Israeli ground forces shell Gaza
Israeli ground forces attacked the Gaza Strip earlier this morning as the conflict escalated, with 103 Palestinians and seven Israelis killed so far, according to local authorities. Children were among the victims on both sides.
An Israeli military spokesman initially said “Ground forces are attacking in Gaza” but later clarified that Israeli forces had not entered the strip, suggesting the possibility of outside artillery fire. It was not immediately clear whether the attack was the prelude to a ground invasion against Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls Gaza.
A crucial decision for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is whether Israel’s definition of victory requires the deployment of ground troops. This would prolong the conflict and significantly increase the number of dead and wounded on both sides.
While violent escalations often follow a predictable course, this latest battle between Israel and the Palestinians, the worst in seven years, is rapidly evolving into a new type of conflict – faster, more destructive, and able to twist in unpredictable new directions. In the cities of Israel, clashes between Arab and Jewish mobs have given way to warnings from Israeli leaders of a possible civil war.
On the ground: Our reporter describes the aftermath of drone strikes on an ordinary street made of cinder blocks and concrete buildings in Gaza. “There was life here, but now it’s horror,” said one resident. “It is not a normal feeling to see a man die in front of you.”
Weapons: Gaza’s missiles – made from smuggled parts or misappropriated pipelines despite a blockade – are pale in comparison to the destructive forces of the Israeli Air Force. For the Israelis, these missiles are the tools of a terrorist organization. For many Palestinians, they symbolize the legitimate resistance to Israeli domination and occupation.
Eid al-Fitr: Muslims around the world marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Thursday, a day typically filled with prayer, celebration and feast. But for many Palestinians the moment was a bleak one.
Go deeper: The latest episode of The Daily examines why this is happening now and how much worse it could get.
A crackdown on journalists in Tigray
Six months after the war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where thousands died in reports of widespread human rights violations, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has tried to suppress critical coverage of the conflict by targeting independent news media, according to human rights organizations.
Freedom of the press has deteriorated in the wake of Abiy’s military operation in the northern region, which began on November 4th. Within a few hours, the internet was closed there and journalists were prevented from entering. The authorities have since arrested at least 10 local journalists without charge and have held them for a few days to two months for reporting the conflict.
Quote: “This is extremely disappointing given the hope and optimism of early 2018 when Abiy became prime minister,” said Muthoki Mumo, a representative for sub-Saharan Africa on the journalists’ protection committee.
Details: Last week, government officials confirmed they had revoked the accreditation of Simon Marks, an Irish reporter for the Times based in Ethiopia, days after interviewing sexual assault victims and other frightened residents of the area.
Vaccinated Americans can go maskless, CDC says
At a tipping point, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that Americans fully vaccinated against Covid could stop wearing masks or keep social distance in most indoor and outdoor areas. More than 40 percent of adults in the United States have received at least one dose of vaccine.
People who have been vaccinated must continue to cover their faces in medical facilities, public transport, and prisons, homeless shelters, or long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. While some state officials immediately lifted their mask mandates, others said they would consult the new guidelines before making a decision.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
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Other great stories
The pandemic marked the first time that many Harlem Gospel choirs were unable to sing together in person on Sundays. To make music again last fall, the Bethel Gospel Assembly created small groups of singers to spread out up the sanctuary.
During a rehearsal, listen to a recording of the choir performing the pastor’s favorite hymn “It Is Well”. To get you into this church, we built a 3D model of your sanctuary and embedded 3D audio in it – a first for The Times.
ART AND IDEAS
Dealing with returning to socializing
Philip Galanes writes a Times column called Social Q’s. He often gets a version of the same question: “How do I deal with the tension of resumption of social life?” Many people are willing to return to prepandemic activities while others disagree or may disagree on what safety measures to take.
Philip’s main advice: “Be nice to yourself, take care of the people you love, and be as compassionate as possible.” This includes being honest about disagreements – in person or over the phone, not text.
In one such instance, parents who were new to town didn’t want their daughter to play with children who didn’t adhere to masking or social distancing protocols. Philip suggested keeping the game dates outdoors where there is strong evidence that their risk of infection would be very low. Or they venture beyond the neighborhood to “find parks, playgroups, or after-school activities that focus on safety”.
It’s okay to take it easy. As writer Celeste Headlee told NPR, “We’ve been exposed to such cognitive strain in the past year that there may not be enough room for two things in a day.”