Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, May 26, 2024


Watch the People’s Conference for Palestine Live on YouTube!

Final day today, Sunday, May 26 

The People’s Conference for Palestine will be streamed live on YouTube via our official livestream partner, BreakThrough News!


Follow the plenary sessions live on BreakThrough News’ YouTube Channel



320 W 37th St, New York, NY, USA



National Call-In Day 5/28: Drop the Charges Against Cal Poly Humboldt Pro-Palestine Protesters!


Call the District Attorney Stacey Eads:

May 28 Tuesday

8am to 4:30pm PST




On May 28, the Cal Poly Humboldt pro-Palestine protesters - who are students, faculty and community members - have their first arraignment court appearance in Eureka, CA. Each of the 30 protesters is being charged with 4 misdemeanors and thus are each facing up to 4 years in prison just for standing with Palestine and saying no to genocide.


It was the police and the university who were the aggressors that day. We have a First Amendment right to free speech and protest that must be protected.


Please call in to the prosecution on Tuesday, May 28 from the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time and join Students for a Democratic Society, Humboldt for Palestine, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression in demanding that all their charges be dropped.




Worldwide Prayer/Good Energy Day for Leonard Peltier


Sunday, June 9, 2024, the day before Leonard's parole hearing, we ask people everywhere to do prayers, good energy, reiki, healing, gatherings, vigils, poems, songs – to help Leonard feel good, get the care he needs, and get out of prison.  


Please invite your networks, faith communities, families, comrades, children, and elders to participate on June 9th!  

Consider praying and supporting Leonard now, too. 


Leonard Peltier (Chippewa and Dakota/Lakota) is an Indigenous Political Prisoner of War. Targeted for his work in the American Indian Movement, he has been in prison for 48+years. His 80th birthday is Sept 12, 2024. Leonard has many serious and painful ailments which are not being treated in federal prison.  


“I would like to go home to spend what years I have left with my great-grandkids and my people.” Leonard Peltier


More info: freeleonardpeltiernow.org and 707-442-7465




Questions and comments may be sent to info@freedomarchives.org



9:00 A.M. 

Location: MECA office, 1101 8th St, Berkeley, CA 94710

Join us Sunday, July 21 for our Third Annual Ride for Palestine, a day of solidarity along the 14-mile scenic San Francisco Bay. The ride is designed to be enjoyable for cyclists of all skill levels and the post-Ride event, Gather for Gaza will include delicious Palestinian food, music, dancing, and more.


All funds raised this year will support MECA’s emergency work in Gaza–where the situation is dire and your support is more important than ever. Thanks to the efforts of our community, MECA’s 2022 and 2023 Rides for Palestine were a huge success, together raising more than $125,000 in support of our ongoing work in Palestine.


Help us reach our 2024 Ride for Palestine goal of $150,000 by registering today:



With your support, we can deliver food and other necessities and send a powerful message of solidarity to Gaza.


Ride for Palestinian children. Ride for solidarity. Ride for Gaza.


If you're not in the Bay Area or are not available July 21 but would like to participate you can register at a discounted rate as a Virtual Participant and ride, walk, swim, or even bake cookies for Palestine–you can decide what your fundraising activity looks like. Check out our Ride from Anywhere page to learn more.


Ride from anywhere:



Get involved in this year’s event at RideforPalestine.com and feel free to reach out to the MECA team by emailing us at info@rideforpalestine.com. 


#GatherforGaza #RideforPalestine #MECAforPeace



Greetings to U.S. students from Gaza: "Thank you students in Solidarity with Gaza, your message has reached.” May 1, 2024 (Screenshot)

‘Operation al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 230:


The total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 35,709, with 79,990 wounded.*  

More than 519 Palestinians have been killed and 4,600 wounded by Israel in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.**  

—Israel lowers its estimated October 7 death toll from 1,400 to 1,139—634 Israeli soldiers killed since ground invasion, 3,568 wounded***

Gaza’s Ministry of Health confirmed this figure on its Telegram channel on May 22,2024. Some rights groups estimate the death toll to be much higher when accounting for those presumed dead.

** The death toll in West Bank and Jerusalem is not updated regularly. According to PA’s Ministry of Health on May 22, 2024—this is the latest figure.

*** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.” The number of Israeli soldiers wounded, according to Israeli media reports, exceeds 6,800 as of April 1.

Source: mondoweiss.net




Boris Kagarlitsky is in Prison!

On February 13, the court overturned the previous decision on release and sent Boris Kagarlitsky to prison for five years.

Petition in Support of Boris Kagarlitsky

We, the undersigned, were deeply shocked to learn that on February 13 the leading Russian socialist intellectual and antiwar activist Dr. Boris Kagarlitsky (65) was sentenced to five years in prison.

Dr. Kagarlitsky was arrested on the absurd charge of 'justifying terrorism' in July last year. After a global campaign reflecting his worldwide reputation as a writer and critic of capitalism and imperialism, his trial ended on December 12 with a guilty verdict and a fine of 609,000 roubles.

The prosecution then appealed against the fine as 'unjust due to its excessive leniency' and claimed falsely that Dr. Kagarlitsky was unable to pay the fine and had failed to cooperate with the court. In fact, he had paid the fine in full and provided the court with everything it requested.

On February 13 a military court of appeal sent him to prison for five years and banned him from running a website for two years after his release.

The reversal of the original court decision is a deliberate insult to the many thousands of activists, academics, and artists around the world who respect Dr. Kagarlitsky and took part in the global campaign for his release. The section of Russian law used against Dr. Kagarlitsky effectively prohibits free expression. The decision to replace the fine with imprisonment was made under a completely trumped-up pretext. Undoubtedly, the court's action represents an attempt to silence criticism in the Russian Federation of the government's war in Ukraine, which is turning the country into a prison.

The sham trial of Dr. Kagarlitsky is the latest in a wave of brutal repression against the left-wing movements in Russia. Organizations that have consistently criticized imperialism, Western and otherwise, are now under direct attack, many of them banned. Dozens of activists are already serving long terms simply because they disagree with the policies of the Russian government and have the courage to speak up. Many of them are tortured and subjected to life-threatening conditions in Russian penal colonies, deprived of basic medical care. Left-wing politicians are forced to flee Russia, facing criminal charges. International trade unions such as IndustriALL and the International Transport Federation are banned and any contact with them will result in long prison sentences.

There is a clear reason for this crackdown on the Russian left. The heavy toll of the war gives rise to growing discontent among the mass of working people. The poor pay for this massacre with their lives and wellbeing, and opposition to war is consistently highest among the poorest. The left has the message and resolve to expose the connection between imperialist war and human suffering.

Dr. Kagarlitsky has responded to the court's outrageous decision with calm and dignity: “We just need to live a little longer and survive this dark period for our country,” he said. Russia is nearing a period of radical change and upheaval, and freedom for Dr. Kagarlitsky and other activists is a condition for these changes to take a progressive course.

We demand that Boris Kagarlitsky and all other antiwar prisoners be released immediately and unconditionally.

We also call on the authorities of the Russian Federation to reverse their growing repression of dissent and respect their citizens' freedom of speech and right to protest.

Sign to Demand the Release of Boris Kagarlitsky


The petition is also available on Change.org



*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




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)

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



Daniel Hale UPDATE:  


In February Drone Whistleblower Daniel Hale was transferred from the oppressive maximum-security prison in Marion, Illinois to house confinement.  We celebrate his release from Marion.  He is laying low right now, recovering from nearly 3 years in prison.  Thank goodness he is now being held under much more humane conditions and expected to complete his sentence in July of this year.     www.StandWithDaniel Hale.org


More Info about Daniel:


“Drone Whistleblower Subjected To Harsh Confinement Finally Released From Prison” 



“I was punished under the Espionage Act. Why wasn’t Joe Biden?”  by Daniel Hale




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) At Chaotic Rally in Brooklyn, Police Violently Confront Protesters

Officers were filmed punching several people at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Bay Ridge.

By Christopher Maag, May 19, 2024


A woman wearing a keffiyeh yells as she is surrounded by several police officers.

Officers attempted to move protesters off the street. Credit...Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

A large protest in Brooklyn against Israel’s military offensive in Gaza erupted into a chaotic scene on Saturday, as the police arrested dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators and at times confronted them violently.


In videos posted on social media, officers can be seen punching at least three people who were prone on the ground at the demonstration in the Bay Ridge neighborhood. The aggression was corroborated by witnesses. Another protester who was filming the police was tackled and arrested. A police spokesman declined to comment on the officers using force on protesters.


At least 34 people were arrested, according to a senior law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a developing situation. The police had not released details on the charges the protesters face as of early Sunday.


“I saw police indiscriminately grabbing people off the street and the sidewalk,” said Nerdeen Kiswani, founder of Within Our Lifetime, an activist group led by Palestinians that organized the demonstration. “They were grabbing people at random.”


In recent years, Within Our Lifetime has put on an annual mid-May rally in Bay Ridge, a neighborhood with a large Arab population, to commemorate what Palestinians call the Nakba, or “catastrophe” — when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from their homes during the war that led to Israel’s founding in 1948.


Given the war in Gaza and months of protests in New York, this year’s protest was charged from the start. It started at 2 p.m. at the intersection of Fifth and Bay Ridge Avenues. Within about 25 minutes, a large group of officers arrived and warned protesters to get onto the sidewalk. Those who remained in the street would be arrested, the police told them.


From there, the event alternated between protest marches and standoffs with the police. In one video taken by Katie Smith, an independent journalist, a police commander in a white shirt delivers at least three punches to a person lying on the pavement. In another video she recorded, an officer punches a man who is on the ground at least six times and a white-shirted commander aims a kick at the man, though it is not possible to see if it landed.


In a separate instance filmed by another independent journalist, Talia Jane, an officer flings a protester against a signpost and then hurls him to the pavement, where he is pinned by two officers as he is punched by a third.


The footage of the police, including at least one commander, pummeling protesters recalled some of the N.Y.P.D. conduct caught on video at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020. The city ended up paying $13 million to settle a class-action suit brought by those protesters.


In a video of the Saturday protest posted on Twitch, half a dozen people could be seen filming a group of police officers and commanders walking on Bay Ridge Avenue. A police commander grabbed the nearest one, followed by two more commanders and a scrum of blue-shirted officers.


The protester was shoved to the ground, handcuffed and arrested. Other people in the crowd continued recording the event.


Those arrested were led to police vans and driven to the headquarters in Manhattan. A light rain began to fall, and by 8 p.m. the protest had dispersed.


Sabir Hasko contributed reporting.



2) Assange Can Appeal U.S. Extradition, English Court Rules

The WikiLeaks founder won his bid to appeal his extradition on espionage charges, opening a new chapter in a prolonged legal battle.

By Megan Specia, Reporting from London, May 20, 2024


A crowd of people filled a street at a protest for Julian Assange, with several people holding signs to show their support.

Supporters of Julian Assange, the embattled WikiLeaks founder, marched along a London street in February. Credit...Carl Court/Getty Images

A London court ruled on Monday that Julian Assange, the embattled WikiLeaks founder, could appeal his extradition to the United States, a move that opens a new chapter in his prolonged fight against the order in Britain’s courts.


Two High Court judges said they would allow an appeal to be heard on a limited number of issues.


In March, the judges said that the court would grant a request to appeal unless the American government gave “a satisfactory assurance” that Mr. Assange would be afforded protections under the U.S. Constitution, would not be “prejudiced by reason of his nationality,” and that “the death penalty is not imposed.”


The U.S. Embassy in Britain provided assurances on those issues in a letter sent in April, but Mr. Assange’s legal team had argued in court that they did not all go far enough to meet the court’s request.


Mr. Assange, 52, has been held in Belmarsh, one of Britain’s highest-security prisons, in southeastern London since 2019 as his fight against the extradition order has proceeded through the courts.


He faces charges in the United States under the Espionage Act related to WikiLeaks’ publication of tens of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents leaked to the site by Chelsea Manning, an Army intelligence analyst, in 2010.


In June 2012, Mr. Assange entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he stayed for the next seven years over fears that he could be arrested. He was eventually evicted from the embassy in 2019 and was promptly arrested.


The U.S. Justice Department had charged Mr. Assange with 18 counts of violating the Espionage Act by participating in a criminal hacking conspiracy and by encouraging hackers to steal secret material. In 2021, the extradition order for Mr. Assange was denied by a British judge, who ruled that he would be at risk of suicide if sent to a U.S. prison, but the High Court later reversed that decision. In 2022, Priti Patel, Britain’s home secretary at the time, approved the extradition request.


An earlier request from Mr. Assange’s legal team for an appeal was rejected by a judge, before the two judges who made Monday’s decision decided that his appeal could go ahead.


Since his arrest in 2019, Mr. Assange has rarely been seen, and in his final hearing on Monday he decided not to attend the hearing for undisclosed health reasons, according to his legal team. Throughout his time in prison, his lawyers and his wife, Stella Assange, have warned about his diminishing physical and mental health. In 2021, Ms. Assange had a small stroke. Speaking ahead of the final hearing, Ms. Assange said her concerns for his mental health were “very serious.”


Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor in chief of WikiLeaks, said at a news briefing last week that Mr. Assange’s legal team had been focusing its efforts on a political resolution, which he said “has been bearing fruit.”


“More and more political leaders are coming to the side of Julian,” Mr. Hrafnsson said, “They see the absurdity in this case. And how serious the implications this would have for press freedom worldwide.”


The Australian government has put its support behind Mr. Assange, an Australian citizen, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said he hopes the case can be “resolved amicably.”


Last month, President Biden said that the administration was considering a request from Australia that Mr. Assange be allowed to return there and not face prison, prompting speculation that Washington could be rethinking the case. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment at the time.


Supporters have long argued that Mr. Assange’s life could be at risk if he were sent to the United States for trial. While Mr. Assange’s lawyers say that he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted, lawyers for the U.S. government have said that he would be more likely to be sentenced to four to six years.


In the court on Monday, Mr. Assange’s legal team said that the assurances offered by the U.S. side that it would not seek the death penalty were sufficient, but raised issues with the promise that if Mr. Assange were extradited, he would “have the ability to raise and seek” the rights and protections given under the First Amendment.”


“We say this is a blatantly inadequate assurance,” Edward Fitzgerald, one of Mr. Assange’s lawyers said, arguing that, “There is no guarantee that he will be even permitted to rely on the First Amendment.”


James Lewis, a lawyer for the U.S., reiterated throughout the hearing that assurances provided by their side did make it clear that Mr. Assange would have ample protections to abide by Britain’s extradition law.


The prolonged nature of Mr. Assange’s case is not unheard-of, in part because of Britain’s extradition rules, which allow for appeals on a variety of issues, said Nick Vamos, former head of extradition for the British Crown Prosecution Service.


“The courts will entertain lots of different kinds of arguments about fairness and prison conditions and human rights and political motivations and all of those things,” Mr. Vamos said, adding that, ultimately, this may have allowed Mr. Assange to “buy time” for a political solution.



3) Occupation Has Corrupted the Humanity of Israel’s Military

By Avner Gvaryahu, May 20, 2024

Mr. Gvaryahu is the director of Breaking the Silence, an organization of veterans opposed to the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

“Two unarmed women walking in an orchard, talking on their phones, were suspected of scouting Israeli forces — and were killed, one soldier told us. After a commander ordered their bodies to be checked, the conclusion was, ‘They were fired at — so of course, they must have been terrorists,’ said the soldier whose identity like that of many of our witnesses we have kept anonymous to protect his safety. Israel’s conduct in the current war demonstrates this viewpoint even more. A reservist officer recently told a journalist: ‘De facto, a terrorist is anyone the military kills inside the zone of combat.’”


An illustration of a couch and next to it, a silhouette of a person wearing a soldier’s helmet and vest and holding a gun.

Joanna Blémont

Israel’s military has brought utter devastation to the Palestinians of Gaza after the attack by Hamas on Oct. 7. But the extreme response is not only a reaction to the horrors of that day. It is also a product of the decades-long role the military has played in enforcing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.


The occupation has cultivated a longstanding disregard among Israeli soldiers for Palestinian lives, and similar impulses in the words and actions of commanders can be seen to lie behind the horrors of what we are witnessing today.


Israel has governed a people denied basic human rights and the rule of law through constant coercion, threats and intimidation. The idea that the only answer to Palestinian resistance, both violent and nonviolent, is greater — and more indiscriminate — force has shown signs of becoming entrenched in the Israel Defense Forces and in Israeli politics.


I know this through the numerous testimonies collected by my organization, Breaking the Silence, which was formed in 2004 by a group of Israeli veterans to expose the reality of Israel’s military occupation. We know firsthand and from thousands of soldiers that military occupation is imposed on civilians through fear, which is instilled by the growing and often arbitrary use of force.


For 20 years, we have heard these soldiers speak of the gradual erosion of principles that, even if never fully upheld, were once seen as fundamental to the moral character of the Israel Defense Forces. We have continued our work despite criticism from the military and the government.


I also know this because I myself have undergone this moral corruption. I, like many Israeli soldiers, went into the military thinking I knew the difference between right and wrong, and had a clear sense of the boundaries on legitimate use of force. But every boundary is destined to be redrawn in a military occupation, whose very existence relies on terrorizing a civilian population into submission.


I clearly remember one of the first times I entered the home of a Palestinian family, as a sergeant, in a village near Nablus in the West Bank in 2007. It was in the middle of the night and we were told that the house would make a good observation point. As we approached, we heard an elderly woman next door screaming in fear. We broke the window of her home and shone a flashlight. She was terrified, speaking unintelligibly. Her family was looking in from the other room, too scared to enter and calm her down. These people weren’t suspects. They just lived next door to the house we needed.


I was horrified, but I soon grew accustomed to such scenes. As soldiers, we used people’s houses for our purposes. We used people’s things. We used people. From home invasions to checkpoints, patrols to arrests, we eventually stopped seeing Palestinian civilians as real, living people. I quit asking myself: What do they feel? What do they think? How would I feel if soldiers barged into my house in the middle of the night? These questions, so crucial for morality and humanity, lost their meaning.


Since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 kidnapped, over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, some 1.7 million Palestinians have been displaced and 1.1 million Palestinians are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity, according to the United Nations.


And so, as the war grinds on, we Israelis are not who we think we are. We may think we know our boundaries and principles, we may think we are on the side of right, we may think we are in control. Yet what was once unthinkable soon becomes the norm. The innocent, we say, must be protected. But we have lived for too long as an occupying power; two many among us see no one as innocent anymore. We see threats everywhere and in anyone, threats that, we feel, justify almost anything.


That may include using suffering to achieve military goals. “The international community warns of a humanitarian disaster in Gaza and of severe epidemics,” Giora Eiland, a retired major general and former head of the Israel National Security Council, wrote in November. “We must not shy away from this, as difficult as that may be,” he said, adding, “This is not about cruelty for cruelty’s sake, since we don’t support the suffering of the other side as a goal, but as a means.”


Israel has repeatedly maintained that it is doing all that it can to protect civilians. But the heart of this pattern of moral deterioration is in the military’s determination of who is a combatant.


The shifting sense of who is an enemy combatant and who isn’t, both in military procedures and soldiers’ attitudes, is especially clear in Israel’s periodic wars in Gaza, where the withdrawal of Israeli settlements and ground forces in 2005 cleared the way for harsher and less discriminate methods of war.


Take Operation Cast Lead, in 2008 and 2009, which began with an aerial attack on police stations in Gaza City and ultimately killed more than 240 policemen and injured around 750. After the fact, Israel claimed it did not violate the laws of war by targeting policemen since the “collective role of the Gaza ‘police’” was “an integral part of Hamas armed forces” and as such, they were effectively considered enemy combatants. But according to a United Nations fact-finding mission, the policemen killed in the attacks “cannot be said to have been taking a direct part in hostilities.”


Operation Protective Edge, in the summer of 2014, was the deadliest Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip since 1967 until the current war. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, 1,391 of them civilians, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Many soldiers who took part in the operation have told Breaking the Silence that very little was required by their commanders to label a person an enemy combatant. Two unarmed women walking in an orchard, talking on their phones, were suspected of scouting Israeli forces — and were killed, one soldier told us. After a commander ordered their bodies to be checked, the conclusion was, “They were fired at — so of course, they must have been terrorists,” said the soldier whose identity like that of many of our witnesses we have kept anonymous to protect his safety.


Israel’s conduct in the current war demonstrates this viewpoint even more. A reservist officer recently told a journalist: “De facto, a terrorist is anyone the military kills inside the zone of combat.” This reckless interpretation of the rules of war has resulted in meaningless loss for Palestinians and Israelis alike. In December, the Israeli military mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages in Gaza who had been shirtless, unarmed and bearing a makeshift white flag.


The military said the shooting of the three men had violated its rules of engagement. But soldiers who participated in previous wars in Gaza reported being instructed, upon entering areas where civilians had been warned to evacuate, to shoot anything that moves because anyone who stayed was considered a threat and a legitimate target. Similar reports are surfacing now.


In contrast to these attitudes, consider the 2002 Israeli bombing of the home of a top Hamas commander in Gaza City that killed him and 14 others, including eight children. A government committee concluded that faulty intelligence led to the high civilian death toll, and implied that had it been known there were many civilians on site, the attack would have been aborted.


The shocking numbers of civilian casualties in the current war — nearly 13,000 women and children, according to Gazan authorities — may be the result, to some degree, of other changes in Israel’s targeting policies, too. According to intelligence sources that +972 Magazine and Local Call spoke with, on previous operations senior military operatives were defined as “human targets” who could be killed in their homes even if civilians were around. In the current war, the sources reportedly said, the term “human target” covers all Hamas fighters.


This has clearly led to a sharp increase in the number of targets, which has probably meant that the lengthy process of justifying operations has had to speed up. The military has employed artificial intelligence to help. According to the intelligence sources who spoke with +972 and Local Call, A.I. marked some 37,000 Palestinians in Gaza in the early days of the war for targeting as suspected Hamas militants, most of them of junior rank. It is unclear how many of that group have been killed. The Israeli military has disputed some of these allegations.


A military that controls civilians by force for decades is bound to lose its ethical compass. So does a society that sends its military on such a mission. The horrors of Oct. 7 have accelerated and intensified this process. The death and destruction that have been brought upon Gaza will shape the future of Palestinians and Israelis for generations to come. There will have to be a profound moral reckoning.



4) Cartoon of Palestinian Boy Inspires, Years After Creator’s Murder

The character known as Handala, created by Naji Al-Ali in 1969, is making an imprint on art and as a protest symbol.

By Aruna D’Souza, Published May 17, 2024, Updated May 19, 2024


A large, black-and-white mural that features multiple scenes.

“No Words,” 2024, by Malak Mattar, a Palestinian artist from Gaza City with a solo show at Roberto Ferruzzi Gallery in Venice, Italy. Credit...Malak Mattar 

When pro-Palestinian student protesters took over Hamilton Hall at Columbia University last month and renamed it “Hind’s Hall,” the banner they unfurled contained images of a cartoon character created over 50 years ago that symbolizes the resilience of Palestinians.


On either side of the text were two images of a barefoot boy with tattered clothes and spiky hair, his back turned to us.


The character is called Handala (variously transliterated as Hanzala or Handzala), a name derived from a native plant that is deep-rooted, persistent and bears bitter fruit, and has become a potent symbol of the Palestinian struggle. The image was created by the Palestinian political cartoonist Naji Al-Ali in 1969, one of the most widely read cartoonists in the Arab world, who was murdered in London in 1987. (The case remains unsolved.)


Handala is 10 years old, the same age that Ali was when he became a refugee in 1948.


After the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, also known as the Yom Kippur War, Ali exclusively depicted Handala with his back turned, a gesture that transformed him into a silent witness of the horrors and outrages going on around him. The stance, according to the cartoonist, represented a rejection of the political machinations of foreign nations when it came to the fate of ordinary Palestinians.


Margaret Olin, a religious studies scholar at the Yale Divinity School and co-author of “The Bitter Landscapes of Palestine,” has been photographing Handala’s appearance in murals and as graffiti during her visits to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank over the past decade. “It’s become a symbol of the whole Palestinian movement to return to their former homes,” she said in a telephone interview.


Handala, she explained, “has the resonance of Paul Klee’s “Angelus Novus,” which Walter Benjamin described as the angel of history. “He’s facing the ravages of time and disaster, but he’s turned around so that you see the disasters too.” She added that the character “also has a tinge of Günter Grass’s Oskar in ‘The Tin Drum,’ a child who also refused to grow while the disasters of Germany took place around him. He’s the child as witness, the child who’s stuck witnessing, just waiting for the disasters to pass.”


The figure of Handala, she observed, is “plastered on houses in East Jerusalem, where residents are being forced out by illegal settlements. He’s carried into protests. He’s everywhere.”


The image has appeared in the United States — “my son’s in-laws are Iraqi, and they have a bumper sticker on their car,” Olin added. “One of the reasons the character is so ubiquitous is that Ali made him very easy to draw.” She said that children in West Bank refugee camps have drawn smiling faces on the back of Handala’s head when they encounter him in murals, turning his suffering into joy.


Ali was known to be an equal opportunity critic, as likely to take aim at the failure of Arab countries in the region to support Palestinians as Israel and the U.S. He even took aim at the Palestine Liberation Organization at times in his Handala images.


Peace activists in Israel have also adopted the figure of Handala over the years, showing him embracing another cartoon boy — Srulik, created by the Israeli cartoonist Kariel Gardosh, which became an embodiment of Israel. But Handala is not common there. Nizan Shaked, a professor of cultural studies at California State University at Long Beach, grew up in Haifa, Israel. She said in an email interview that she only encountered the character in 1998, when she moved to the U.S.


The character has been re-embraced by activists and artists alike in the last seven months. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, a grass roots solidarity movement that works “to end the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza,” according to its website, has christened one of its ships Handala. A publishing house in Italy and an artist’s group in Japan have created posters in which the character has been reinterpreted for today.


And Handala has even made it to Venice, in a solo exhibition not affiliated with the Biennale. At the Roberto Ferruzzi Gallery in Dorsoduro, the Palestinian artist Malak Mattar’s paintings are on view until June 14. The show features “No Words” (2024), which the artist describes on Instagram as “the largest documentation of the unfolding genocide on Gaza.” The canvas, the largest she has ever attempted, at over 16 by 7 feet, is a nod to Palestinian mural culture. Handala appears near the top of the painting, looking at a wall. Unlike Mattar’s earlier paintings, which are intensely colorful, this work is rendered in somber gray, black, white and brown.


Mattar, who was born and raised in Gaza City, was living there until Oct. 5, when she left to pursue a master’s degree in London, she said in a telephone interview. Her painting focuses on the people who have been forced to evacuate to escape the Israeli military bombings of Gaza, where, she said, many of her friends, family members and colleagues have been killed.


“When I was much younger as an artist, Handala was very significant in my work,” Mattar said. “Growing up in Gaza, he was a very emotional symbol — he is a boy we all related to, he’s a boy that spoke for all of us and our feelings.”


“He is a child who was displaced, who the entire world failed.”


Last month, Hadi Eldebek, a Lebanese American musician and educator and member of Silkroad Ensemble, worked with his collaborators in the Brooklyn Nomads to create a multimedia concert at Roulette in Brooklyn dedicated to Naji Al-Ali and his ubiquitous character of resistance. Musicians and dancers performed while animations of Ali’s cartoons were projected above them. “To me — as a Lebanese, as an Arab, as a Muslim, as a human being — Hanzala represents me,” Eldebek said.


What seems to unite the artists who are re-embracing Handala is a sense of his enduring relevance.


“Some members of the audience at the show asked me if we had commissioned a contemporary cartoonist to make the images we showed, since they seemed to represent all the horrors we’ve seen on the news since Oct. 7,” Eldebek said. “But they are images made in the 1970s and 1980s, when Ali was looking back already on decades of suffering.”



5) Two Weeks Inside Gaza’s Ruined Hospitals

By Samer Attar, May 21, 2024

Video by Alexander Stockton and Amanda Su

Dr. Attar is a surgeon at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. He volunteered in Gaza three times, with Rahma Worldwide, IDEALS and Palestinian American Bridge. Mr. Stockton is a producer with Opinion Video. Ms. Su is an Opinion Video reporting fellow.

[There are no words. But sometimes, while in the comfort of our homes, we have to witness the truth of the horror of war. After all, we are paying for it. We should know what we are getting for our money. —Bonnie Weinstein]



In the Opinion video above, Dr. Samer Attar, an American surgeon from Chicago, shows us the unfathomable brutality of the war in Gaza. He was a member of the first delegation of international doctors to embed in the northern part of the territory this spring.


Over two weeks, Dr. Attar volunteered at local hospitals and filmed what he saw. Al-Awda Hospital — one of the locations where he worked — has been under siege since Sunday and recently ran out of drinking water, with staff members and patients trapped inside.


Dr. Attar’s video diaries capture the war’s toll on civilians and the struggle among Palestinian medical workers to save lives amid extreme shortages of critical medicine, blood and basic supplies in Gaza’s shattered health care sector. As pressure for a cease-fire mounts, Dr. Attar argues in this video that any agreement must include three concrete terms to save thousands of innocent lives in Gaza.


Viewer discretion is advised: The video includes graphic images of severe injuries and suffering.



6) For Gazans Relocating Once Again, Conditions Are ‘Horrific’

By Adam Rasgon and Victoria Kim, May 21, 2024


A large number of people stand on a sandy field with water containers around them. In the background are makeshift tents.

Waiting for water at a camp west of Deir al Balah in Gaza on Tuesday. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Israel’s invasion of Rafah stretches into its third week, hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the southern Gaza city have encountered miserable conditions in their new encampments and shelters.


Shortages of food, clean water and bathrooms have made the experience of relocating particularly dreadful, Gazans say, and price gouging has made the trip unaffordable for those who need transportation, including older and disabled people.


“We’re dealing with horrific circumstances,” said Khalil el-Halabi, a retired U.N. official in his 70s who left Rafah last week for Al-Mawasi, a beachside area that Israel has designated as a “humanitarian zone.”


“We don’t have what we need,” Mr. Halabi said. “We can barely even find water.”


More than 800,000 people have left Rafah in the past two weeks, a United Nations official said on Monday. Israel’s military said the same day that more than 950,000 civilians in the city had relocated since it gave expanded evacuation orders. A military spokesman said about 300,000 to 400,000 civilians remain there.


The latest wave of displacement in Gaza began on May 6 when Israel sent out evacuation notices and launched military operations in eastern Rafah, which is along the border with Egypt. More than half of the enclave’s civilians had been seeking refuge in the city — most of them after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza multiple times.


Ali Jebril, 27, a wheelchair-bound basketball player, said he and his family paid $600 to have 35 people taken from eastern Rafah to Khan Younis by bus earlier this month.


Mr. Jebril, who said his wheelchair can’t navigate in the sandy beachside areas where many have resettled, has moved to a tent on the grounds of a hospital in Khan Younis.


“We’re not living a dignified life,” he said. “We’re confronting a catastrophe.”


The war, he said, has made him feel that he has become a burden on society, frequently asking others to help him.


Since Israel’s incursions into Rafah, the once overcrowded shelters and tent villages in the city have largely emptied out, Edem Wosornu, an official with the United Nations’ office for humanitarian affairs, told the Security Council on Monday. People have moved to areas near Khan Younis and Deir al Balah and set up makeshift camps that lack sanitation, water, drainage or shelter, she said.


“We have described it as a catastrophe, a nightmare, as hell on earth,” Ms. Wosornu said. “It is all of these, and worse.”


Since the beginning of the war in October, three-quarters of Gaza’s population has been displaced, with many people moving four or five times, she said.


Israel has cast the orders as a humanitarian step to protect civilians ahead of further military action, which they say is necessary to root out Hamas fighters in southern Gaza. But aid groups said the additional displacement is worsening an already catastrophic humanitarian situation.


In its latest update, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs described people living in clusters of 500 to 700 tents, many of them fashioned out of blankets, nylon or whatever other materials were available. Some tents were set up on an unstable beach slope, with waste from higher areas rolling downhill past the dwellings into the sea, according to the report.


Mr. Halabi said that food was available in markets, but that his family was so low on money that paying for it was hard.


“After seven months of war, we barely have anything,” he said.


While an increasing number of commercial trucks have entered Gaza recently, aid coming to the south through the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings has come to a near halt. UNRWA, the primary U.N. agency for Palestinian aid, said that in a 16-day period through Tuesday, just 69 aid trucks entered through the two crossings — the lowest rate since the first weeks of the war.


Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the chief U.N. agency that aids Palestinians, wrote in a social media post that each relocation comes with risks and takes a heavy toll.


“Every time, they are forced to leave behind the few belongings they have: mattresses, tents, cooking utensils and basic supplies that they cannot carry or pay to transport,” he wrote. “Every time, they have to start from scratch, all over again.



7) The Israeli authorities seize camera equipment belonging to The Associated Press.

By Adam Rasgon Reporting from Jerusalem, May 21, 2024


A grainy view of empty land, with a populated area in the distance.

A screenshot of The Associated Press’s broadcast from northern Gaza. The news organization said on Tuesday that Israeli officials had seized some of its broadcasting equipment and cut its video feed. Credit...Associated Press

Israel’s Communications Ministry confiscated camera equipment from The Associated Press on Tuesday, claiming the agency had violated a new broadcasting law by providing images of northern Gaza to Al Jazeera.


The seizure was an escalation in Israel’s efforts to punish Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab broadcaster that the Israeli government voted to shut down two weeks ago. It raised questions about how far Israeli authorities would go to cut off the Qatari-funded channel, which has provided extensive coverage of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.


Lauren Easton, The A.P.’s vice president of corporate communications, denounced the Israeli government’s action, calling it “an abusive use” of a new law that provides the authorities with tools to crack down on foreign news media organizations.


In a statement, the Communications Ministry said inspectors had gone to a location in southern Israel used by The A.P. to broadcast live footage of the border with northern Gaza, which is several miles away. The ministry claimed that the feed was illegally being carried by Al Jazeera and asserted that it was showing the activities of Israeli soldiers and threatening their lives.


The A.P. reported that it adheres to Israel’s military censorship rules, including restrictions on broadcasting troop movements that could put soldiers at risk, and that the feed largely showed smoke rising over Gaza.


It also reported that Israeli authorities had conveyed a verbal order last week to shut down the live feed, but it did not comply.


As a prominent wire service, The A.P. makes its content available to subscribers around the world.


Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s parliamentary opposition, blasted the Communications Ministry for confiscating The A.P.’s equipment, calling the move “insanity.”


“This is not Al Jazeera. This is an American media outlet that has won” dozens of Pulitzer Prizes, he said. “This government is acting as if it decided to ensure at all costs that Israel will be ostracized all around the world.”


Ms. Easton said Israeli authorities should return The A.P.’s equipment so that it could restore the live feed and “continue to provide this important visual journalism to thousands of media outlets around the world.”


The Communications Ministry said it would continue to undertake “enforcement measures as needed to limit broadcasts that harm the security of the state.”


In Israel, Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language coverage has frequently come under criticism for amplifying Hamas’s perspective.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and other Israeli officials have called the network a “mouthpiece” for Hamas, which led the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel from Gaza that set off the war. That day, Al Jazeera repeatedly reported statements from Hamas officials calling for a violent uprising in the West Bank.


Al Jazeera has said that Israel’s decision to shutter its operations in the country violated “the basic right to access of information.” It has asserted that it hadn’t violated professional news media standards.


The Foreign Press Association, which represents Israeli and Palestinian journalists working for international news organizations, called the seizure of The A.P.’s equipment an “outrageous” decision that prevents The A.P. from “providing crucial images of northern Gaza to all other media outlets around the world.”


“Israel’s move today is a slippery slope,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “Israel could block other international news agencies from providing live footage of Gaza. It also could allow Israel to block media coverage of virtually any news event on vague security grounds.”


Under the new foreign news media law, if the prime minister deems a foreign news media outlet to “concretely undermine” Israel’s national security, the government can temporarily close its offices, confiscate its equipment, remove it from Israeli cable and satellite television providers and block access to any of the channel’s online platforms hosted on servers in Israel or owned by Israeli entities.


Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting to this article.



8) Gazans say the I.C.C. prosecutor’s pursuit of Hamas leaders is misguided.

By Hiba Yazbek, Ameera Harouda and Iyad Abuheweila, May 21, 2024



Palestinians in Gaza expressed mixed feelings after the chief prosecutor at the world’s top criminal court said he was seeking arrest warrants for leaders of both Israel and Hamas on war crimes charges, a move that many said equated victim with perpetrator.


“We deplore, denounce and are surprised by the decision of the International Criminal Court which places the accused, the victim, and the executioner in one cage,” said Zahir Essam, a 55-year-old living in Gaza City.


Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, announced on Monday his decision to apply for arrest warrants for Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza; Muhammad Deif, Hamas’s military chief; and Ismail Haniyeh, the movement’s Qatar-based top political official. He also said he would seek warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of Israel.


The announcement in effect treated Israeli officials and Hamas leaders in the same way, despite what Mr. Essam sees as a power imbalance between the two sides in the conflict in Gaza, which began when Hamas led an attack on Israel on Oct. 7.


That attack killed about 1,200 people, and about 240 others were taken hostage, Israeli officials say. Israel’s retaliatory war in Gaza has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gazan health authorities, though their figures do not distinguish between civilians and combatants.


Many Palestinians view the Oct. 7 attack as a justified response to Israeli violations during the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.


“The Palestinian people are defending their most basic human rights and fighting against an occupation and the harshest form of abuse,” Mr. Essam said in a phone interview. He added that he was surprised that the prosecutor would consider “those who defend their rights and their homeland” as equal to “those fighting them with an array of weapons and aircrafts.”


In Israel, the warrants drew the reverse response, with Mr. Netanyahu denouncing the prosecutor’s decision as a “distortion of reality” and defending the war in Gaza as one of self-defense. For now, the announcement is largely symbolic. Israel does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction, and judges can take months to uphold requests for arrest warrants.


Jaber Yahia, a 50-year-old teacher from central Gaza, said that he was relieved by the naming of Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gallant. “I was thinking, finally they will be brought to justice,” he said. But after hearing that warrants would also be sought for leaders of Hamas, his relief was muddied.


“We are under occupation and resistance is a legal right for us,” he said.


Nidal Kuhail, a 30-year-old waiter from Gaza City who was displaced to Rafah, said that he had hoped that the international community and its legal bodies, such as the court, would have first ordered a cease-fire to end the deadly Israeli bombardment.


“The first step was supposed to be a mandatory and immediate stop of the war,” Mr. Kuhail said in a phone interview. “And then bring Gallant and Netanyahu to trial because they committed war crimes documented with evidence,” he added.


Seeking warrants for Hamas leaders, by contrast, was “a wrong decision,” he said.


Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting from London. 



9) After Anti-Israel Speeches, a Law School Curtails Graduation Traditions

CUNY Law School is known for its diversity and activism, and lately for strongly worded pro-Palestinian commencement addresses. This year, the administration canceled its annual student speech.

By Maia Coleman, May 21, 2024


The words CUNY School of Law are visible above the doors of a gray building. A person walks by with a blue umbrella.

At the law school, pro-Palestinian activism goes back years. Credit...Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

For the past two years, commencement speakers at the City University of New York School of Law have made support for Palestinians and opposition to Israel a focus of their speeches.


The backlash was intense.


So this year, well before other campuses across the United States faced upheaval over pro-Palestinian student demonstrations, the CUNY law school administration took a new tack. In September, before the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, the school announced that there would be no student speaker at all at this year’s commencement ceremony.


The choice is now drawing its own backlash and has brought more controversy to the event.


This spring, several students at the school sued university officials, saying that the school was suppressing speech and infringing on their First Amendment rights by not allowing a student-elected speaker to give an address. Two guests who had been scheduled to speak — Deborah N. Archer, a civil rights lawyer and president of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Muhammad U. Faridi, a litigator — recently withdrew from the event.


The ceremony will now have no outside speakers and no keynote address, the law school said.


The school also announced in April that it would host its May 23 ceremony off-campus, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, in a departure from the ceremonies of the past two years, which have been held at CUNY facilities. The Apollo requires guests to have tickets and has a smaller capacity than the school’s previous venues, the law school said.


In an email to CUNY students announcing her decision to withdraw, Ms. Archer said she felt compelled to decline “under the circumstances.”


“I cannot, as a leader of the nation’s oldest guardian of free expression, participate in an event in which students believe that their voices are being excluded,” Ms. Archer wrote.


The fervor over CUNY’s graduation comes as many colleges have in recent weeks adjusted — or altogether canceled — their commencement ceremonies after weeks of student protests.


But the New York City public law school, which is the most diverse in the country and has a reputation for fostering lawyers who go on to work in the interest of the common good, has long been a hot spot for pro-Palestinian activism.


The lawsuit represents the culmination of a simmering conflict over politics related to Israel that has been building for almost two years.


The complaint, which was filed in Manhattan federal court at the end of last month, was brought by eight plaintiffs, all of whom are current law students or soon-to-be graduates of CUNY. It claims that the school engaged in viewpoint discrimination and retaliation when it decided to bar students from nominating a peer to speak at graduation and from recording or livestreaming the event, breaking with tradition.


These decisions were made in response to the commencement speeches of the two prior speakers and reflect a “repression of speech related to Palestine,” the complaint says.


“I think for these plaintiffs and their peers, to speak out about the injustices, the catastrophic state violence that Palestinians in Gaza are facing is critical,” said Golnaz Fakhimi, the legal director of Muslim Advocates, the main organization representing the students.


Each year, the graduating law students select a member of their class to give a speech, a custom since at least 2016, according to the lawsuit. In 2022, they selected a Palestinian student, who is not named in the lawsuit. Her speech included statements criticizing Israel and drew the ire of some public officials, who called it antisemitic. Around that time, one City Council member withdrew a small amount of funding to the law school over the faculty’s support for a boycott movement against Israel, the lawsuit notes.


Last spring, students chose Fatima Mousa Mohammed, a Yemeni immigrant and an activist devoted to the Palestinian cause, as their speaker. Ms. Mohammed’s speech, like the one before it, denounced “Israeli settler colonialism,” but it ignited a firestorm of criticism, making Ms. Mohammed the subject of months of international tabloid coverage.


Lawmakers criticized Ms. Mohammed’s positions, and at least one advocacy group called for Sudha Setty, the law school’s dean, to resign. A couple of weeks after the speech, Mayor Eric Adams, who had spoken at the graduation, condemned the speech’s “divisiveness.” Later, the CUNY chancellor and board of trustees disavowed the speech in a statement, calling it “hate speech.”


In September, Ms. Setty said that the 2024 graduation would not include a student speaker, according to notes taken by a student government representative who attended a faculty meeting. In April, students learned that the ceremony would not be livestreamed.


The school has held commencement ceremonies that did not include student-selected speakers in the past, the law school said.


In a statement, Ms. Setty said that the law school was “working hard” to hold a commencement that both honors its students’ achievements and “meets the needs of our entire community.”


“The public controversy surrounding graduations and the protests we are seeing across the country should not overshadow their amazing accomplishments — the world needs more lawyers who serve the public interest — and we are looking forward to giving them a joyful send-off,” the statement said.


The plaintiffs have said that the school made the changes to its usual commencement plan because of the content of the previous two speeches, and their claim of a First Amendment violation hinges on this point. But one legal expert said that such an argument was shaky and unlikely to succeed.


“I don’t think it’s a strong free speech claim, legally,” said Burt Neuborne, a professor of civil liberties and the founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice. “I think that students don’t have the right to choose their commencement speakers any more than they have the right to choose their teachers or other participants in the academic life.”


Since the fall, some law students have asked administrators to reconsider the removal of the speaking slot, including in public letters, but those attempts have been unsuccessful. The plaintiffs also say that the pro-Palestinian activism on campus in the months since Oct. 7 has caused administrators to dig in their heels further.


“I really think this lawsuit is an opportunity for CUNY to stand on the right side of history,” Nusayba Hammad, a third-year Palestinian American student at CUNY and one of the plaintiffs, said. “So far, they have just chosen the wrong side over and over again.”



10) Recognitions of Palestinian statehood are a rebuke to Israel, if a largely symbolic one.

By Emma Bubola and Aaron Boxerman, May 22, 2024


Men and women wearing suits and other professional clothing stand in tiered rows and clap.

Members of the government and Parliament on Wednesday in Madrid as Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, announced that the country would recognize a state of Palestine. Credit...Thomas Coex/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Spain, Norway and Ireland said on Wednesday that they would recognize an independent Palestinian state, a rebuke to Israel that, though largely symbolic, reflected dwindling international patience with its military offensive in Gaza and its decades of occupation of Palestinian territories.


Scores of countries have recognized Palestinian statehood, but the closely coordinated announcements by the three nations carried added weight amid the growing toll of the war in Gaza, and because most Western European countries have resisted taking such a step out of solidarity with Israel.


The moves will likely have little immediate effect on conditions for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank or in Gaza, where health authorities say that more than 35,000 people have been killed in over seven months of Israeli bombardment and ground combat. But the announcements made clear the view in a growing number of capitals that Palestinian sovereignty cannot wait for a permanent peace deal with Israel, whose right-wing government largely opposes a Palestinian state.


“Palestinians have a fundamental, independent right to an independent state,” Jonas Gahr Store, the prime minister of Norway, said at a news conference in Oslo announcing the decision, which will go into effect on Tuesday.


Spain’s decision will take effect the same day, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said, adding that Spain had been forced to act because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel did not have a plan for long-term peace with the Palestinians.


“The two-state solution is in danger,” Mr. Sanchez said in remarks to Parliament, referring to a proposed framework for establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. “It’s time to move from words to action — to tell millions of innocent Palestinians who are suffering that we are with them, that there is hope,” he added.


Prime Minister Simon Harris of Ireland said at a news conference that he was confident that other countries would soon join them in recognizing Palestinian statehood.


Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu, an expert on Israeli-European relations, said the announcements highlighted the erosion of the global support Israel saw immediately after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks that touched off the war in Gaza.


“It proves again to us, as Israelis, the extent to which we are ever more isolated,” said Ms. Sion-Tzidkiyahu, an analyst at Mitvim, an Israeli foreign policy research group.


More than 140 countries and the Holy See have recognized a Palestinian state, but most Western European countries and the United States have not. The longstanding U.S. position is that recognition should be achieved through negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and that while it supports a two-state solution, unilateral measures by third parties will not advance that goal.


Israel strongly opposes international recognition of a Palestinian state — Mr. Netanyahu has called the establishment of such a state an “existential danger” — and maintains that Israel needs to negotiate directly with Palestinian leaders on a permanent solution.


But serious negotiations on a two-state solution haven’t been held for over a decade. And some observers argue that by not recognizing a Palestinian state, the West has enabled a far-right Israeli agenda opposed to its existence. It “gives leverage to Israel to keep encroaching on the land and resources and the people of the other state,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to Britain, said in a recent interview.


Palestinian leaders based in the West Bank welcomed the announcements. “We believe it will help preserve the two-state solution and give Palestinians hope that they will have their own state side by side with Israel in peace and security,” Ziad Abu Amr, a senior Palestinian official, said in an interview.


Wednesday’s announcements were the latest blow to Israel on the international stage, and came days after the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants for Mr. Netanyahu and Israel’s defense minister, along with leaders of Hamas, on war crimes charges stemming from the Oct. 7 attacks and the Israeli offensive in Gaza.


Spain, Ireland and Norway have all strongly criticized Israel’s conduct of the war and have historically been strong supporters of the Palestinians. Irelands support for Palestinians has deep roots; in Spain, Mr. Sanchez has been a leading voice in Europe for the protection of Palestinian rights.


Norway has historically cast itself as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. In 1993, it hosted the clandestine meetings that led to the Oslo Accords, the framework that came close to resolving the conflict, but ultimately failed.


The announcements by these countries on their own do not pose a major diplomatic problem for Israel, said Ms. Sion-Tzidkiyahu, the analyst. But the picture could change if more powerful states like Germany or France felt pressure to make similar declarations, she added.


“For now, we can live with it, because it does not have any real meaning,” she said. “It has no effect on the ground.”


Henrik Pryser Libell, Adam Rasgon and Victoria Kim contributed reporting.



11) Newborn babies, doctors and patients are trapped at a hospital in northern Gaza.

By Anushka Patil, May 22, 2024


A hospital room with damage to its ceiling, walls and equipment carts.

Damaged medical supplies in Al Awda Hospital, in March, in a video still from the World Health Organization. Credit...World Health Organization, via Reuters

Surrounded by the sound of bombs, with terrified patients huddled far from windows, fuel running low and clean water gone, the acting director of Al Awda Hospital, one of the last hospitals in northern Gaza, said he was grappling with a grim sense of déjà vu.


“Nobody can move, nobody can be close to the windows,” said Dr. Mohammad Salha, the acting director. During an 18-day siege at Al Awda in December, three medical workers were shot and killed through the windows.


Since Sunday, about 150 people — including doctors, injured patients and infants, two of them born just days ago — have been trapped inside Al Awda, Dr. Salha said, amid a renewed Israeli offensive in the north.


The hospital was effectively besieged by Israeli forces, Dr. Salha said in a phone interview and voice messages. People inside the hospital are unable to leave, outside help cannot reach them and ambulances cannot respond to calls to bring in the injured.


Doctors Without Borders, which has staff members in the area, reported that the hospital was surrounded by tanks on Monday. An emergency medical team deployed at the hospital by the World Health Organization was forced to relocate on May 13 because of “intensified hostilities,” the head of the organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on social media on Tuesday, in an appeal for the protection of the remaining patients and staff.


The Israeli military declined to comment on its military operations around Al Awda.


The dire conditions at the hospital are part of a pattern that has played out repeatedly across the Gaza Strip over more than seven months of war. Israeli forces have surrounded and raided hospital after hospital, claiming they are being used by Hamas fighters. Israeli soldiers have returned to raid some hospitals a second time in response to what the military said was a resurgent Hamas presence.


In December, Israeli forces surrounded Al Awda Hospital for nearly two weeks, then sent troops inside, killing several people and detaining others for interrogation, according to Doctors Without Borders, whose staff members were among those detained.


The hospital’s director, Dr. Ahmed Muhanna, was one of those taken into Israeli custody and his whereabouts remain unknown, according to ActionAid, a nongovernmental organization that supports the hospital. Dr. Salha has since been leading the hospital staff in his place.


The former head of orthopedics at Al-Shifa Hospital, Dr. Adnan Ahmad Albursh, was also detained in December at Al Awda, where he had been working. He died in Israeli custody, Palestinian officials and rights groups said earlier this month.


With no one able to enter or exit Al Awda, the doctors and patients have gathered in interior rooms and corridors in an effort to protect themselves from gunfire and shelling that is hitting the exterior walls, Dr. Salha said.


He said four infants were among those trapped at the hospital — two were delivered by C-section on May 18, and two others are the children of nurses at the hospital.


On Monday, there were roughly three days of fuel left and no clean water, Dr. Salha said. The people trapped inside are “very afraid,” he said.


The only other major hospital that was still partially functioning in the north, Kamal Adwan, was struck several times on Tuesday, according to witnesses, Gaza health officials and the W.H.O. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the strikes.


Like Al Awda, Kamal Adwan was raided by Israeli forces in December, and it has since become a critical facility for treating malnourished children in the north.


Footage from Reuters showed people evacuating the area around the hospital on Tuesday, some wearing white medical coats and others being wheeled out on gurneys. The hospital director, Dr. Hussam Abu Safiya, told the news agency that after the entrance to the emergency department was bombed, missiles kept coming, preventing medics from reaching the victims.


“The situation is catastrophic,” he said.


Ameera Harouda contributed reporting.



12) Israeli Forces Push Deeper Into Rafah

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg, May 23, 2024


A small fire and pedestrians on a debris-strewn street.

On the streets of Rafah on Monday. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israel’s military said on Thursday that it was fighting in neighborhoods near the heart of the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, apparently expanding its campaign against Hamas in a week when Israel has faced mounting diplomatic and legal pressure over its  war effort.


The fighting came as the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the top court of the United Nations, said it would respond on Friday to a South African petition for the court to order an immediate halt to the ground assault in Rafah. The court has no means of enforcing its orders, but a call for Israel to rein in its offensive would be the latest setback to the country on the international stage.


The Israeli military said Thursday that it was operating in the Brazil and Shaboura areas of Rafah, which are roughly halfway between Israel’s southwestern border and the Mediterranean coast. When Israel’s push into Rafah began on May 6, the military said it was carrying out a limited operation against Hamas battalions in the city, which lies along Gaza’s border with Egypt.


Israeli troops were “continuing operational activity in specific areas of Rafah,” the military said in a statement, adding that it was “making every effort to prevent harm to civilians” and moving in “after the civilian population in the area was evacuated.”


Around 815,000 people have already left Rafah as a result of the fighting and Israeli warnings to flee, the United Nations said this week, amounting to well over half the number of Palestinians who had crowded into the city in recent months to escape fighting elsewhere in Gaza.


Israeli forces had dismantled several tunnels and killed fighters in “close-quarters encounters,” the military said. It was not possible to independently verify Israel’s account of the fighting. Hamas did not immediately comment on the fighting on Thursday.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said that an assault on Rafah was essential to defeating remaining Hamas battalions and dismantling the group’s infrastructure in Gaza, including tunnels beneath the city. Israel also wants to destroy tunnels running from Gaza into Egypt beneath a buffer strip on the southern edge of the territory. Israeli forces are advancing along the buffer strip, known in Israel as the Philadelphi Corridor, according to the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. The Israeli military said it would not comment on the location of its forces.


President Biden has warned Mr. Netanyahu against launching a large military operation in Rafah without a plan for its civilian population, including the more than one million people who moved there to escape bombardment and fighting elsewhere.


Most of the Palestinians who have fled Rafah in recent weeks have moved to a zone that includes the cities of Khan Younis and Deir al Balah and the coastal village of Al-Mawasi. The Israeli authorities said they had set up and equipped humanitarian zones for displaced people.


Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the main U.N. agency that aids Palestinians, UNRWA, said this week that the areas newly displaced people were arriving in were desperately overcrowded and lack the “minimal conditions to provide emergency humanitarian assistance in a safe and dignified manner.”


Gaza’s Ministry of Health said that more than 100 people had been killed in Gaza between Monday and Wednesday, and that hundreds of others had been wounded. It was not possible to corroborate the figures independently.


The Israeli military also said it was operating in central Gaza and in Jabaliya in northern Gaza. Israel withdrew its forces from much of the territory earlier in the year but has returned to parts of northern and central Gaza to fight what it says are attempts by Hamas to reconstitute its forces there.


International attention has focused this week on announcements by Norway, Spain and Ireland that they would recognize an independent Palestinian state, and on a decision by the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court on Monday to seek arrest warrants for leaders of both Israel and Hamas for war crimes.


Israel has denounced those moves and said it would press on with its campaign to eliminate Hamas.


But some military analysts have raised questions about whether Israel’s military operation in Rafah can deal a decisive blow to Hamas, saying that many of the group’s fighters, wary of engaging in a direct confrontation with a superior military force, had likely moved out of the city before the long-anticipated incursion began.



13) The protest at U.C.L.A. culminated in a violent attack by counterprotesters. Here’s what happened.

By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, May 23, 2024


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators and counterprotesters clashed on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles, on April 25. Credit...Mark Abramson for The New York Times

The protest at the University of California, Los Angeles, against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza was among the most high-profile demonstrations in recent weeks, resulting in the police making more arrests than on any other campus since mid-April.


After students set up an encampment on April 25, the campus saw several tense moments that culminated in an attack on the demonstrators and more than 200 arrests of protesters who refused to leave.


As the encampment grew, pro-Israel groups gathered to counter the pro-Palestinian message, and the two sides had several heated exchanges.


There were videos showing a pro-Israel, Jewish student being blocked by protesters from entering an area around the encampment, as well as one of a pro-Israel woman who said she lost consciousness after being shoved to the ground. (It was not clear from videos of that encounter how she fell.)


The university declared the encampment illegal on April 30, and hours later, a group of people attacked the pro-Palestinian protesters. Some people in the counterprotest wore clothing with pro-Israel slogans and played the Israeli national anthem. They tore away metal barricades, shot fireworks into the encampment, and punched, kicked and hit people with makeshift weapons.


The police did not intervene in the melee for several hours. Eventually, officers with the Los Angeles Police Department and the California Highway Patrol got in between the two groups. The slow response is now the subject of an inquiry by a police consulting group hired by U.C.L.A.


The next night, the university called in the police to arrest protesters. None of the counterprotesters who attacked the encampment have been arrested, but the university is investigating the attack.


On May 5, the university chancellor, Gene Block, announced that he was creating a new Office of Campus Safety and naming a former Sacramento police chief to lead it. The university also temporarily reassigned its campus police chief this week.


Dr. Block has faced criticism that he allowed the encampment to flourish for too long and did not respond forcefully enough to allegations of antisemitism. Some have also said that the university did not effectively protect students from the counterprotesters’ attack and should not have sent the police to make arrests.


Dr. Block was the subject of two resolutions by the university’s academic senate that sought to rebuke him largely over his handling of the attack. The group voted against both resolutions on Friday.



14) Top U.N. Court Orders Israel to End Rafah Operation

By Gaya Gupta, May 24, 2024


A house hit overnight by an Israeli bombardment in Rafah on Monday. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The International Court of Justice on Friday ruled that Israel must immediately halt its ground assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, dealing another blow to the country as it faces increasing international isolation.


The court has no means of enforcing its orders, and hard-line politicians in Israel immediately vowed that Israel would not comply. But the ruling puts more pressure on the Netanyahu government over the conduct of the war. Gazan authorities say at least 35,000 people have been killed, without distinguishing between combatants and civilians, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee repeatedly to avoid the Israeli bombardment, which has devastated most of the enclave.


“The court considers that in conformity with obligations under the Genocide Convention, Israel must immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governorate which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” the court’s president, Nawaf Salam, said in reading the ruling.


The ruling was the latest in a series of rebukes of Israel over the conduct of its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


In the last week, the chief prosecutor for a separate court, the International Criminal Court, announced that he was seeking arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister on charges of crimes against humanity, alongside three leaders of Hamas; three European countries announced that they would recognize a Palestinian state; and Israel backed down on seizing equipment from The Associated Press after an international backlash.


A South African legal team had urged the I.C.J., the United Nations’ top court, last week to put further constraints on Israel’s incursion there, saying it was “the last step in the destruction of Gaza and its people.”


Israel has said that its operation in Rafah, from which more than 800,000 people have fled since the incursion began two weeks ago, is a precise operation to target Hamas. The country’s military said on Thursday that it was fighting in neighborhoods near the heart of the city, where half of the territory’s population had been sheltering before the Israeli military ordered mass evacuations there.


Israel’s deputy attorney general for international law, Gilad Noam, and other Israeli lawyers rejected the claims before the court last Friday, calling South Africa’s case an “inversion of reality.” He called Israel’s incursion into Rafah a “limited and localized” operation prefaced with evacuations. Another Israeli legal adviser, Tamar Kaplan Tourgeman, said that hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies had entered Kerem Shalom last week.


Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, did not immediately comment on the decision. Mr. Netanyahu would shortly hold an emergency consultation with other top government officials to discuss how to move forward, his office said in a statement.


Some of his right-wing allies were quick both to denounce the move and that Israel would not comply. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right Israeli national security minister, said Israel ought to fully discard the judges’ order. “There ought to be one response: the conquest of Rafah, the escalation of military pressure, and the utter shattering of Hamas until the achievement of total victory,” he said in a statement.


The South African team had also argued that Israel’s control over the two major border crossings in southern Gaza, at Rafah and Kerem Shalom, was preventing enough aid from getting in, plunging Gaza into “unprecedented levels of humanitarian need.” Few aid trucks are entering, according to U.N. data, but dozens of commercial trucks — which carry goods to sell rather than to distribute freely — have entered the enclave from the Kerem Shalom crossing.


The hearings are part of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide, which it filed in December. In late January, the court ordered Israel to do more to prevent acts of genocide, but it stopped short of calling for a cease-fire. The main case, dealing with the accusation of genocide, is not expected to start until next year. Israel has denied claims that it is committing genocide.


In March, in its strongest language to that point, the court ordered Israel to stop obstructing humanitarian aid to Gaza as severe hunger there spreads, calling for Israel to increase the number of land crossings for supplies and provide its “full cooperation” with the United Nations.


Judge Salam said that the situation in Gaza had deteriorated since March, and was now “to be characterized as disastrous.”


The court emphasized the need for “the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance,” including maintaining open land crossings and in particular, the Rafah crossing, which Israel has seized for more than two weeks. It also requested Israel to submit a report to the court on all measures taken to address this point within one month.


Israel launched its military operation in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attacks that officials say killed 1,200 people and led to the abduction of about 250 others into Gaza.



15) As Rafah Offensive Grinds On, Hunger in Gaza Spirals

Aid officials and health experts expect famine this month unless Israel lifts barriers to aid, the fighting stops and vital services are restored.

By Vivian Yee, Bilal Shbair and Matthew Mpoke Bigg, May 24, 2024

“Israeli inspectors have filled an entire warehouse in Egypt with rejected items, according to aid officials and others, including two U.S. senators, who have seen the warehouse. Those include water purification tablets, solar panels, wheelchairs, oxygen machines and tent poles, they said, adding that food easily passed inspection.”


A man stirring a giant pot of stew as a group of adults and children watch.

Waiting for rations from an outdoor kitchen in Khan Younis this month. Hunger is now most acute in the southern Gaza Strip. Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For weeks, the Gaza Strip’s southernmost city, Rafah, was one of the few places where desperate Gazans could find some aid and food. Bakeries sold bread; fuel powered generators; markets were open, if expensive.


But since Israeli forces began an incursion in the city this month — effectively closing the two main crossings where aid enters — Rafah has become a place of fear and dwindling supplies. Bakeries have shuttered. So have malnutrition treatment centers. The price of the firewood that many people now use to cook has doubled. Tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers have grown so expensive that they are sold by the piece, not by the kilogram.


Families hide what canned goods they still have. They eye their emptying sacks of flour, calculating how long they will last.


“There’s always something missing in the tent,” said Ahmed Abu al-Kas, 51, who is sheltering in Rafah with his family. “If we have bread, we don’t have water. If we have firewood, we don’t have some basic vegetables.”


For months, international aid officials and health experts have warned that famine will come for Gaza unless Israel lifts barriers keeping most humanitarian aid out, the fighting stops and vital services such as health care and clean water, which must be in place to fend off malnutrition, are restored.


None of those conditions have been met.


If anything, circumstances have become worse in some places. Little fuel is entering to power the aid operations, hospitals or municipal services. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Rafah for burned-out buildings and fields farther north, where they have little water or medical care. Buckets serve as latrines. Trash piles up, and families burn it to cook.


Though international aid agencies cannot officially declare whether Gaza meets the technical threshold for famine until more data is collected, the head of the U.N. World Food Program has already said famine has arrived. Even if the floodgates open to aid tomorrow, malnutrition experts say many more people will die — from starvation, or from diseases as simple as diarrhea because their bodies are so weak and medical care is so scant.


“We have never ever seen anything like this anywhere in the planet,” said Janti Soeripto, the president and chief executive of Save the Children U.S.


Usually, aid groups explain, humanitarian crises affect a portion of the population, not everyone. In Gaza, “it is really the entirety of the population” that is under threat, “not just a subset,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, president of Refugees International.


Despite mounting pressure to withdraw, Israel says it must fight in Rafah to dismantle Hamas infrastructure, including tunnels that Israel says enable smuggling from Egypt to Gaza, and to defeat Hamas battalions there. Around 815,000 people have already fled Rafah, and more are likely to do so as Israel expands its campaign to the heart of the city.


‘It’s already very, very late’


Even before the Rafah operation, aid agencies said the amount of aid entering Gaza fell far short of what was needed. Before the war, around 500 aid trucks passed daily through Kerem Shalom and Rafah, the two main crossings into Gaza. But that figure has fallen by around 75 percent since Oct. 7 to around 119 trucks daily, according to United Nations data.


Aid officials and many donor governments, among them the United States, have blamed Israel for tightly restricting aid, including by blocking essential items and imposing a byzantine assortment of security restrictions at nearly every stage of the process. Delays have also come from Egypt, where most of the aid is collected before being sent on to Gaza.


The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor requested arrest warrants on Monday for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister, accusing them of using starvation as a weapon of war, among other allegations. He also requested warrants for top Hamas leaders, on charges of crimes against humanity. Neither set of warrants has been issued.


Israel says it is doing its part, arguing that it must thoroughly screen cargo for anything Hamas fighters could use. It says enough aid is entering Gaza and has blamed aid groups for not distributing it faster to civilians — a charge aid officials reject, saying Israeli forces have made it exceedingly difficult to do so.


Israel said on Tuesday that it had inspected and sent 450 trucks through Kerem Shalom on that day alone, faulting aid agencies for not delivering their contents. But aid officials said the pileup amounted to little more than political theater, since the fighting on the Gazan side made it impossible to collect the supplies.


In the meantime, people are dying.


And by the time famine is declared, “it’s already very, very late, and there’s already going to be widespread death,” said Kiersten Johnson, who directs the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a U.S. government program that tracks hunger in global crises.


“We should not wait for an official famine declaration” to flood Gaza with aid, she said.


Though some food has arrived through three northern crossings into Gaza, it has not filled the gap left by the two southern crossings, Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N.’s humanitarian coordination agency, said last week.


The U.N. World Food Program said that 59 aid trucks had been delivered to warehouses in Gaza as of Wednesday from a U.S.-built temporary pier, and that, to the program’s knowledge, all the contents arrived intact. However, Palestinians intercepted and emptied 11 other trucks that were traveling through the central region of Gaza, the agency said.


“If the crossings stay closed, goods will be scarce and prices will go up insanely,” said Nidal Kuhail, 30, a Gaza resident who has been sheltering in Rafah, noting that he no longer saw aid trucks rolling into the city. “The suffering will increase at every level and we won’t find anything to eat or drink.”


The World Health Organization said this month that 58 children with severe acute malnutrition had been admitted to special treatment centers in Gaza. But since the Rafah operation began, many such centers have closed, while new ones slated to open in northern Gaza have been suspended, the United Nations said.


The Rafah crossing’s closure has also prevented most aid workers and volunteers from entering to reinforce Gaza’s exhausted medical corps and to repair water and sanitation systems.


Some fresh food is entering northern Gaza, where fears of a famine had been strongest. Residents interviewed last week reported seeing canned food, vegetables and flour in local markets. In recent days, trucks have also carried commercial goods into southern Gaza, filling markets with a wide variety of foods, said a U.N. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to do so publicly.


But the war has left many Gazans without means to buy, especially when prices are far higher than they were before the war and have risen further since the Rafah operation. Two shekels once bought three cans of chickpeas but now cover only one, said Mahmoud Marzouq, 29, a Gaza City resident. And because there are often only a few A.T.M.s operating across Gaza, there is little cash to pay with.


Without free aid, people in the south are now facing the same kinds of dire shortages as those in the north contended with for months.


“I’m afraid it will be our turn this time,” said Manal Hijji, 46, who is sheltering in Rafah. “Less money and less food, plus the crossings being closed for longer, is the quickest way to real starvation.”


So when the United Nations distributed canned goods last week, Ms. Hijji hid as many of them as she could under a pile of clothes and bedding, lest her grandchildren go hungry.


Malnourished people are more vulnerable


After seven months of undernourishment, it will take much longer for Gazans to recover now than it would have in the early days of the war, Dr. Johnson said.


“It’s not like people are starving and they eat a good, high-calorie meal and then they’re fine,” said Bushra Khalidi, a policy adviser at Oxfam, an aid group working in Gaza. “You need vitamins, you need supplements, you need a doctor, you need a health care system that works.”


Malnourished people are more vulnerable to diseases picked up from an environment where much of the water is contaminated, sewage systems broken down and trash pickup nonexistent — and most of the health care system too overwhelmed to treat any but the worst injuries.


All those elements require aid. But the aid effort confronts overbearing security restrictions and political roadblocks in both Israel and Egypt, aid officials say.


Cairo considers the region bordering Gaza highly sensitive. It has barred the United Nations from setting up a full-fledged logistics hub and kept aid groups from importing necessary security gear. Egypt has also allowed a tangle of aid channels to sprout, fostering chaos and inefficiency, said aid officials and diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters freely.


But Egypt says the flow of aid is ultimately on Israel, holding it “solely responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza, the Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said in a statement last week.


Israeli inspectors have filled an entire warehouse in Egypt with rejected items, according to aid officials and others, including two U.S. senators, who have seen the warehouse. Those include water purification tablets, solar panels, wheelchairs, oxygen machines and tent poles, they said, adding that food easily passed inspection.


Only this month did Israel circulate a list of items requiring extra scrutiny, according to Ms. Khalidi, who provided the list to The New York Times. Until then, aid officials say, inspectors sometimes rejected an item one day and allowed it the next without explanation. A single barred item can send the entire truck back for reloading and reinspection, they say.


Israeli officials say they must remove some items “to make sure there is nothing in there that Hamas could use to harm Israeli civilians,” said Shimon Freedman, a spokesman for COGAT, the Israeli military agency coordinating aid delivery. He said that rejections were “very rare” and that many rejected items eventually passed into Gaza. The list of screened items, he said, had not changed since the war began.


Israel has “substantially” increased inspection capacity, including by opening new aid crossings and inspection points and extending operating hours at existing ones, he said.


Aid officials dispute that Israel inspects trucks speedily. In March, trucks were taking an average of 20 days to move the 25 miles from the main Egyptian collection point into Gaza, according to Oxfam. Now that the southern crossings are effectively shut, more than 2,000 trucks are stuck in Egypt, 1,574 of which carry critical food items, the Egyptian Red Crescent has said.


“There’s a lot of aid and fuel waiting,” said Bob Kitchen, the vice president for emergencies at the International Rescue Committee. “It feels futile.”


Checkpoints last hours


Once aid convoys are inside Gaza, aid officials say, Israel often bars them from moving or holds them for hours at a checkpoint, sometimes preventing them from reaching their destination before dark, when they cannot operate. Israeli forces have also fired on aid vehicles and killed aid workers despite being informed in advance of their locations, and they have detained Palestinian truck drivers, leaving international aid workers to take the wheel, aid officials say.


Israel’s military has “taken multiple steps” to “enhance the protection of aid workers,” it said in a statement, including using new technology to identify aid vehicles at night. It said it reviews incidents in which it fires on aid groups.


As a result, the number of aid trucks reaching northern Gaza in April — more than 1,700 — was more than four times that in March, Mr. Freedman said.


Mr. Laerke, of the U.N., said the boost was insufficient and short-lived.


The Biden administration, which for the first time suspended arms transfers to Israel over the Rafah operation, has vocally pressed Israel and Egypt to coordinate on reopening the southern crossings.


Some Israelis have called for just that, including more than 80 Israelis who massed for a protest in Jerusalem last week to condemn recent attacks by ultranationalist Israelis on aid convoys.


But for Israeli policymakers, withholding aid may serve as leverage over those holding Israeli hostages as well as a tactic for depriving Hamas of supplies, said Einav Levy, the founding director of the Israeli School of Humanitarian Aid.


“If they are being fed and provided medical support, we are fueling our enemy,” he said.


Iyad Abuheweila, Abu Bakr Bashir, Patrick Kingsley and Natan Odenheimer contributed reporting.



16) Condemnation Slows, but Does Not Stall, Israel’s Assault on Rafah

Despite fierce criticism, Israel insists it must take control of Rafah and the border with Egypt to prevent future arms smuggling.

By Steven Erlanger, Isabel Kershner and Natan Odenheimer, Reporting from Jerusalem, May 25, 2024

"Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said after his trip last weekend to Israel that, so far, the Israeli Army was not violating American red lines in Rafah. ...Israel said publicly in mid-May that in and around Rafah it had already discovered some 700 tunnel shafts leading to 50 larger smuggling tunnels into Egypt. Mr. Michael said that the army had chosen not to blow up the tunnels yet because it would cause damage inside Egypt. For the same reason, he said, the army is not revealing photographs of the tunnels to try to avoid embarrassing the Egyptian government, which has in the past acted aggressively to find and destroy such tunnels."


Two people can be seen wearing black and walking along an otherwise deserted road.

A camp, once overwhelmed by displaced people from around Gaza and now mostly deserted, on Wednesday in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Credit...Eyad Al-Baba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Despite an international court order to stop its assault on Rafah, Israel says it will continue its operation, trying to walk a line between not angering its American allies too much while trying to achieve strategic aims that it considers too important to abandon.


For now, after many weeks of admonitions from the White House, both the Israelis and the Americans are characterizing this as a “limited operation,” allowing the Israelis to proceed, though more slowly and cautiously than they had in other parts of Gaza.


But as the fighting pushes masses of panicked civilians toward areas near the sea with inadequate housing or medical aid, and the closing of the Rafah border crossing dims hope for speedy delivery of humanitarian aid, Israel’s critics abroad condemn the toll on civilians and are unconvinced by what the Israelis have called restraint.


On Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to immediately halt its offensive in Rafah, saying it endangered the civilian population there, but did not call for a complete cease-fire. Israel says it will not halt its military operation.


For Israel, taking Rafah and the border would effectively complete the reconquest of Gaza and could mean a move to a different phase of lower-intensity raids. Rafah has in and under it the last four relatively organized Hamas battalions, a major tunnel infrastructure and rocket launchers, the Israelis say. More important, Israel wants to try to seal the border with Egypt to reduce the smuggling of weapons for the future.


“The airstrikes are continuous and intense, and the smell of smoke doesn’t leave the air,” said Mohammad al-Masri, 31, an accountant who has been sheltering in a tent in Rafah for months. “At night, they advance a few meters at a time, and the people flee immediately.”


He spoke from western Rafah, where residents and other Gazans who took refuge there have not yet been ordered by the Israeli military to leave. Even so, all around him many of the tents that had been sheltering families for months are gone as people have fled elsewhere. “They shoot and bomb us constantly,” he said, “but what scares us the most are the drones.”


Israel’s military aims remain unaltered, however. It wants to secure the entire border with Egypt, destroy the smuggling tunnels that had fortified Hamas, dismantle the last Hamas battalions, bring its remaining hostages home and break Hamas’s administrative control over the entire Gaza Strip.


After months of delays, as negotiations over a cease-fire and a limited hostage exchange ebbed and flowed, Israel has put five brigades, the military has said — an estimated 10,000 troops — into the operation.


Israeli troops have concentrated initially on securing the border, which is lightly populated, circling around Rafah city and pressing the nearly one million people displaced from other parts of Gaza to move to areas that are supposed to be safer but where conditions remain dire.


Pushing slowly from the east, the Israeli military said on Thursday that troops were fighting in the neighborhoods of Brazil, near the border, and Al-Shaboura refugee camp, their deepest penetration into Rafah. But they insist that they have not yet tried to enter the central city, which in normal times has a population close to one million people.


Analysts say that the anger and warnings from the Biden administration and other close allies of Israel have had an effect in moderating Israeli tactics, even if the assault remains devastating.


In interviews, officers who have just left the fighting in Rafah say that Israel is moving more deliberately and that it is using less airpower and artillery, and fewer, smaller bombs, forcing Israeli soldiers to engage in urban guerrilla warfare with Hamas fighters.


With the Americans insisting that Israel evacuate civilians as much as possible from planned zones of operation, in the past two weeks, as many as one million panicked civilians have moved west toward the sea and safer areas, even if facilities to house, feed and care for them are inadequate.


An Israeli officer in the reserves, who has just returned from southern Gaza and is not authorized to speak to the news media, said that the military was using noticeably less air bombardment, and that troops were advancing slowly west in a pincer movement, with one division working near the border, and the other moving into Rafah’s outskirts.


The Biden administration had refused to support Israel’s move on Rafah unless it saw a credible plan to evacuate and protect civilians. Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said after his trip last weekend to Israel that, so far, the Israeli Army was not violating American red lines in Rafah.


“What we have seen so far in terms of Israel’s military operations in that area has been more targeted and limited, has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We now have to see what unfolds from here. We will watch that, we will consider that, and we will see whether what Israel has briefed us and what they have laid out continues or something else happens.”


Israel insists it has heeded American criticism and is trying to warn civilians to move out of the way of the fighting. But even if the civilians are not in the line of fire, the threats to them remain grave with little or no aid crossing from Egypt.


Israel seized the Rafah crossing in what it said was a limited operation against Hamas, effectively closing it. Israel has said it would like to reopen it, but its move on Rafah was not sufficiently coordinated with Egypt, which has demanded that Israel abandon its attack and pull back from the crossing before it can be reopened.


Tamir Hayman, the executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies and a reserve major general and a former head of military intelligence from 2018 to 2021, said that Israeli negotiators misread their Egyptian counterparts and thought Cairo would not object so strongly to its takeover of the crossing. Cairo has now said it will join South Africa in petitioning the International Court of Justice to find Israel guilty of violating the Genocide Convention.


Some Hamas fighters are believed to be evacuating along with civilians, hoping to fight again in areas that Israel had conquered and then abandoned, as in Jabaliya, where renewed fighting is intense, said Kobi Michael, a senior researcher with the Institute for National Security Studies. The Israeli military’s spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said this past week that the army had killed 180 fighters in the Rafah area.


But Mr. Michael and Israeli officials agree that the four Hamas battalions still in Rafah are not as well trained as those in the north and are not an urgent problem. Strategically, it is far more important for Israel to seal the border with Egypt, Mr. Hayman said.


Despite Egyptian denials of any tolerance of smuggling into Gaza, Mr. Hayman said, Israeli intelligence believes that most of Hamas’s weapons and components came from Egypt, either through smuggling tunnels or through the crossing itself, often carefully hidden over the years in regular commercial truck traffic.


Israel said publicly in mid-May that in and around Rafah it had already discovered some 700 tunnel shafts leading to 50 larger smuggling tunnels into Egypt. Mr. Michael said that the army had chosen not to blow up the tunnels yet because it would cause damage inside Egypt.


For the same reason, he said, the army is not revealing photographs of the tunnels to try to avoid embarrassing the Egyptian government, which has in the past acted aggressively to find and destroy such tunnels.


Unless smuggling into Gaza from Egypt can be controlled, Israel argues, Hamas or another militant group would be able to resupply over time. But how the crossing can be reopened, and under whose auspices, remains one of those deeply political questions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has refused to answer.


Mr. Netanyahu insists that Israel must dismantle Hamas’s military and administrative control over Gaza while refusing to engage with his allies and the Palestinian Authority, the main existing alternative to Hamas, about who will govern Gaza in the future and care for its citizens.


To many, that implies a lengthy Israeli military occupation that senior military officers have said they want to avoid.


Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli chief of staff, has been quoted as saying he does not want to see Israeli soldiers conducting traffic in Gaza, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has called on Mr. Netanyahu “to make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza Strip.”


But in the broader picture, said Gabi Siboni, a reserve colonel and a fellow of the conservative-leaning Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, the main problem is that the army is only dealing with dismantling the Hamas military system and not the civilian one. Hamas’s control over the civilian sphere will be its launchpad for rebuilding its military, he said.


In his view, there is no alternative to an interim period of Israeli military rule in Gaza that could last several years.


Mr. Hayman said that while the military effort to take Rafah city at this pace could last another two to three weeks, the process of dismantling Hamas’s structures there could take much longer. “The choice is to withdraw or deepen your control and try to get Hamas underground,” he said. “You could stay there for years.”


But now, Mr. Hayman argues, the Rafah crossing could serve as a model or test case for governing Gaza. Israel, he suggested, could negotiate with Egypt and the United States and regional partners a deal whereby the Palestinian Authority takes at least symbolic sovereignty over Gaza’s side of the crossing. It could then invite the United Arab Emirates, for example, to help create a more efficient, faster border screening for people and for goods with U.S. assistance and technology.


A cooperative international architecture like that, he said, “could be a test case for all of Gaza, to be expanded over time, to answer the question of the day after.” But he stopped, then laughed. “These are just my dreams,” he said. “Nothing happens right now.”


Mr. Netanyahu and his far-right coalition allies have firmly rejected Palestinian Authority involvement in Gaza, he noted, and so far rejected the possibility of a regional solution to the war. “That is a great mistake,” Mr. Hayman said.


Raja Abdulrahim contributed reporting.



17) As Israel continues its Rafah offensive, some Gazans choose to stay.

By Raja Abdulrahim and Bilal Shbair, May 25, 2024

Two children stand on the back of a truck receiving bags from a man. Nearby a tent camp is visible.
Palestinians preparing to flee Rafah, in southern Gaza, earlier this month.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Gazans have been uprooted time and again during the more than seven months of Israel’s invasion and bombardment. Facing the prospect of having to pack up and flee once more, some in Rafah are putting off leaving, at least for now.


More than 800,000 Palestinians have already fled the southern city of Rafah and its surrounding areas over the past three weeks as Israel presses a military offensive there, according to the United Nations. But many are holding on in what was once considered the safest place in the Gaza Strip, where more than a million had come to find shelter.


They are exhausted, hungry and know that the next place they flee to likely won’t be safe either. Israel has continued to bombard Gaza, even in areas previously designated as safe.


Israeli forces dropped leaflets ordering people to evacuate and launched a military offensive this month in the eastern part of Rafah, and they have been advancing yard-by-yard deeper into the city. The U.N.’s top court appears to have ordered Israel to stop its offensive, but Israel, so far, has signaled that it will continue.


Some in western Rafah are waiting to see what comes before getting out. Others have even fled and returned, having found neither safety nor the essentials of life elsewhere.


“The most despicable word I don’t like to say or hear is ‘displacement,’” 30-year-old Randa Naser Samoud, a math teacher from northern Gaza, said on Thursday as the Israeli military pushed toward the center of the city. “Evacuation means loss of value in life, so much suffering and pain.”


Along with her husband — a dentist — and their three children, Ms. Samoud has already been displaced four times. They are now living in a tent near a U.N. warehouse, and though their area has not received orders to evacuate, about three-quarters of the people around them have already fled.


As Ms. Samoud walked with one of her young sons on Thursday, she saw trucks on the street being loaded with the belongings of families preparing to flee.


“The topic of evacuation is not an easy thing to talk about or decide on,” she said. “I am always talking with my husband about the plans if needed but it’s still hard to decide.”


Her father suggested they move to a school building in one of the cities where many people had fled for shelter. But Ms. Samoud says that the schools-turned-shelters are not good options because of a lack of sanitation and garbage piling everywhere. She worries her children will get sick.


With each displacement, Gazans must start anew, as they often can’t take much with them. Transportation costs can be hundreds of dollars.


“The ultimate horrible thought on my mind is the moment that I have to escape my tent and leave everything I have collected or bought behind me,” she said, pointing to the clothes, dishes and food they have in their tent.


Ahlam Saeed Abu Riyala, 40, said that concerns about access to water have kept her and her family of eight in western Rafah after they were displaced four times.


For months, they have been living in a tent steps away from the Egyptian border — close enough to speak to the Egyptian soldiers on the other side. As Ms. Abu Riyala stood outside her tent speaking to a neighbor, a water truck nearby pumped out clean drinking water for the displaced people in the camp.


“We are now of two minds; I say we should evacuate Rafah before it is too late, but my husband says ‘no,’” she said. “But we cannot leave for many reasons, and water is the top priority.”


The sounds of Israel’s air and ground invasion keep them on edge. They can hear tanks and, at times, Israeli armed drones  that play the message “security” in Arabic or the sound of dogs barking, she said.


Even if they choose to leave, the cost of such a trek might be beyond their means.


“Mentally, physically and financially, I’m exhausted and fed up with the word “evacuation,” she said. “I hate my life and all of this suffering.”



18) Hamas Fires Rockets at Central Israel for First Time in Months

Israel’s military says the rockets came from Rafah, where its troops have been advancing.

By Aaron Boxerman, May 26, 2024


A man stands next to a police van and a plastic bag on the ground that appears to hold metal parts.

An Israeli police officer with the remains of a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Herzliya, Israel, on Sunday. Credit...Nir Elias/Reuters

Hamas launched a barrage of rockets at central Israel on Sunday afternoon, setting off air-raid sirens in the Tel Aviv area for the first time since at least late January, and showing that the group retains some long-range missile capabilities more than seven months into Israel’s war against the militant group in Gaza.


The Israeli military said at least eight rockets were fired from the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces have been advancing in an operation against Hamas that has drawn global scrutiny. Over 800,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah in the face of the Israeli offensive, deepening the humanitarian crisis in the enclave, according to the United Nations.


Air defenses shot down “a number” of rockets, according to the Israeli military, and there were no immediate reports of major damage.


Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency service, said two women were lightly wounded as they fled to a bomb shelter. Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, took responsibility for the rocket fire, saying it came “in response to massacres against civilians.”


Israeli leaders have insisted for months that a large-scale ground operation in Rafah was necessary to root out the brigades of Hamas militants that remain in the city. The Biden administration, the United Nations and human rights groups have all expressed serious concern over the offensive, which they said threatened the safety of civilians sheltering there.


On Friday, the International Court of Justice appeared to order Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah, although at least some of the court’s judges said limited operations could continue despite the decision.


The Israeli military said its troops continued to fight in and around Rafah over the weekend, engaging in firefights. And on Sunday, Israel’s defense minister visited the city, indicating that the military had no intention of stopping. Mr. Gallant received a situational assessment from troops there and was briefed on the “deepening of operations,” according to a statement from his office.


“Our goals in Gaza are emphasized here in Rafah — to destroy Hamas, return the hostages, and maintain freedom of operation,” he told troops, according to the statement.


Israeli politicians also said the rocket fire demonstrated the necessity of the Rafah offensive. Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, called the incident proof that “wherever Hamas is, the Israeli military must act.”


The rocket barrage briefly disrupted daily life in central Israel, where many people have settled into a kind of wartime routine. Thousands of Israelis called up for the military’s reserves in the aftermath of the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks have returned home, and rocket attacks have been largely aimed at communities close to the border with Gaza and with Lebanon.

Tel Aviv protests lead to arrests, and other news.


·      At least seven people were arrested in Tel Aviv on Saturday night as demonstrators protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Featuring a large banner that read “Crime Minister,” the demonstration added to the growing pressure on Mr. Netanyahu over his handling of the war in Gaza. Many in Israel are angry that he has not done more to bring home the more than 100 hostages believed to still be held in the enclave.


·      Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet who recently threatened to quit the government, said he was seeking to establish an independent commission to investigate Israel’s failure to stop the Hamas-led surprise attack on Oct. 7, as well as its conduct in the war. Under Mr. Gantz’s proposal, the commission would also probe whether Israeli military and political officials had acted in accordance with international law. Mr. Gantz said he had submitted his proposal for cabinet approval; it was unclear whether Mr. Netanyahu and his allies would back the move. A rival of Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Gantz has said he would leave Israel’s emergency wartime government unless the prime minister answered major questions about the future of the war.


·      Four U.S. Army vessels broke free of their moorings off the coast of Gaza on Saturday amid rough seas, the Pentagon said in a statement. Two of them were beached on the coast of Israel, near Ashkelon, and were being recovered with the help of the Israeli military. The other two were anchored on the beach near the temporary pier built by the U.S. military to help deliver aid to Palestinians in the war-torn enclave. The pier was still fully functional, the Pentagon said. The episode was the latest hiccup in the U.S. effort, which has struggled to increase the amount of aid getting into Gaza.


·      The Group of 7 finance ministers on Saturday called on Israel to preserve banking services between Israeli and Palestinian banks, arguing that “maintaining economic stability in the West Bank is also critical for regional security.” Meeting in Italy, the group also urged Israel to “remove or relax other measures that have negatively impacted commerce to avoid further exacerbating the economic situation in the West Bank.”



19) Foster Children Fight to Stop States From Taking Federal Benefits

A longstanding practice of using a child’s federal survivor and disability benefits to defray the cost of foster care is under scrutiny in Congress and statehouses.

By Michael Corkery, May 26, 2024


James Woods and his adoptive father, Wayne Stidham, both wearing white t-shirts, check on the chicken coop they are building.

James, left, and his adoptive father, Wayne Stidham, checking on the chicken coop they are building. Credit...Andri Tambunan for The New York Times

James Wood’s mother struggled with addiction, and he often found himself adrift, not knowing what day or month it was. “I didn’t understand how time worked,” he said.


When James was 14, his mother died of pneumonia, and he entered California’s foster care system. As a minor with a deceased parent and a disability, James was entitled to federal benefits, totaling $780 a month, some of which his mother had accrued during the years that she worked as a nurse.


But James never received the benefits. The government got the money instead, according to James and his adoptive father, Wayne Stidham.


It’s a longstanding practice for many states or counties to apply for the federal benefits of foster children, often without their knowledge, and then use the money to cover some of the costs of their care, according to legal advocates for children and congressional researchers.


Each year, roughly 27,000 foster children are entitled to these benefits because they have either lost a parent or have a disability. There are currently about 390,000 children in foster care in the United States.


“It’s wrong,” said James, who is now 16 and lives in Grass Valley, Calif., located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. “Foster kids could make plans for that money.”


The benefits, the advocates say, should be set aside to provide additional resources for the child like summer camp or art classes. And when the child leaves foster care, they say, the money could be used to pay for college or for a security deposit to rent an apartment.


Some state and county officials say the federal funds are being used to benefit the children and that if money is left over, the child receives the funds upon aging out of foster care.


A spokeswoman for the health and human services department of Placer County, Calif., which oversaw James’s foster care, declined to comment on his situation, but said the county is required by the state to apply for the federal funds and use them for the “benefit of that individual child, which includes food, shelter, clothing, medical care and personal comfort items.”


But this practice, which was been previously brought to light by advocates at Children’s Advocacy Institute and journalists at The Marshall Project and NPR, is increasingly being questioned in courts, in Congress and by officials in the Biden administration. Many states have also been changing their laws to ensure that at least some of the children’s money is conserved.


“We see state agencies trying to fund themselves off the backs of the very children they are supposed to serve,” said Amy Harfeld, national policy director of the Children’s Advocacy Institute, which works to improve quality of life and protections for foster care youth. “It is outrageous.”


In a statement, the Social Security Administration said this week that a child’s federal benefits must be spent on their “current needs and maintenance" and that if there was money left over, the state “must conserve the remaining funds for the child’s future use.”


The agency added that it had recently issued a letter reminding state foster systems “how to use and conserve S.S.A. benefits and to offer them assistance in complying with our requirements.”


Ms. Harfeld, who started pushing to change these practices 15 years ago, said that in many cases, the money never gets conserved by states.


She added that children whose federal benefits are collected by the state receive the same foster care services as those who do not receive the benefit.


“There is no such thing as foster care plus,” Ms. Harfeld said. “The only distinction is that some children are being charged for their care while all the other kids are having their care paid for by the state.”


The practice reflects the scattershot ways that states have historically paid for foster care. In the 19th century, a mix of private and religious groups and some state agencies provided boarding services for the care of foster children.


Even as foster care came to be managed by state and county governments in the 20th century, federal policymakers were reluctant to allocate too much money to these systems for fear that some people might become foster parents simply for the money, said Catherine Rymph, a dean and professor at the University of Missouri, who wrote a book on the history of foster care.


That has left a system that in many places is stretched, Ms. Rymph said. “It is so poorly funded, states will claw back whatever money they can.”


But children say their money — particularly benefits from a deceased parent —  shouldn’t be used to backstop the system. When Anthony Jackson was 12, his mother died of a heart attack in a motel room where he and his siblings had been living.


He regarded his mother as a “powerhouse,” a fixture in her St. Paul, Minn., neighborhood who drove a city-run shuttle transporting older people to doctor’s appointments and to the grocery store. While she worked, she paid into Social Security, which would entitle her children to survivor benefits.


After his mother died, Mr. Jackson, now 20, bounced between different relatives before being placed in foster care in 2017.


While in foster care, Mr. Jackson learned from his former girlfriend’s mother that children with a deceased parent can be entitled to survivor benefits. But when he inquired with the Social Security office, Mr. Jackson was told that the state was receiving the benefits on his behalf.

“That was something that was hers, and I didn’t receive it,’’ Mr. Jackson said.


He said the money could have helped him attend an art school in Savannah, Ga., that he was interested in but couldn’t afford. Mr. Jackson attended college locally in St. Paul, but is no longer enrolled.


In a statement, the Minnesota Department of Human Services said when the foster care system applies for benefits on behalf of a child, the money is not “used to fund the state’s child welfare system broadly.” The statement also noted that a new state law passed this year says that the money can “only be used for the care of the child.” The state will also require that children be notified if the state is receiving federal benefits on their behalf.


Across the country, the tide is shifting. More than a dozen states, counties and cities have established new rules or approved legislation requiring that at least some of the benefits be conserved for the children. There are also bills that have been introduced in more than a dozen other states that would mandate conserving the money or require children to be notified about their benefits.


In a series of congressional hearings in March, Martin O’Malley, commissioner of the Social Security Administration, suggested the agency may need more than the current set of rules to ensure states will set aside and conserve some of the benefits.


At one of the hearings, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said she “nearly fell out of my chair” when she was told of this practice.


“Seizing the benefits that go to some of our most vulnerable children just to finance other parts of state government just isn’t right,” she told Mr. O’Malley.


In a 2021 report, the Congressional Research Service said that in 2018, states had used $179 million of federal benefits that were owed to about 27,000 foster children, which is a relatively small amount out of overall funding for foster care.


James Wood remembers his mother, who died when he was 14, giving him three pieces of advice: Don’t use drugs; don’t follow the same path she did; and start making career plans by freshman year of high school. “It really stuck with me,” he said.


James, who is in the ninth grade and was adopted last November, decided to pursue a career in law enforcement. He is going to honor his mother’s wishes and wants the government to honor the intent of survivor benefits.


“If you ask anyone, I think it is very disrespectful to promise someone something and take it away,” James told a state legislative committee in Sacramento last month. “Especially when it’s a kid with a deceased parent.”