal village in southern Gaza that could be a destination for people asked to leave Rafah. Aid officials have said that the village lacks shelter, humanitarian aid and basic infrastructure.



14) University of California Could Bar Political Speech on Some Web Pages

With anger rising over pro-Palestinian protests, the university’s regents are set to vote on a proposal that would draw tighter boundaries around speech.

By Vimal Patel, March 20, 2024


The campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz, on a bright, sunny day.

The proposal would affect the entire University of California system, including U.C. Santa Cruz. Credit...Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

Israel’s bombing of Gaza is “genocidal,” according to the home page of the critical race and ethnic studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Such a statement would be considered political and would be prohibited, according to a new proposal by the regents of the University of California.


Under the proposal, academic departments would be barred from posting political statements on their home pages. And any political statement issued by a department — in any venue — would need to meet stricter guidelines.


The regents are set to vote as early as Wednesday on the plan, which would apply to the U.C. system’s 10 schools, including Santa Cruz, U.C.L.A. and Berkeley.


Higher education abounds in opinions on current events, from Black Lives Matter to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, and Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, universities have been under pressure to draw tighter boundaries around speech, sometimes in ways that have alarmed supporters of academic freedom.


The state’s progressive politics have generally insulated the University of California from some of the conservative attacks on colleges. But the regents’ proposal, some faculty and students worry, could represent a turnabout, at a moment when the very language used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply contested.


Many Jewish students, faculty and alumni have accused some pro-Palestinian protesters and faculty of veering into antisemitic speech. At Berkeley last month, an event featuring an Israeli speaker was canceled after a crowd of protesters broke down doors, which the chancellor, Carol Christ, described as “an attack on the fundamental values of the university.”


A political science professor at Berkeley, Ron Hassner, has organized a sit-in at his office, to protest what he says is inaction by the administration on campus antisemitism. And more than 400 professors signed a letter decrying how the university system’s ethnic studies departments posted material on their home pages that “vilifies Israel, rejects the characterization of the Hamas massacre as terrorism, and calls on the U.C. administration to ‘endorse the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.’”


On Tuesday, Rep. Virginia Foxx, chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, sent a letter to university officials requesting documents and information about Berkeley’s response to antisemitism on campus.


To Jay Sures, the regent who developed the proposal, prohibiting such statements on a department’s home page does not limit academic freedom. Professors and students have many other forums to express themselves, he said, but their opinions on department home pages could be misinterpreted as representing the University of California.


“The faculty can have their Twitter accounts,” Mr. Sures said at a January regents meeting. “They can do social media. They can publish peer studies. There are so many other ways.”


Some universities have already tightened their rules.


Universities have canceled or postponed speakers, tried to censor “Israelism,” a documentary critical of Israel, and suspended student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. Last fall, Barnard College, after overhauling its website policy, removed a pro-Palestinian statement posted by its gender studies department.


There has also been an intense debate about whether universities should adopt the University of Chicago’s famous policy of “institutional neutrality,” which means that the university takes no stance on issues that are not central to the university’s functions.


The debate at the University of California isn’t quite that. The president, board chair and others speaking as the official voice of the university would not be affected by the regents’ proposal.


In fact, a university statement sparked the tussle between Mr. Sures and the ethnic studies faculty.


On Oct. 9, Michael V. Drake, the president of University of California, and Richard Leib, the board chair, issued a statement condemning the Hamas attack as “terrorism” and “sickening and incomprehensible.”


A week later, the university’s ethnic studies council, which represents hundreds of the discipline’s faculty members across the system, objected, writing in a letter that the official statement lacked “a full understanding of this historical moment” and contributed to anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian sentiments.


“We call on the U.C. administrative leadership to retract its charges of terrorism, to uplift the Palestinian freedom struggle, and to stand against Israel’s war crimes against and ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people,” the council said.


Mr. Sures called the letter “appalling and repugnant.”


He responded that he would do everything in his power “to protect our Jewish students, and for that matter, everyone in our extended community from your inflammatory and out of touch rhetoric.”


The U.C. system had already considered the issue of political statements. In 2022, an academic freedom committee argued against the prohibition of department political statements.


Departments, the report said, should instead create guidelines about when to issue statements, be transparent about whose views are represented, and also consider whether they could chill the speech of those who disagree.


For now, political statements are allowed so long as they don’t veer into electoral politics.


But the regents' proposal would limit department home pages to day-to-day operations, which include course descriptions, upcoming events and the release of new publications.


Opinions would be allowed on other university websites. But any political declaration would need a disclaimer, stating that the views are not necessarily that of the university’s.


The regents’ proposal adopts other recommendations of the 2022 academic freedom report. It would mandate that department members vote before issuing a political statement, with ballots collected anonymously to protect dissenting opinions. Departments would need to create and post guidelines about the process.


The proposal did not assuage the concerns of many faculty members, who say it was politically motivated.


The regents proposal “delegitimizes the work that we do in ethnic studies,” said Felicity Amaya Schaeffer, the department chair at Santa Cruz.


The ethnic studies department’s statements, she said, are “based on the academic expertise of almost all of us at the department and especially our faculty who work on Palestine.”


James Steintrager, the chair of the university’s academic senate, worried that the proposal is an invitation for outsiders to police academia.


“It’s not only about straightforwardly political statements about some world events,” he said in an interview, “but also about things like climate change, vaccine science, things like that.”


But Ty Alper, a Berkeley law professor who led the academic freedom committee in 2022, was pleased that the proposal adopted its recommendations. Mr. Alper said he was less focused on rules about department home pages.


“I’m more concerned,” he said, “with ensuring that faculty have the individual and collective right to issue statements on matters of interest.”



15) When African Women Are Raped, Where Is the Outrage?

By Maebel Gebremedhin, March 20, 2024

Ms. Gebremedhin is the co-founder and president of Tigray Action Committee and United Women of the Horn.


An African woman presses a hand to her forehead.

Eduardo Soteras/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the summer of 2023, while I was negotiating the price of a pair of cloud-shaped wire sunglasses, a man walked behind me and sexually assaulted me. I was at a stall in one of the many open-air markets in Mekelle, Ethiopia’s second largest city. The man touched my body, attempting to feel as much of me as possible. I stood for a few seconds, unsure of what was happening, until his hands went further and his body got closer.


Jolted out of my shock, I turned to face him and started yelling. My mother, who was standing next to me, did her best to diffuse the confrontation and quietly shooed the man away. As soon as he left, many people who had witnessed what happened — from the boys selling peanuts nearby to a woman strolling with her children — laughed. The laughter is what stays with me.


It was not the first time I would encounter the troubling consequences of sexual assault during my trip to Mekelle last year, nor was it the last. My assault was just one of many painful encounters that highlighted the pervasiveness and intense normalization of sexual violence in Ethiopia, especially in regions like Tigray that are warped by other kinds of violence.


Two weeks earlier, I had flown to Mekelle from Brooklyn. It was the first time I was back in Ethiopia in 20 years. One of my reasons for visiting was to speak with women who were survivors of conflict-related sexual violence as part of my work with Tigray Action Committee, a nonprofit my sister and I co-founded to raise awareness about people’s suffering during the two-year civil war between Ethiopia and Tigray, the country’s northernmost regional state. Many of the women I spoke to had been assaulted during the central government’s war on Tigray, which has been described as one of the deadliest of the 21st century with an estimated death toll of over half a million. Although a cease-fire was reached in 2022, sexual violence continued for months after that, countless families remain displaced and the country is at risk of sliding into famine.


Women in Tigray have been subjected to unimaginable crimes during both the war and its ongoing, tumultuous aftermath. Over 100,000 women in Tigray are thought to have experienced conflict-related sexual violence. Health experts recently estimated that over 40 percent of Tigray’s women experienced some type of gender-based violence during the war. Most of them — a whopping 89.7 percent — never received any post-violence medical or psychological support.


Survivors have reported that foreign objects were inserted in their bodies, that their children were murdered in front of them, that they were forced into sexual slavery, starved and intentionally infected with H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted infections. One victim recalled being told that she was being raped because “a Tigrayan womb should never give birth.” Some survivors are now taking care of children fathered by their rapists. Others are likely becoming new survivors of conflict-related sexual violence themselves, with little hope of recourse from the government.


Unfortunately, the women of Tigray are not alone. Today, conflict-related sexual violence remains a persistent issue across the Horn of Africa. United Nations experts have expressed alarm about the reported widespread use of rape by the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan’s ongoing war, a horror eerily reminiscent of the genocide in Darfur, where women experienced sexual violence en masse. In Eritrea, Tigray’s neighbor to the north, women conscripted into the federal army have been reportedly subjected to sexual violence during compulsory national service. In Somalia, to the east, women living in refugee camps and centers for internally displaced people face high numbers of gender-based violence and are often targeted by predatory clan militias and soldiers. Outside of the Horn, the Democratic Republic of Congo has witnessed alarming levels of sexual violence during its ongoing conflict, with especially high numbers of child victims.


It’s a practice that continues to be used with impunity despite international pledges to eliminate it. In 2022, President Biden released a memorandum on conflict-related sexual violence, pledging to strengthen the U.S. government’s commitment to combat and hold accountable those responsible for such violence. The European Union continues to release statements on the need to end C.R.S.V. worldwide. And U.N. Resolution 1325, passed nearly 25 years ago, calls on “all parties to conflict” to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly sexual abuse, in the context of armed conflict. Still, the violence and impunity continue.


To put an end to conflict-related sexual violence, women’s voices must be included at every level of decision-making. Research shows that when women participate in a peace process, it lasts longer; maintaining peace is one way to ensure that conflict-related atrocities do not continue. In the context of Tigray, this will require the active engagement and participation of women in designing and implementing protection measures, shaping legal and judicial actions, and contributing to sustainable peace-building initiatives. One good example to follow would be Liberia, where women, including survivors, spearheaded movements that played a critical role in ending a brutal civil war characterized by extensive rape.


Outside of Tigray, the United States and other powers must put pressure on the Ethiopian government to follow the terms of the 2022 cease-fire, which includes a clause about condemning “any act of sexual and gender-based violence,” to allow unfettered humanitarian access and refrain from restricting or shuttering internet access. International aid organizations must prioritize setting up health care infrastructure for the countless survivors in Tigray today, and local organizations who are committed to this work should be better funded.


The relative Western disregard for the Tigrayan war, and the horrific acts of violence against Tigrayan women, presents a lesson to learn from; Tigray stands as one of many stark examples of what happens when C.R.S.V. goes unchecked. It is time the world speaks up for African women and holds governments, armies and all perpetrators accountable for the crimes they are committing. If not, they may continue to suspect that when it comes to them, accountability and justice are only buzz words.


During my trip last summer, I spoke to women in every town I visited, asking about their lives, experiences, hopes and dreams. I asked them if they saw a future for themselves in Tigray or anywhere at all. Overwhelmingly, they said their goal was to leave Ethiopia, or to help their children leave if they could not. They wanted their daughters to experience a different life, to have a chance at something else.



16) Israel’s raid on Al-Shifa Hospital grows into one of the longest of the war.

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Hiba Yazbek, March 21, 2024


Smoke over high-rise buildings.

Smoke rising during an Israeli raid at Al-Shifa Hospital and the surrounding area in Gaza City on Thursday. Credit...Dawoud Abu Alkas/Reuters

One of Israel’s longest and deadliest hospital raids of the Gaza war stretched into a fourth day on Thursday, as the military said that it had killed dozens of people it described as terrorists in the previous 24 hours in its operation at Al-Shifa Hospital.


Israel has staged a series of raids on Al-Shifa in northern Gaza, the largest medical facility in the territory, arguing that Hamas used it as a command center and concealed weapons and fighters in underground tunnels there. Since the latest attack began on Monday, the Israeli military has reported killing more than 140 people it said were terrorists in and around the hospital, far more than in past raids. The Israeli accounts could not be independently verified.


The Al Jazeera news network and Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s news agency, reported on Thursday that Israeli forces had blown up a building used for surgery that is one of the largest at the complex. The Israeli military said it had no comment on the reports.


Iyad Elejel, who lives about 500 yards from Al-Shifa, said the situation was “very terrifying,” adding in a phone call on Thursday: “We are hearing the constant sounds of clashes, gunshots, shelling, bombing, quadcopters and planes all day and all night.” Smoke had infiltrated the apartment where he is staying with 30 relatives, making it hard to breathe, he said.


Mr. Elejel said the children in the apartment were becoming used to the cacophony. “We try to convince them that the sounds they are hearing are from fireworks, but they don’t believe it,” he said.


Nobody has been able to leave the apartment since the raid began, Mr. Elejel said, and the family feared that they could run out of food soon. He said that when he looked out of his window Thursday morning, he saw “many dead bodies lying on the main street” out front. Israeli soldiers have been forcing people in the area to leave their apartments and head south, so the neighborhood was emptying out, Mr. Elejel said.


The military said in an earlier statement that it was continuing to “conduct precise operational activity in the Shifa hospital, eliminating dozens of terrorists over the past day during exchanges of fire.” It also said it was preventing harm to civilians and had located storage sites for weapons.


Israeli forces have carried out a series of raids on medical facilities in Gaza, arguing that Hamas has used them for military purposes. The armed group has denied doing so.


Israel made northern Gaza the initial target of its ground invasion of the enclave, which started on Oct. 27, and it first raided the hospital in November. It later provided evidence that Hamas had constructed a lengthy tunnel under the hospital. A later analysis by The New York Times found that Hamas had used the complex for military purposes. The Israeli military, however, has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under it.


Even before the current raid began, international aid workers said that the hospital barely functioned. Israeli officials said earlier this week that Hamas personnel had returned to the hospital, prompting its operation. Military analysts said Israel’s decision to withdraw most of its forces from the north, in part to concentrate on defeating Hamas in other parts of Gaza, had in effect left a security vacuum.


The initial raid on Al-Shifa became a lightning rod for criticism of Israel over military action around hospitals and the danger it poses to patients and medical staff. The raid also became a symbol of a broader debate about the human cost of Israel’s military campaign to destroy Hamas in Gaza, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or wounded.


Lauren Leatherby contributed reporting.



17) What Is Antisemitism? A Columbia Task Force Would Rather Not Say.

Definitions of the term are highly contested, so a group monitoring antisemitism on Columbia University’s campus has avoided picking sides. It is still facing criticism.

By Sharon Otterman, March 21, 2024


A wide exterior of Columbia University with students walking in the foreground.

A debate over how to define antisemitism is dividing campuses. Credit...Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

A Columbia University task force set up to combat antisemitism on campus in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks is attempting to avoid one of the most contentious issues in university debates over the war: Its members have refused to settle on what the definition of “antisemitism” is.


Competing factions on campus and beyond are pushing for two different definitions. The first, favored by the U.S. State Department and many supporters of Israel, says “targeting of the state of Israel” could be antisemitic, a definition that could label much of the pro-Palestinian activism sweeping campus as antisemitic.


The second is narrower. It distinguishes between anti-Zionism and antisemitism and could lead to criticism that the school is not taking antisemitism seriously enough.


The debate over the definitions has become a lightning rod for the Columbia task force and for other universities around the country. The task force is charged with “understanding how antisemitism manifests on campus” and improving the climate for Jewish faculty and students. But the refusal to pick a definition has also been met with harsh criticism on both sides.


“If you don’t diagnose the problem, you don’t have to deal with it,” said Shai Davidai, a Columbia professor who is Israeli and favors the more sweeping definition. He added, “Saying we don’t want to define it so we don’t have a problem, that’s copping out.”


Pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist faculty and students, quite a few of whom are Jewish, fear that without a definition, the antisemitism task force could be too sweeping in the speech and activity it seeks to regulate.


Columbia’s dilemma illustrates the broad challenge universities are facing as they attempt to walk a line between protecting free speech and avoiding discrimination lawsuits from Jewish students.


Universities are also facing enormous outside pressure. Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, and the co-chairs of its board of directors have been called to testify at a congressional hearing on antisemitism on April 17. Ms. Shafik did not attend the contentious December hearing where the presidents of Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania struggled to answer questions about whether a call for the genocide of Jews would violate school policies.


Columbia has already been sued in a federal civil rights lawsuit, filed by more than a dozen Jewish students, which describes the university as an institution where “mobs of pro-Hamas students and faculty march by the hundreds shouting vile antisemitic slogans, including calls to genocide.”


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators dispute that chants like “By any means necessary” and “There is only one solution, intifada, revolution” are antisemitic calls to genocide.


For the task force, the university chose three Jewish professors as co-chairs because they are seasoned senior faculty who know how Columbia works. They are not academic experts in antisemitism research, however.


The professors argue that their 15-member task force does not need to define antisemitism, because they don’t see it as their task to label things as antisemitic or not. Rather, they want to hear why Jewish students and faculty are upset and see if there are practical solutions that can be found to help them feel more comfortable.


“I get letters from parents every single day, just regular people, students,” one of the co-chairs, Nicholas Lemann, a former dean of the journalism school, said in an interview. He said that many of them ask: “‘Why aren’t you listening? Why aren’t you doing anything?’”


“Our job is not to define antisemitism,” he said, adding, “Our job is to listen to them, make them feel that somebody at Columbia cares about them, and to try to figure out what is causing this great discomfort and distress, and whether anything can be done to ameliorate it that’s consistent with the values of the university.”


Pro-Israel Jewish advocacy groups have been pushing for years for organizations and governments to adopt the more sweeping definition developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which wraps in anti-Zionist speech. Since 2016, it has been endorsed by more than 40 countries, including Israel.


There is no dispute about the core of the definition — antisemitism, it states, is a “certain perception of Jews that may be expressed as hatred” toward them. But its examples about Israel can be broadly interpreted, in ways that critics say would unfairly silence political criticism.


For example, the definition says that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” could be antisemitic.


Left-wing Jews often support the newer, Jerusalem Declaration definition, which takes a more tolerant approach toward criticism of Israel, including toward boycotts and sanctions of the Jewish state. Another definition, known as the Nexus Document, stands in the uneasy middle.


At Harvard and Stanford, antisemitism task force members have faced harsh criticism for not supporting the more sweeping definition; that tension was one reason the co-chair of the task force at Stanford decided to resign.


At Columbia, the task force chairs are trying to avoid falling into a similar trap. But fighting something without defining it could prove difficult.


“If you want to understand any issue and any problem, you need to have an understanding of what it is,” said Dov Waxman, an expert on antisemitism at UCLA. “You can’t count something if you’re not able to understand what it is.”


He recommended that the Columbia task force refer to more than one definition, as the Biden administration did last year in outlining its antisemitism strategy. The task force has not ruled out such a step, Mr. Lemann said.


Some of the Columbia task-force listening sessions on campus have become tense. At a March 1 session with graduate students, for example, several anti-Zionist Jews demanded to know what the definition of antisemitism would be and whether their views would be included in it.


Ester Fuchs, an urban studies professor and task force co-chair, interrupted them and became hostile, four students charged in a subsequent letter to Ms. Shafik and other administrators in which they called on Professor Fuchs to be replaced on the task force by an anti-Zionist.


Caitlin Liss, a Jewish graduate student who signed the letter, said she is part of a “long Jewish tradition of anti-Zionism” that includes many students at the school. But, she said, “you would never know that on campus from the way that the administration talks about it, from the way that the task force talks about it.”


Professor Fuchs said the students “attempted to disrupt the session and ignore its purpose — to listen to students’ concerns and experiences with antisemitism on campus.”


Joseph Howley, a Jewish classics professor and supporter of Columbia’s pro-Palestinian movement, was invited to attend a listening session, but didn’t go. “I have no reason to believe I’ll be taken seriously,” he said. In the end, only a few of the roughly 40 faculty members who had been invited to a listening session intended for critics of Israel attended.


In another session, Amy Werman, a professor at the School of Social Work who supports Israel, brought up a question about whether the task force might just be window dressing to appease Congress.


“Ester, oh, boy, she did not take to that kindly,” she said, referring to Professor Fuchs. “I would almost say I felt like she was attacking me.”


Professor Fuchs disputed that and said she had replied: “You obviously don’t know us. We have never been window dressing, and we don’t intend to be now.”


Still, at least some Jewish students who have felt ostracized or unsafe on campus have found the listening sessions helpful, said Rebecca Massel, a sophomore who covers antisemitism for The Columbia Spectator.


“It’s been an outlet for students to raise concerns,” she said.


The task force is now hiring a research director to develop a study on antisemitism at Columbia and recommend training materials for the university.


Earlier this month, it issued its first report. The 24-page document called for additional limits on protests and better enforcement of existing rules, to address a key complaint of Jewish students who say the environment at Columbia has become intolerable.


Protests were the first focus, Professor Fuchs said, because they are the “most overtly disruptive to life on campus and make people feel like they’re unsafe, like they’re unwelcome and they should find another place to go to school.”

As for whether some common anti-Israel protest chants like “Death to the Zionist State” could amount to discriminatory harassment of Jewish or Israeli students, the report largely punted, saying that was ultimately a question for lawyers.


“We urge the university to provide more guidance on the meaning of ‘discriminatory harassment,’ including antisemitic harassment,” the report said.



18) Congress Seeks to Bar Funding for U.N. Agency for Palestinians

A bill would bar support for the agency, UNRWA, amid accusations that some employees were Hamas fighters. Other countries are scrambling to make up the looming shortfall.

By Adam Rasgon and Robert Jimison, March 20, 2024

Adam Rasgon reported from Jerusalem and Robert Jimison from Washington.


A crowd of men, some holding up green cards, gather outside a concrete building

Palestinians gathered to receive aid outside an UNRWA warehouse in Gaza City on Monday. Credit...Mahmoud Issa/Reuters

The United States would cut off funding for the main U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza under a spending agreement on track to soon become law, according to two people familiar with the plan.


The ban, part of a massive spending bill negotiated by lawmakers and the White House that is expected to clear Congress by this weekend, would create a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars for the agency, known as UNRWA. That could have disastrous consequences for Gazans, who are facing an acute hunger crisis and displacement in crowded shelters and tent encampments.


The move would also put Washington at odds with its Western allies over how to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza amid accusations that Hamas fighters have infiltrated the agency.


The U.S. has unilaterally taken other steps to ameliorate the deprivation in Gaza, including pressuring the Israelis to allow more aid into the enclave, conducting airdrops of food and announcing a plan to construct a pier to deliver aid by sea.


Though before the war UNRWA employees filled a broad array of civil functions in the territory, operating schools and providing health services, they have since become the main resource on the ground for delivering aid to the territory’s besieged residents. As Congress bans funding for the agency, U.S. officials are seeking alternative organizations to tackle the distribution of food in particular.


But as the U.S. courts other agencies to help fill the void in Gaza, some of America’s closest allies are scrambling to ensure funding for the agency continues.


The suspension of funding is planned through March 2025 and extends a pause that the White House and lawmakers from both major U.S. parties supported after Israel accused at least 12 UNRWA employees in January of participating in the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel led by Hamas. Efforts are underway to impose a longer-lasting funding ban, according to people familiar with the negotiations.


“Not a single taxpayer dollar should go to UNRWA after the serious allegations of its members participating in the October 7th attacks,” Senator James Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement to The New York Times.


The loss of American support would hamper the agency’s ability to deliver food and health services in Gaza. The United States has paid the plurality of the agency’s overall budget, including $370 million in 2023. As of earlier this month, UNRWA had enough funds to continue its operations until the end of May, according to Scott Anderson, the agency’s deputy director for Gaza.


Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner general, said he feared that U.S. efforts to suspend funding would have drastic effects on agency services in Gaza, particularly schooling. “I really hope that the U.S. will continue to show their solidarity,” he said.


The agreement, which is the product of long and painstaking negotiations, is expected to easily pass Congress.


Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, said he opposed the ban on funding.


“To punish over two million innocent people in Gaza and UNRWA beneficiaries throughout the region for these actions is not just misguided — it’s unconscionable,” he said on Wednesday.


The White House appeared to be holding out hope for the possibility of eventually restoring funding to UNRWA, which supports Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, once the agency concludes its investigation and takes steps toward reform.


“There is no other organization that has the reach, the tentacles and the distribution capabilities that UNRWA has in Gaza. That’s just a fact,” said John F. Kirby,  the White House National Security Council spokesman.


“Obviously UNRWA is going to have to reform itself, clearly, because that’s just unacceptable behavior by anybody,” he added.


U.N. officials said they had fired 10 of the original 12 employees accused of participating in the Oct. 7 attack or its aftermath and that two others were dead. António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general who described himself as “horrified by these accusations,” ordered an investigation into the agency and has implored those nations that suspended their aid payments to reconsider.


Over the past two weeks, Canada, Sweden, Iceland and Australia, which suspended funding for UNRWA after Israel’s accusations were made public in January, have said that they would renew it. A host of other countries, including Germany, UNRWA’s second-biggest backer, are expected to make similar announcements in the coming months, according to five European diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to communicate with the news media.


On Wednesday, a Saudi-funded humanitarian agency pledged to increase its funding for the agency by $40 million, according to a statement.


“We welcome the decisions of donor countries to restore funding, but we are not out of the woods,” said Juliette Touma, the communications director for UNRWA.


But while America’s allies look for ways to fund and potentially reform the agency — like stepping up enforcement of its rules that require employees to maintain neutrality  — Washington is seeking other alternatives.


Humanitarian officials, however, have questioned whether other U.N. agencies or smaller relief organizations are capable of distributing large amounts of aid independently while the war between Israel and Hamas is raging.


Israeli officials recently met in Washington with members of Congress and the Biden administration and shared new evidence that they said showed UNRWA employees had connections with militant groups in Gaza, according to an Israeli official with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The New York Times has not seen the material Israeli officials presented to members of Congress.


Last week, he said, Israeli officials shared materials with visiting investigators from the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight who are conducting an inquiry into whether UNRWA employees have ties to Hamas. He said Israel was committed to ensuring the continued flow of aid to Gaza, but not through UNRWA.


Earlier in the war, the distribution of food aid was primarily overseen by UNRWA. But more recently, a patchwork of aid agencies, convoys operated by local businessmen and airdrops by foreign governments have become involved in the delivery of desperately needed food.


Distribution, particularly in northern Gaza, has been slowed by lawlessness, violence and Israel denying convoys entry.


At least twice in recent weeks, attempts to distribute food ended in bloodshed as hungry Palestinians seeking aid were killed. In the deadliest such event, more than 100 people were killed in Gaza City on Feb. 29, according to local health authorities, who attributed the deaths to Israeli troops firing on the crowd. The Israeli military acknowledged opening fire, but said most of the deaths had occurred when people stampeded or were run over by trucks.


On Monday, the U.N.-backed organization that monitors food insecurity warned that “famine is imminent” in Gaza.


Both Republicans and Democrats have proposed the World Food Program as an alternative, according to UNRWA supporters who recently visited Congress and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their private meetings.


But the World Food Program, or W.F.P., has fewer than 100 staff members in Gaza compared to the 13,000 on UNRWA’s payroll, 3,000 of whom have kept working during the war.


“The World Food Program’s mandate is to deliver food assistance to hungry and vulnerable people,” the agency said in a statement. “We are ready to further step up our food assistance in Gaza, with the necessary funding. We cannot replace the critical functions of UNRWA in Gaza, including the running of shelters and health clinics.”


Israel has also engaged with the W.F.P., along with other organizations, about playing a larger role in Gaza, according to the Israeli official who discussed the recent Washington meetings, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations.


But moving employees from one organization to another would be complicated, said Jamie McGoldrick, a top U.N. relief official in Jerusalem. For example, W.F.P.’s employees in Gaza are generally paid about three times as much as their UNRWA counterparts, he said.


As Washington looks for alternatives to UNRWA, some countries have decided to restore their funding, based on reassurances the agency has given about improving its employee vetting process and its enforcement of ethics rules.


Other donor nations, according to UNRWA officials and the European diplomats, are seeking additional information from the U.N. office overseeing the inquiry into Israel’s allegations, as well as the results of an independent review being conducted by Catherine Colonna, a former French foreign minister. Ms. Colonna is expected to release an interim update on Wednesday and her final report on April 20.


Many European countries are looking to see that UNRWA is taking the investigation seriously, one of the European diplomats said, adding that evidence of “credible efforts” to reform was important. “The overall sense is things are going quite well,” the diplomat said.


Hugh Lovatt, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the push in European capitals to restore funding was a recognition that Europe had “overreacted” when faced with the allegations.


Nevertheless, the European Union has said future funding for UNRWA is contingent on the agency allowing E.U.-appointed experts to audit the organization; increasing the staff of its internal investigations and ethics departments; and making employees sign conflict-of-interest declarations, according to written correspondence between the UNRWA commissioner-general, Mr. Lazzarini, and Oliver Varhelyi, a senior E.U. official.


UNRWA, according to the correspondence between Mr. Lazzarini and Mr. Varhelyi, also agreed to hand over a list of its employees to Israeli authorities every three months, including their Palestinian ID numbers; to confirm that financial institutions had vetted its staff against a list of people under E.U. sanctions; and to allow a third party to monitor employees’ compliance with training on humanitarian principles and neutrality.


Israeli officials had previously complained that UNRWA had handed over its employee lists only once a year, without their national ID numbers. Access to the ID numbers, diplomats said, would likely make it easier for Israel to check its databases for specific UNRWA employees with criminal histories.


Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.