“People across Thailand, not just the young, recognize the argument of reforming the monarchy,” said Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who was elected president of the Student Union at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “It’s not marginal, it’s mainstream.”

Mr. Netiwit lost his position in February after the school administration determined that he was connected to an event involving activists who have called for monarchical reform.

Some Thais are more enthusiastic about the government espousing the longer name.

On a recent morning, Vichian Bunthawi, 88, a retired palace guard, sat cross-legged on a bench at the sleepy railway station in Bangkok Noi. The capital should be known around the world as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, he said, remembering how his primary schoolteacher would write the full name on the chalkboard.

“Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is the name of the capital,” he said. “It is where the king lives.”

The first king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, moved the capital in 1782, from the left bank of the Chao Phraya River, where the Bangkok Noi district is, to the east bank. On marshy ground, he and his successors built gilded, jeweled palaces. The full name of Krung Thep Maha Nakhon includes a paean to “an enormous royal palace resembling the heavenly abode in which the reincarnated god reigns.” In Thai tradition, the king is semi-divine.

In 1932, absolute monarchy was abolished, but the royal family still retains an enormous presence in Thai life. Giant posters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun and Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, the current king’s fourth wife, tower over public places.

The king, whose lavish lifestyle contrasts with the austerity forced upon many Thais by the pandemic, spends most of his time in Germany.

Whether as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or Bangkok, the character of the capital has changed drastically over the decades. City planners filled in the canals that used to be the city’s transportation arteries. Rice paddies gave way to malls and condominiums.

In a back alley behind a Buddhist temple in Bangkok Noi, Chana Ratsami still plays a Thai xylophone. His wife’s family of palace attendants lived in Bangkok Noi for generations.

Now, he said, the lane’s residents are mostly migrants from upcountry.

“They don’t know the history of this place,” he said, describing how the traffic-choked road at the end of the lane used to be a canal with boats floating past, filled with flowers and fruit. “I miss the old city, no matter what it’s called.”

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.

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Once a Symbol of U.S. Strength, an Afghan District Now Faces Dire Times

At the war’s end, residents of Marja are growing increasingly desperate for any kind of help, a frustration that has turned to anger that the international community has seemingly abandoned them.


MARJA, Afghanistan — Haji Rozi Khan stood outside the gate of the bullet-pocked building that housed the Marja district’s government offices, staring through the slotted steel door into the compound. Taliban guards stared back. They were not who he was looking for.

Mr. Khan had trekked to Marja’s district center in Helmand Province from his village several miles away by motorbike, kicking up powdered dust as he navigated the unpaved roads, long damaged by the war. He was searching for a figure who had been even more elusive since the Taliban took power in August: an aid worker.

“We have nothing to eat,” he said in an interview last month.

Once, Marja was the site of one of the biggest battles of the two-decade war, part of the United States’ counterinsurgency campaign to weaken the Taliban and build up a local government. But today, the grid-like patch of mud-walled hamlets and canals looks much as it did at the outset of the invasion in 2001: barely navigable roads, understaffed and damaged schools and clinics and withered crops, crippled by one of the worst droughts in decades.

humanitarian crisis, Marja’s residents are still caught in the war’s aftershocks. Amid a crashing economy and ruined harvests, in a place where most people barely live above the poverty line, many are just now realizing how dependent they were on foreign aid, their lifeline for 20 years, which was cut off practically overnight. They’re growing increasingly desperate for help, a frustration that has morphed into anger that the international community has seemingly abandoned them.

that crumbled even before the Americans fully withdrew from the country in August. Many in Marja were happy to see the foreign occupation end and the Taliban take power, because it brought stability to the region after years of fighting that took countless civilian lives and wrought widespread destruction.

under control of the Taliban. Across the country, there is widespread anxiety about the future.

This year’s turmoil has been deepened by the arrival of roughly 20 displaced families from central Afghanistan. They were hungry and homeless, he said, so he gave them what little food he could spare before making his way to the district center in hopes of finding someone else who could help.

“We are so tired,” Mr. Khan said, his blue shalwar kameez flapping in the morning breeze.

In recent weeks, the United States and the European Union have pledged to provide $1.29 billion more in aid to Afghanistan. The World Bank’s board moved in late November to free up $280 million in frozen donor funding, but U.S. sanctions against the Taliban continue to make it extremely difficult for aid organizations to get money into the country.

Aside from the sanctions, the Taliban government’s inability to provide for its people also stems from its inexperience in governance, which was clearly illustrated in a visit to the district office in Marja.

Inside the squat government building that was refurbished by the Americans a decade ago and nearly destroyed by fighting in the decade since, sat Mullah Abdul Salam Hussaini, 37, Marja’s district governor. The newly appointed local leader had spent the better part of the last 20 years — essentially his entire adulthood — trying to kill U.S. and NATO forces as a Taliban fighter.

Now he found himself governing a district of around 80,000 people mired in crisis, with little in the way of funds, infrastructure or public-service experience to support his constituents.

People lined up at the compound gates with a litany of complaints and requests: Do something about the displaced refugees; build a new health clinic; help farmers whose crops were destroyed; find more teachers for what may be the only remaining school in Marja.

“Whatever people ask, I am asking that, too, because we are not in a situation to do it ourselves,” Mr. Hussaini said quietly, surrounded by Talibs who looked far more comfortable behind a rifle than a desk. “We need the help of foreigners because they did it before and we’re asking them to do it again.”

Inside the governor’s dimly lit office, walls and window sill adorned with Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons captured from the previous government, sat a representative from a local aid group who had come to survey the district and its food needs for the World Food Program. The organization is still distributing basic food staples, but the rising demand has far exceeded their supplies.

For years, the insurgent group controlled pockets of Afghanistan and fueled a shadow economy by leeching off the previous government’s foreign-filled coffers through taxes on everyone in their territory, including truck drivers and aid workers. But those sorts of activities cannot make up for the loss of outside help.

“The Taliban don’t seem to have had a sense of how dependent the economy was on foreign support, which they benefited from as did everyone else,” said Kate Clark, the co-director of Afghanistan Analysts Network. “Even under the areas under Taliban control they weren’t funding the schools and the clinics.”

Marja, a district long reliant on growing poppy for its own illicit economy that the Taliban also taxed, was built by the United States in the late 1950s and 1960s as an agricultural project that diverted water from the Helmand River into a series of distinct grids.

In 2010, during the height of President Barack Obama’s troop surge, thousands of Western and Afghan troops secured the network of canals and fields in a major military offensive and then made promises of roads, schools and a functioning local government. Considered the last Taliban stronghold in central Helmand, Marja was a strategically important district in the eyes of military planners, who decided a victory there would be crucial to Mr. Obama’s new counterinsurgency strategy.

The Koru Chareh bazaar, a cluster of shoddy low-slung, steel-door shops, was where some of the first American troops arrived in 2010. “They came at night,” recalled Abdul Kabir, a young shopkeeper who was 9 when the first helicopters landed nearby.

As a boy, he watched as the Marines in desert tan uniforms walked by, saying nothing to him.

But this November, the only visible signs of the Americans’ occupation was a “Trump 2020 Keep America Great” flag draped from a shopkeeper’s peanut stand and a Confederate battle flag hanging from a shed nearby. A paved road that bisects Marja from north to south is arguably the most prominent American piece of infrastructure in the district, built as part of the more than $4 billion in stabilization funds that the United States poured into the country.

“It’s good the fighting is over,” Mr. Kabir said, standing next to his money exchange stand, where he focused on changing afghanis into Pakistani rupees. Few people ambled by. He had lived in Marja his whole life, an arc that followed the entire U.S. occupation.

Mr. Kabir was one of several residents who praised the security situation but lamented the economic downturn. “There is no money and everything is expensive,” he added.

With fluctuating border restrictions, higher import costs and a cash shortage, basic products in the bazaar, such as cooking oil, are three times as expensive as they once were.

To the vendors, who have distinct memories of fighting outside their homes, and explosions and gunshots that killed their friends, the economic crunch and the United States’ unwillingness to recognize the Taliban feel like punishments against them, not the new government.

Ali Mohammed, 27, who runs a chicken stand at the main intersection of the bazaar, has carried the weight of the war for years. He watched as a friend was gunned down by the Americans in a field just a few hundred yards from where he now sells his underfed birds. To him, his country’s situation was simply a new phase of the conflict.

“The foreigners say they are not here anymore,” he said. “But they didn’t finish the war against us.”

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On the Front Line: A Night With Afghan Commandos

On a recent night raid, a Times photographer captured Afghanistan’s elite forces as they disrupted Taliban operations in one of the country’s most volatile provinces.

SOMEWHERE OVER HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — As the city lights faded and the Soviet-era military helicopter banked over the fields and canals of southern Afghanistan one night in May, the Afghan commandos on board made their final checks, looking at maps and adjusting their weapons before turning on their night-vision goggles.

Their objective: to dismantle a bomb-making factory inside a squat mud-brick house in Chah Anjir, a village in Nadali, a district in Helmand Province that is completely under Taliban control.

Just days earlier, the Taliban had opened an offensive on Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah. Afghan government forces had lost ground. The city was under siege. Frantic to relieve some of the pressure on the capital, security officials committed their most elite of the Afghan special operations forces to the province.

21,000 Afghans in the commando forces, with hopes to greatly expand the program.

more than 20 Afghan commandos were killed when their offensive operation to retake a district in the country’s northwest was derailed by a vicious Taliban counterattack.

The outcome of the May raid, documented on the special forces team leader’s cellphone, was considered a success: bomb-making materials were seized and destroyed. Four Taliban members were killed while his men took no casualties. How much that changed the broader battle’s outcome in Lashkar Gah is questionable, but it kept one of the Taliban’s deadliest tactics — roadside bombs and homemade mines — off the battlefield for a brief time.

The commandos returned to Bost Airfield, a civilian airport. But that night it turned into a temporary command center for the unit. Officials had set up television displays and radios atop its small terminal, under a starry sky as fighting echoed in the distance.

Inside the helicopters as the city came back into view, some commandos joked among themselves, others took forceful drags from cigarettes.

Their mission was over. For now.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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Where Ukrainians Are Preparing for All-Out War With Russia

KALANCHAK, Ukraine — A makeshift dam of sand and clay, covered with patches of grass, blocks one of Europe’s great canals. Beyond it, swans drift in the trickle of water that remains. A duck slides into a wall of reeds below the bare, concrete banks.

This quiet spot just north of Crimea may not look like much. But some Ukrainians fear it could be the thing that ignites an all-out war with Russia.

“Putin could send his troops in here at any moment,” said Olha Lomonosova, 38, explaining why she had packed a getaway suitcase this year at her home upstream. “He needs water.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered some of the troops he had massed on Ukraine’s border this spring to pull back last month, but as many as 80,000 remain within striking distance, and many Ukrainians believe that the threat of a new invasion remains. A prime reason is the 250-mile-long Northern Crimean Canal linking Crimea with Ukraine’s Dnieper River: the main source of water for Crimea until Mr. Putin annexed it in 2014 and Ukraine, in a secret operation, hastily built the dam to block the canal’s flow.

Mr. Putin’s showdown with the West.

assurances that even tourists to Crimea will not go thirsty.

Blocking the canal, a senior official in the de facto Russian government controlling Crimea said in February, represented “an attempt to destroy us as a people, an attempt at mass murder and genocide.” Moscow has pledged to spend $670 million to address the water shortage, but this year reservoirs have been running dry and water is being rationed.

Ukrainian officials are unmoved. Under the Geneva Convention, they say, it is Russia’s responsibility as an occupying power to provide water, and they add that sufficient underground aquifers exist to provide for the population. The Kremlin says that Crimea willfully joined Russia in 2014, aided by Russian troops, after the pro-Western revolution in Kyiv; nearly every government in the world still considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine.

“No water for Crimea until de-occupation,” said Anton Korynevych, the representative for Crimea of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, spelling out government policy. “Period.”

visit to the trenches at the Crimean border last month. Even though Russian troops are withdrawing, he warned, Ukraine must be prepared for them to return at “any moment.” In Washington, senior American officials believe that an incursion to secure the water supply remains a real threat, though the costs and difficulty of such a move appear to have been sufficient to dissuade Russia for now.

trove of ancient Scythian treasure.

The canal even has its own anthem, still framed on the wall of the canal’s headquarters. “We built the canal in peace, along with the whole great and powerful country,” the words go. “Keep it, as dear as your breath, for your children and grandchildren!”

But when Russia seized Crimea in 2014, a senior aide in the Ukrainian president’s office, Andriy Senchenko, organized the damming of the canal as a way to strike back. Before the canal’s annual springtime opening, he directed workers to pile up a pyramid of bags of sand and clay near the border with Crimea. And he had them put up a sign saying they were installing a flow-measurement mechanism, to put Russian intelligence on the wrong track.

He is convinced that blocking the canal was the right decision because it imposed costs on Moscow, much as military resistance would have.

“In order to cause as much damage to the Russian Federation as was caused by seven years of blocking the canal, tens of thousands would need to have died at the front,” Mr. Senchenko said.

tell it, Ukraine’s leaders since 2014 have forced Russian speakers in the country to “renounce their identity or to face violence or death.” The reality is different in Kherson, where many residents still value some common bonds with Russia, including language — but want no part of a further military intervention by Mr. Putin.

A hill outside the city of Kakhovka, near the canal’s beginning, bears another reminder of historical ties to Russia: a towering Soviet monument of Communist revolutionaries with a horse-drawn machine gun, marking the fierce battles here in the Russian Civil War a century ago. Kyiv in 2019 demanded that the monument be taken down, calling it “insult to the memory of the millions of victims of the Communist totalitarian regime.” The city refused, and the monument still stands, overlooking rusty, dismantled lampposts.

Tending her mother’s grave at an adjoining cemetery, Ms. Lomonosova, a gardener, and her father, Mikhail Lomonosov, 64, said they did not want the monument torn down.

They spoke Russian, described themselves as “little Russians,” and said they occasionally watched Russian television. But if Russian troops were to invade, Ms. Lomonosova was ready to flee, and Mr. Lomonosov was ready to fight against them.

“We may have a Russian last name, but we are proud to be Ukrainian,” Ms. Lomonosova said. “Everyone has their own territory, though all have a shared past.”

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In Russia, a Military Buildup That Can’t be Missed

MASLOVKA, Russia — Deep in a pine forest in southern Russia, military trucks, their silhouettes blurred by camouflage netting, appear through the trees. Soldiers in four-wheel-drive vehicles creep along rutted dirt roads. And outside a newly pitched tent camp, sentries, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, pace back and forth.

Over the past month or so, Russia has deployed what analysts are calling the largest military buildup along the border with Ukraine since the outset of Kyiv’s war with Russian-backed separatists seven years ago.

It is far from a clandestine operation: During a trip to southern Russia by a New York Times journalist, evidence of the buildup was everywhere to be seen.

The mobilization is setting off alarms in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European capitals and Washington, and is increasingly seen as an early foreign policy test for the Biden administration, which just hit Moscow with a new round of sanctions. Russia responded almost immediately, announcing on Friday that it would expel 10 U.S. diplomats.

“Solar Winds” hacking of government agencies and corporations, various disinformation efforts and the annexation of Crimea.

told European lawmakers on Wednesday that Russia is now garrisoning about 110,000 soldiers near the Ukrainian border. In Washington, the director of the C.I.A. told Congress that it remains unclear whether the buildup is a show of force or preparation for something more ominous.

Even if the goal of the buildup remains unclear, military analysts say it was most certainly meant to be seen. A show of force is hardly a good show if nobody watches.

“They are deploying in a very visible way,” said Michael Kofman, a senior researcher at CNA, a think tank based in Arlington, Va., who has been monitoring the military activity. “They are doing it overtly, so we can see it. It is intentional.”

foreign reporters have been showing up daily to watch the buzz of activity.

Conflict Intelligence Team, a group of independent Russian military analysts.

Gigantic military trucks are parked within sight of the roads, which have, strangely, remained open to public traffic.

news release to announce the redeployment of the naval landing craft closer to Ukraine, in case anybody was curious. The vessels sailed along rivers and canals connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The ministry posted pictures.

forces for a possible incursion.

But Mr. Burns said U.S. officials were still trying to determine if the Kremlin was preparing for military action or merely sending a signal.

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Sliding in the Polls, Erdogan Kicks Up a New Storm Over the Bosporus

ISTANBUL — The unpredictable roller coaster that has become Turkish politics was on full display this past week after 104 retired admirals publicly challenged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an open letter — and 10 of them ended up in jail, accused of plotting a coup.

It was no accident that the episode came as Mr. Erdogan finds himself in the midst one of the most intense political passages of his career, as the worsening pandemic and economy have left the president sliding in the opinion polls even as he amasses more powers.

To inspire the party faithful, Mr. Erdogan has returned again to herald one of his favorite grand ideas: to carve a canal, through Istanbul, from the Black Sea to the Marmara Sea to open a new shipping route parallel to the narrow Bosporus.

For now, the use of those natural waterwaysis governed by the Montreux Convention, an international treaty forged in 1936, between the two World Wars, in an attempt to eliminate volatile tensions over one of the world’s most vital maritime choke points.

blog, the Yetkinreport, “shifts the current agenda from the pandemic and the economy to fields that the A.K.P. likes.”

The pandemic’s toll is now worse than ever in Turkey, with more than 50,000 new cases recorded daily. An increasingly sharp economic crunch looms, too, as the government’s pandemic support for businesses is scheduled to end and inflation and unemployment remain alarmingly high.

In the midst of the troubles, Mr. Erdogan’s party has slipped to below 30 percent in a recent opinion poll, and his political ally, the Nationalist Movement Party, has fallen as low as 6 percent, making his re-election to the presidency in 2023 seem increasingly difficult.

Even his own supporters recognize that a bruising fight lies ahead. “We have entered the long two-year election process leading to the 2023 elections,” Burhanettin Duran, the director of SETA, a pro-government research organization, wrote in a column in the Daily Sabah newspaper this past week.

“Due to the recent declaration,” he said, referring to the admirals’ letter, “now there is a possibility that the process will be painful.” He predicted a combined domestic and international campaign against Mr. Erdogan’s government.

Mr. Erdogan has promised that his multibillion-dollar canal plan would create a construction and real estate boom and bring in revenue from an increase in shipping traffic.

Investigative journalists have exposed real estate deals in which prospectors from the Middle East have bought up much of the land along where the canal will be built.

Yet Mr. Erdogan said at a regional party congress in Istanbul in February that the project would go ahead, despite opposition.

“They don’t like it, do they? They are trying to prevent it, aren’t they?” he said in his keynote speech. “Despite them, we will build the Istanbul Canal.’’

The admirals are far from the only opponents of the canal. Others include the popular mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, along with environmentalists, ecologists and urban planners.

But the admirals raised particular ire from Mr. Erdogan and his fellow Islamists by including in their letter criticism of a currently serving admiral who was caught on video attending prayers with a religious sect.

The retired admirals made a point of reaffirming their adherence to the secular ideals of the Turkish republic’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The government machinery pounced swiftly.

Ten of the signatories were detained on Monday, and another four were ordered to report to the police but were not jailed in view of their advanced years. Mr. Erdogan accused them of plotting a coup, a toxic allegation after four years of thousands of detentions and purges since the last failed coup. Some saw that as a warning to serving officers who might have similar thoughts.

Mr. Erdogan had “got his groove back” Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, wrote in an analysis.

The admirals’ letter did not come out of the blue. A year earlier, 126 retired Turkish diplomats had penned an open letter warning against withdrawing from the convention. The debate reveals the deep divisions between secularists and Islamists that have been tearing Turkey apart since Mr. Erdogan’s rise to power in 2002.

Caught up in their own dislike of the secular republic that replaced the Ottoman Empire, the Islamists distrust the Montreux Convention, said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations. That was an erroneous reading of history, she added, but Mr. Erdogan feels that the convention needs “to be modernized to meet Turkey’s new coveted role as a regional heavyweight.”

Secularists, as well as most Turkish diplomats and foreign policy experts, see the Montreux Convention as a win for Turkey and fundamental to Turkish independence and to stability in the region.

Russia would have most to lose from a change in the treaty, said Serhat Guvenc, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, although any alteration or break up of the convention seems inconceivable, since it would demand consensus from the multiple signatories.

“Russia would resent it and be provoked,” he said. The United States and China would gain, since neither currently is allowed to move large warships or aircraft carriers into the Black Sea.

Most analysts said that Mr. Erdogan and his advisers knew the impossibility of changing the Montreux Convention, but that the veteran politician is using the issue to kick up a storm.

“It is the government’s way of lobbying for the canal,” Ms. Aydintasbas said. “Erdogan is adamant about building a channel parallel to the Bosporus, and one of the government’s arguments will likely be that this new strait allows Turkey to have full sovereignty — as opposed to the free passage of Montreux.”

That interpretation is both inaccurate and dangerous, she said. “Inaccurate because as long as Montreux is there, no vessel is obliged to use the new canal. Dangerous because it could aggravate the Russians and the international community.”

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Syrian Refugees in Rebel Controlled Idlib Are Stuck in Limbo

IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

“People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

“We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

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In a Syrian Rebel Bastion, Millions Are Trapped in Murky, Violent Limbo

IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

“People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

“We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

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Clearing the Suez Canal Took Days. Figuring Out the Costs May Take Years.

TOKYO — It took six days to prise free a giant container ship that ran aground and clogged the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most crucial shipping arteries. It could take years to sort out who will pay for the mess.

Cargo companies, insurers, government authorities and a phalanx of lawyers, all with different agendas and potential assessments, will not only need to determine the total damage, but also what went wrong. When they eventually finish digging through the morass, the insurers of the ship’s Japanese owner are likely to bear the brunt of the financial pain.

The costs could add up quickly.

There are the repairs for any physical damage to the Ever Given, the quarter-mile-long ship that got stuck in the Suez. There is the bill for the tugboats and front-end loaders that dug the beached vessel out from the mud. The authority that operates the Suez Canal has already said the crisis has cost the Egyptian government up to $90 million in lost toll revenue as hundreds of ships waited to pass through the blocked waterway or took other routes.

And the stalled ship held up as much as $10 billion of cargo a day from moving through the canal, including cars, oil, livestock, laptops, sneakers, electronics and toilet paper. Companies delivering goods may have to pay customers for missed deadlines. If any agricultural goods went bad, producers may look to recoup lost revenue.

Richard Oloruntoba, an associate professor of supply chain management at the Curtin Business School in Perth, Australia.

Jeff N.K. Lee, a lawyer in Taipei who specializes in commercial and transportation law.

“While the ship is just parked there, the cargo isn’t actually being damaged,” Mr. Lee said. “The only damage is that it’s delayed.”

“Say I have a batch of cloth, and on top of the time it took to come to Taiwan, it got stuck for six or seven days,” he said. “It just sat there. Will it go bad? It won’t.”

There is a caveat. The ship’s owner could have to pay for cargo delays, if its crew is found to be at fault for the accident.

Some so-called third-party claims related to delayed cargo may be covered by yet another insurer for the ship, the UK P&I Club. The same goes for any claims by the Suez Canal Authority, which operates the waterway and might file over any loss of revenue.

Nick Shaw, chief executive of the International Group of Protection and Indemnity Clubs, the umbrella group that includes the UK P&I Club, said the insurer would “make decisions together with the shipowner as to which ones had validity and which ones are illegitimate.”

Adding to the complexity of the Suez accident are the layers upon layers of insurance. Reinsurers, companies that covers the risk of other insurance companies, come into play for claims above $100 million. Between insurance and reinsurance, the ship’s owner has coverage for those third-party claims up to $3.1 billion, although few experts believe the damages will run that high.

The sheer size of the Ever Given makes the situation all the more labyrinthine. Aside from time of war, the Suez Canal has never been blocked quite so spectacularly or for as long a time as it was with the Ever Given, and this is the biggest ship to run aground.

The ship is as long the Empire State Building is tall, with the capacity to carry 20,000 containers stacked 12 to 14 high. The Ever Given is one of a fleet of 13 in a series designed by Imabari, part of a push to lower the costs per container and make the ships more competitive in an increasingly fierce market dominated by Chinese and South Korean shipbuilders.

“The bigger the ships get, the risk is whenever you have an incident like this is that you are putting more of your eggs into one basket,” said Simon Heaney, senior manager of container research at Drewry UK, a shipping consultancy. “So the claims will magnify.”

Raymond Zhong and Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting from Taipei, Taiwan. Vivian Yee contributed from Cairo and Makiko Inoue, Hisako Ueno, Hikari Hida from Tokyo.

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Fighting Escalates in Eastern Ukraine, Signaling the End to Another Cease-Fire

MOSCOW — The war in eastern Ukraine, which has been on a low simmer for months, drawing little international attention, has escalated sharply in recent days, according to statements Tuesday from the Ukrainian and Russian governments.

In the most lethal fighting so far this year, four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and another was seriously wounded in a battle against Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine, the country’s military said.

The exchange of artillery and machine-gun fire was unusual in that it lasted most of a day. Fighting across the so-called Line of Contact, an about 250-mile-long barricade of trenches and fortifications, are typically briefer.

But it was not the only sign of tensions in a region where Ukrainian and the Russian-backed separatist forces have settled into trenches that have barely moved over the seven years since fighting first erupted in 2014.

acknowledged the recent uptick in fighting and said that Russia “sincerely hoped” it would not escalate. The fighting, he said, was “canceling out the modest achievements made earlier.”

In Ukraine, Parliament on Tuesday approved a statement declaring an “escalation” along the front, essentially acknowledging that a cease-fire negotiated in July had broken down. The statement noted a “significant increase in shelling and armed provocations by the armed forces of the Russian Federation.”

The statement called for Western governments to “continue and increase international political and economic pressure on Russia,” something Ukraine has been requesting for years. The United States and European allies have imposed financial sanctions on Russia, targeting President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, banks and oil companies.

The war that began in 2014 after pro-Western street protesters ousted a Russian-aligned president in Ukraine, prompting a military response by Russia, is the only active conflict in Europe today.

the cease-fire in July, one that has held longer than dozens of others that have been made over the past seven years. Eight cease-fires have broken down since 2018 alone.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have also escalated along the de facto border between the two countries at the isthmus of the Crimean Peninsula, which is to the south and west of the Line of Contact, and which was annexed by Russian forces in 2014.

In February, the Russian military announced rehearsals of paratrooper drops in Crimea that commentators in Russia and Ukraine saw as possibly telegraphing a fresh Russian incursion. The target this time: water canals supplying Crimea from the Dnieper River in Ukraine.

Ukraine cut off the supply of water from the river when Russia annexed the peninsula. Since then, water has been so scarce that a majority of residents in Crimea do not have round-the-clock supplies, according to the Interfax news agency. Most towns ration supplies by turning off water mains except for brief windows in the mornings and evenings.

The Russian military described the exercise with 3,000 paratroopers as practicing “seizure of the enemies’ objects with subsequent defense until uniting with the main force.” It did not mention water canals. The exercise also practiced marine landings by the Black Sea Fleet.

In response, the Ukrainian military announced an exercise rehearsing the defense of the flatlands between Crimea and the river against air or sea attacks, further ratcheting up tensions.

Maria Varenikova contributed research.

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