Glimpses of a Deserted Soviet Mining Town, Preserved in the High Arctic

Sergei Chernikov, my guide, had a bolt-action rifle slung over his shoulder — in case we came across any polar bears, he said, or in case they came across us.

We were standing at the rudimentary dock in Pyramiden, a ghost town on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, in the High Arctic. I’d heard that in 1998 the Russian government had tricked the town’s 1,000 residents into taking a holiday on the mainland, only to close the mine and forbid them from returning. According to the rumor, it had been abandoned ever since, frozen in time at the top of the world. Was it true? I asked.

Sergei shook his head before I’d even finished my question.

Barentsburg, which is still functional, and Pyramiden, long since empty — are Russian settlements.

The presence of Russian settlements stems from the fact that the Svalbard Treaty granted signatories — including Russia — rights to Svalbard’s natural resources. Eventually, Trust Arktikugol, a Russian state-owned coal company, took ownership of both Pyramiden and Barentsburg.

Pyramiden would go on to outlast the Soviet Union, finally shuttering its doors over a series of months in 1998. In truth, the place had been in pretty steep decline for years. Accidents in the mine, financial turmoil in Russia and a 1996 charter plane crash that killed 141 people combined to seal its fate.

At over 78 degrees north, Pyramiden is a place of records and extremes. When the sun disappears below the horizon each fall in late October, it isn’t seen again until mid February of the following year. Conversely, in summer, the sunlight is unyielding for more than three months.

And yet, walking around with Sergei, I couldn’t help but sense that things had moved quickly in the end. Manuals sat open, bottles of vodka were left on windowsills. There were scattered journals, photographs of men with impressive mustaches, a typewriter — even an old basketball, burst at the seams.

Perhaps most poignant were the children’s toys, scattered among what was once a schoolhouse.

In its heyday, Pyramiden provided its 1,000 residents with urban facilities and a high standard of living. The town’s offerings included a school, a library, an ice hockey rink, a sports hall, dance and music studios, a radio station, a cinema that doubled as a theater and a cemetery for cats.

If something exists in Pyramiden, then it is very probably the northernmost example in the world. (The settlement is around 500 miles farther north than Utqiargvik, Alaska, the northernmost community in the United States.)

The old cultural center houses what’s likely the northernmost grand piano and gymnasium. Nearby, Sergei and I walked around inside the long-emptied swimming pool — once heated, and the envy of the residents of Longyearbyen, the much larger Norwegian settlement to the south.

On a plinth outside that remarkable building stands an enormous statue of Lenin, his cold head sternly surveying the town, the sole remaining witness to the emptying of Pyramiden.

There’s real beauty here, too: the shimmering fur of a family of arctic foxes living under the hotel; sapphire blues laser-beaming out of the nearby Nordenskiold Glacier; low sun catching cracked windows in the canteen, kaleidoscopic light dancing on the floor; sunrise and sunset washing that extraordinary mountaintop in pinks and golds.

While much of the town now lies dormant, very slowly decaying, the Pyramiden Hotel — likely the northernmost in the world, of course — and the cultural center have been revived in recent years.

These are the only buildings in town that are still regularly used. While shifting permafrost has warped some of the wooden buildings, their sturdy structures stand firm.

It’s in the hotel that a small community of Russians and Ukrainians live and work, welcoming day trippers and adventurous travelers looking to spend the night.

During my visit, Dina Balkarova worked the bar. “Normally I live in Barentsburg,” she said. “But in Russia I don’t work in bars — I’m really an opera singer.” She told me that when she had time to herself, she’d ask one of the armed residents (no one can be without a gun this deep in polar bear country) to accompany her down to old oil drums by the dock. There, she’d test out her voice against the rusting metal.

This was the sort of eccentricity I’d hoped to find when, cruising around Svalbard earlier that summer, I’d first heard about Pyramiden. If anything, though, the place was less strange than I had imagined — the people were warm and proud of the town’s history, as they might be anywhere else in the world.

The few Russians and Ukrainians who have returned in recent years don’t dream of reviving Pyramiden as a functioning town. Instead, they told me, they’re hoping to preserve its heritage, which had so nearly been lost.

The buildings, they say, may be cold and lifeless, but at least they aren’t entirely abandoned.

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In Taliban-Controlled Areas, Girls Are Fleeing for One Thing: an Education

Two districts in Afghanistan’s northwest offer a glimpse into life under the Taliban, who have completely cut off education for teenage girls.


SHEBERGHAN, Afghanistan — The order to shut down the girls’ schools was announced at the mosque, in a meeting with village elders. The news filtered through the teachers, in subdued meetings at students’ homes. Or came in a curt letter to the local schools’ chiefs.

Appeals to the Taliban, arguing and entreaties were useless. So three years ago, girls older than 12 stopped attending classes in the two rural districts just south of this low-slung provincial capital in Afghanistan’s northwest. Up to 6,000 girls were pushed out of school, overnight. Male teachers were abruptly fired: What they had done, provided an education to girls, was against Islam, the Taliban said.

All over Afghanistan the orders have been similar to those issued just 40 miles south of Jowzjan Province’s capital. In districts controlled by the Taliban, no more schooling for all but the youngest girls, with some few exceptions. The Taliban’s message: Teenage girls should be at home helping their mothers.

when the United States formally began its withdrawal, the Taliban have captured territory in practically every part of the country.

a triple bombing of a school in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, left dozens of schoolgirls dead. While the Taliban denied responsibility, the culprit sent a clear signal: Education for girls will not be tolerated.

But in Jowzjan Province’s south, the future has already arrived. The parallel universe that is now the lot of many Afghans is a vivid reality for the province’s education officials and teachers. With grim resignation, they must deal with the fate of neighbors living nearby, yet on the other side of the looking glass.

The Taliban control the districts of Qosh Tepa and Darzab — drought-stricken and impoverished agricultural lands that are home to about 70,000 people — and all 21 of these districts’ schools. They took charge in 2018 after fierce fighting with local Taliban renegades who had proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State, as well as with government forces.

Taliban control notwithstanding, every month the districts’ teachers trudge to Sheberghan, the provincial capital, to collect their salaries, one of many anomalies in a country that is already under de facto control of two governments. Better to have to pay the teachers than close the schools. The city, dusty but bustling, is still in the hands of the central government, but like other provincial capitals it is an isolated island; the Taliban rule the roads, coming and going.

The provincial government still employs school chiefs for the captured districts. But local education officials must watch, helplessly, as Islamist insurgents front-load a heavy dose of religion into the curriculum, slash history instruction and keep the girls out.

The female teachers have been fired. The Taliban use free government textbooks, but they strictly monitor their use, and make sure the ones devoted to Islamic instruction get a heavy workout. And they punish teachers who don’t show up for work, docking their pay. There are no days off. The Taliban have accused teachers in these districts of spying, and of shaving their beards.

“‘If we don’t obey them, we will be punished,’” The education director of Jowzjan, Abdul Rahim Salar, recalled the teachers and principals telling him. “They were worried for their lives.’’

For the girls who escape to Sheberghan to continue their education, there is the sense of a baffling destiny imposed by the Taliban, narrowly avoided. Nilofar Amini, 17, said she missed the school she was barred from three years ago. She had arrived here in the provincial capital only four days before.

“I want to be educated,” Ms. Amini said, sitting with relatives in a room at a derelict shopping center.

Her high voice was muffled by the light blue burqa imposed by the Taliban even on teenagers — she wore it out of habit, though removed it after the interview. Ms. Amini described her life since the schools ban: “I have been sewing, making kilim rugs, handicrafts.”

She added: “The girls there, they stay indoors all day. They can’t even visit relatives.” The Taliban have destroyed the cellphone towers; no chatting on phones.

Ms. Amini’s father, Nizamuddin, a farmer, sitting next to her in the shopping center, hinted at the consequences of the Taliban strictures against girls’ education: “I’m illiterate. It’s like I am blind. I have to be led by others. And so that is why I want my daughters to be educated.”

The Taliban’s policy on education for girls can vary, slightly. Local commanders make the decisions, reflecting the decentralization of a movement scholars like Antonio Giustozzi have described as a “network of networks.” Human Rights Watch noted in a report last year that though the Taliban commanders often permit schooling for girls up to age 12, it is unusual for them to allow it for older girls. Though in some areas, “pressure from communities has persuaded commanders to allow greater access to education for girls,” the report said.

But not many. And not in this part of Afghanistan.

A teacher in the district whose three teenage daughters are now barred from schooling said, “The situation is bad, and I feel badly for them. They don’t have anything to do.” He added that his daughters are just helping their mother with housework.

Encountered at the provincial school headquarters in Sheberghan, where he had gone to collect his salary, the teacher asked that his name not be used out of fear of retribution by the Taliban. He said his daughters keep asking when they can return to school.

“They wouldn’t let us study any longer,” said Fatima Qaisari, 15, at a dusty camp for refugees from neighboring Faryab province. She was 12 when her school was shut down.

Education officials here describe an environment of repression in which residents, parents and teachers have no opportunity to weigh in on the Taliban’s rigid and harsh policies.

“We’ve been in touch with them many times. But there has been no result,” said Abdel Majid, the head of schools in Darzab.

“They tell us, ‘Our government doesn’t want us to teach girls,” he said. “Nobody can disobey them.” The Islamic State faction destroyed some of his schools; others don’t have windows.

At first, Mr. Majid told many of the girls to “play a game” with the Taliban, and pretend they were younger than the cutoff age. “After a year, they warned me that I should stop it,” he said.

He and others have been told that the girls’ schools would stay shut at least until the advent of what Taliban officials depict to bemused residents as the insurgents’ grail: a top-to-bottom “Islamic system,” in which there might be a place for girls’ education.

Shaiasta Haidari, the finance director for Jowzjan Province’s schools, said officials sent a letter alerting the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, of the situation. “Nothing has happened,” she said. “Of course, I am not happy.”

Not far away at the Marshal Dostum School — named after Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former vice president and local warlord whose portrait hangs everywhere in the city — a handful of girls from the Taliban-controlled districts are trying to make up for lost ground. On a recent morning, streams of their schoolmates, laughing girls in black and white uniforms, rushed past the flowered grounds, eager to begin the school day.

In the principal’s office, some of the refugees from Darzab and Qosh Tepa marveled at the senselessness of the Taliban’s decision to bar them from school. Several said they wanted to be teachers; one girl was hoping to study engineering.

Farida, 16, shook her head. “Their decision, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s not even logical.”

Nabila, the teenager from Darzab, added: “The Taliban, they don’t have the brains to know that it is important for girls to go to school.”

Fatima Faizi and Kiana Hayeri contributed reporting.

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The Week in Business: A Ransom for Fuel

Good morning and happy Sunday. Here’s what you need to know in business and tech news for the week ahead. — Charlotte Cowles

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

A cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline, one of the biggest fuel arteries in the United States, pushed the average price of gas above $3 per gallon for the first time since 2014. Fearing a shortage, panicked buyers lined up at the pump, which, of course, made the problem worse. To appease the hackers, who are believed to be part of a foreign organized crime group, Colonial Pipeline paid nearly $5 million in ransom — a capitulation that could embolden other criminals to take American companies hostage. The pipeline’s operators restored service late last week but said the supply chain would need several days to return to normal.

A new report from the Labor Department confirmed what you may have noticed: Prices for consumer goods like clothes, food and other household goods were up 4 percent in April from a year ago, blowing past forecasts. Economists are attributing the spike to pandemic-related issues like higher shipping and fuel costs, supply disruptions, rising demand and understaffing at factories and distribution centers. The Federal Reserve tried to assuage fears of inflation by insisting that the increase was temporary. But the news spooked the stock market all the same. And retail sales in April fell short of expectations, holding steady but showing a slowdown in growth after a blockbuster March.

address concerns from U.S. officials that it could be used for money laundering and other illegal purposes. The company is also moving the project to the United States from Switzerland after a stalled attempt to gain approval from Swiss regulators. In other crypto news, Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, abruptly reversed his support for Bitcoin, tweeting that his company would no longer accept the cryptocurrency as payment because of the fossil fuels used in its mining and transactions. After his tweet, the price of Bitcoin dropped more than 10 percent.

Credit…Giacomo Bagnara

As part of an effort to get 70 percent of American adults at least partly vaccinated by July 4, federal and state governments are adding extra incentives. (In case keeping yourself and others safe, and the ability to go maskless, wasn’t a good enough reason.) The Biden administration has partnered with the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft to provide free transportation to vaccination sites nationwide starting May 24. West Virginia is working on a plan to offer $100 savings bonds to people ages 16 to 35 who get their shots. And those who receive the vaccine in Ohio will be entered into a lottery that awards a $1 million prize each week for five weeks, starting May 26.

Ellen DeGeneres will end her talk show next year after nearly two decades on the air. Her program has seen a steep decline in ratings after employees complained of a toxic workplace and accused producers of sexual harassment. The accusations looked particularly bad in light of Ms. DeGeneres’s tagline, “Be Kind,” which has become a branded juggernaut used to market merchandise to her fans. Although Ms. DeGeneres apologized publicly in September for the incidents, the show has since lost more than a million viewers, a 43 percent decline from about 2.6 million last season. It also saw a 20 percent decline in advertising revenue from September to February compared with the previous year.

In the battle to recruit workers in a tight job market, McDonald’s has become the latest fast-food company to raise hourly wages, following in the recent footsteps of chain restaurants including Chipotle and Olive Garden. But the McDonald’s pay increase applies only to its company-owned restaurants, which make up a small fraction of its business. About 95 percent of its U.S. restaurants are independently owned and set their own wages.

apply for a $50 monthly discount on high-speed internet services. Hearst Magazines sold the American edition of Marie Claire to a British publisher. And after more than a year of trying to figure out what to do with the embattled retailer Victoria’s Secret, the brand’s parent company has decided to split itself into two independent, publicly listed entities: Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.

Join Andrew Ross Sorkin of The Times in conversation with Dame Ellen MacArthur and other economic experts to explore what it will take to transform the economy in the battle against climate change. May 20 at 1:30 p.m. E.T. RSVP here.

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Live Updates: U.N. Security Council Is Set to Meet on Middle East Violence

streamed live on a U.N. website.

The American ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a statement posted on Twitter after the meeting was announced that “the U.S. will continue to actively engage in diplomacy at the highest levels to try to de-escalate tensions.”

Security Council meetings on the Israeli-Palestinian issue have often ended inconclusively and served mainly as a platform for supporters of both sides to air their grievances. But they have also demonstrated the widespread view among United Nations members that Israel’s actions as an occupying power are illegal and that its use of deadly force is disproportionately harsh.

Briefing the Security Council last week in a closed session, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, described the latest violence as “the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in years.”

Israeli warplanes stepped up their attacks on Sunday morning, launching multiple strikes at a main thoroughfare leading to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, leaving residents trapped under the rubble and killing at least 26 people, including eight children, according to local media reports.

The Israeli Army said that a separate strike destroyed the home of Yehya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, although it was unclear whether he was there.

Sirens wailed early Sunday in Israeli border towns as Hamas rockets were launched into the area, although there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

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Israel Strikes Gaza Tower Housing A.P. and Other News Media

An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave an advanced warning for civilians to evacuate.

We are shocked and horrified that the Israelis would target the building that housed A.P.‘s bureau in Gaza. They long knew that A.P.’s bureau was there, and they targeted it. Now, fortunately, we had a warning, and we were able to get our journalists out. We narrowly escaped a huge loss of life. We had 12 journalists in that building. And those brave journalists not only got out, but they were able to salvage much of our equipment because it’s important that we continue to tell this story. You see, that building provided the best vantage point for the world to see the events in Gaza, and now that building is destroyed. And we will work hard to continue to tell the world the important events of Gaza, and we will keep our journalists safe.

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An Israeli airstrike destroyed a prominent building in Gaza City on Saturday that housed media outlets, including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. The Israel Defense Forces said it gave an advanced warning for civilians to evacuate.CreditCredit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

The prominent 12-story building in Gaza City that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday not only housed the offices of media organizations including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.

It also offered a vantage point for the world on Gaza, as A.P. cameras positioned on the roof terrace captured Israeli bombardments and Palestinian militants’ rocket attacks during periodic flare-ups in fighting — including over the past week.

“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today,” the A.P.’s president, Gary Pruitt, said in a statement following the Israeli attack.

The leveling of the al-Jalaa tower, which occurred as fighting between Israelis and Palestinians spiraled on several fronts, drew condemnations from across the world. The Israel Defense Forces said that its fighter jets struck the tower because it also contained military assets belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Pruitt called on the I.D.F. to present evidence to support its allegation, adding that the news agency had operated from the building for 15 years.

“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” he said. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”

On Sunday, the I.D.F. tweeted that the building was “an important base of operations” for Hamas military intelligence, where it “gathered intel for attacks against Israel, manufactured weapons & positioned equipment to hamper I.D.F. operations.”

The I.D.F. — which frequently accuses Hamas of using civilians as shields — provided advance warning to civilians in the building to allow evacuation. The A.P. reported that the owner of the building, Jawad Mahdi, was “told he had an hour to make sure everyone has left the building.”

In the minutes before the airstrike, Mr. Mahdi was filmed desperately pleading with the Israeli Army, asking them to allow four journalists who had been filming an interview — with the father of four children slain in an Israeli strike on a refugee camp on Saturday morning — an extra 10 minutes to retrieve their belongings.

An Israeli soldier told him: “There will be no 10 minutes.”

Minutes later, the building was destroyed, engulfed in a plume of black smoke.

The A.P. said that it “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” and that a dozen journalists and freelancers inside the building evacuated before the strike. The building also housed apartments on the lower floors.

Press freedom groups said that the strike — coming a day after the Israeli Army erroneously told foreign media that ground troops had entered Gaza — raised concerns that Israel was interfering with independent reporting on the conflict. In a statement, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists questioned whether the I.D.F. was “deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.”

A White House spokeswoman, Jennifer Psaki, tweeted that the United States had “communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility.” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that he was “deeply disturbed” by the strike and warned that “indiscriminate targeting of civilian and media structures” would violate international law.

After the strike, journalists from other news organizations gathered near the rubble. Heba Akila, an Al Jazeera journalist who had been broadcasting from the tower when the warning call was made, said: “This is clearly to silence the truth and the voices of journalists.”

As the worst violence in years rages between the Israeli military and Hamas, each night the sky is lit up by a barrage of missiles streaking across the sky and the projectiles designed to counter them.

It is a display of fire and thunder that has been described as both remarkable and horrifying.

The images of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system attempting to shoot down missiles fired by militants in Gaza have been among the most widely shared online, even as the toll wrought by the violence only becomes clear in the light of the next day’s dawn.

“The number of Israelis killed and wounded would be far higher if it had not been for the Iron Dome system, which has been a lifesaver as it always is,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said this week.

The Iron Dome became operational in 2011 and got its biggest first test over eight days in November 2014, when Gaza militants fired some 1,500 rockets aimed at Isreal.

While Israeli officials claimed a success rate of up to 90 percent during that conflict, outside experts were skeptical.

The systems’s interceptors — just 6 inches wide and 10 feet long — rely on miniature sensors and computerized brains to zero in on short-range rockets. Israel’s larger interceptors — the Patriot and Arrow systems — can fly longer distances to go after bigger threats.

The Iron Dome was recently upgraded, but the details of the changes were not made public.

In the current conflict, militants in the Gaza Strip have fired nearly 3,000 missiles, the Israeli Air Force said on Sunday, noting that about 1,150 of them had been intercepted.

A pro-Palestinian protest near the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Saturday.
Credit…Gamal Diab/EPA, via Shutterstock

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas stretched into its seventh day, pro-Palestinian demonstrations were held in cities around the world, even as leaders across Europe expressed concern about a rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators in Washington marched from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol in protest of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and what they said was an inadequate response from the United States.

“People think they can be neutral about this. That’s absolutely wrong,” said Alexandra-Ola Chaic, 17, who traveled to the rally from Burke, Va., with her family, which is of Palestinian descent. “We have to do what we can to make this an issue that receives political support.”

The crowd that gathered was diverse in age and background, and included many families with young children.

Ruth Soto, 25, from Northern Virginia, came with her sister to show solidarity with Palestinians. She said the displacement of Palestinians felt personal to her because her family fled war in Central America to come to the United States illegally.

“We’ve seen the struggle, being displaced from your home,” she said. “This is a way we can help them.”

In London, a pro-Palestinian march on Saturday attracted thousands of protesters, and similar demonstrations were held in cities around the world.

At the same time, there was growing concern about a rise in attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions.

France banned a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris, citing the “sensitive” international context and the risk of acts of violence against synagogues and Israeli interests in the French capital.

Paris protest organizers pressed ahead on Saturday despite the ban. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the rally, which had drawn about 3,000 people, Agence France-Presse reported.

This past week, German protesters attacked synagogues, burned Israeli flags and marched through the streets chanting slurs against Jews.

Felix Klein, a German official tasked with countering anti-Semitism, said: “It is appalling how obviously Jews in Germany are being held responsible here for actions of the Israeli government in which they are completely uninvolved.”

Britain experienced a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the past week, a charity said on Saturday.

Credit…Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue

The Community Security Trust, a charity that records anti-Semitic threats, said it had received more than 50 reports of Jews across Britain being threatened and verbally abused in the past week — a 490 percent increase from the previous seven days. It said it believed that many more attacks had gone unreported.

Offensive phrases and slogans about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been shouted at Jewish people of all ages, including children, said Dave Rich, the charity’s director of policy. “When the conflict in Israel reaches this level of intensity, we always see increases in anti-Semitic incidents,” he said.

A new round of deadly violence erupted in the Middle East over the past week, as Israeli airstrikes hit targets in Gaza and the militant group Hamas launched rockets at cities inside Israel.

A damaged building in Petah Tikva, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

There is no simple answer to the question “What set off the current violence in Israel?”

But in a recent episode of The Daily, Isabel Kershner, The New York Times’s Jerusalem correspondent, explained the series of recent events that reignited violence in the region.

In Jerusalem, nearly every square foot of land is contested — its ownership and tenancy symbolic of larger abiding questions about who has rightful claim to a city considered holy by three major world religions.

As Isabel explained, a longstanding legal battle over attempts to forcibly evict six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem heightened tensions in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of violence.

The always tenuous peace was further tested by the overlap of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with a month of politically charged days in Israel.

A series of provocative events followed: Israeli forces barred people from gathering to celebrate Ramadan outside Damascus Gate, an Old City entrance that is usually a festive meeting place for young people after the breaking of the daily fast during the holy month.

Then young Palestinians filmed themselves slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jew, videos that went viral on TikTok.

And on Jerusalem Day, an annual event marking the capture of East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, groups of young Israelis marched through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to reach the Western Wall, chanting “Death to Arabs” along the way.

Stability in the city collapsed after a police raid on the Aqsa Mosque complex, an overture that Palestinians saw as an invasion on holy territory. Muslim worshipers threw rocks, and officers met them with tear gas, rubber-tipped bullets and stun grenades. At least 21 police officers and more than 330 Palestinians were wounded in that fighting.

Listen to the episode to hear how these clashes spiraled into an exchange of airstrikes that has brought Israeli forces to the edge of Gaza — and the brink of war.

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Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, Reignited

Rockets, airstrikes and mob violence: Why is this happening now, and how much worse could it get?

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In pictures: Fire and thunder fill the night sky as Israel’s Iron Dome is tested.

As the worst violence in years rages between the Israeli military and Hamas, each night the sky is lit up by a barrage of missiles streaking across the sky and the projectiles designed to counter them.

It is a display of fire and thunder that has been described as both remarkable and horrifying.

The images of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system attempting to shoot down missiles fired by militants in Gaza have been among the most widely shared online, even as the toll wrought by the violence only becomes clear in the light of the next day’s dawn.

“The number of Israelis killed and wounded would be far higher if it had not been for the Iron Dome system, which has been a lifesaver as it always is,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said this week.

The Iron Dome became operational in 2011 and got its biggest first test over eight days in November 2014, when Gaza militants fired some 1,500 rockets aimed at Isreal.

outside experts were skeptical.

The systems’s interceptors — just 6 inches wide and 10 feet long — rely on miniature sensors and computerized brains to zero in on short-range rockets. Israel’s larger interceptors — the Patriot and Arrow systems — can fly longer distances to go after bigger threats.

The Iron Dome was recently upgraded, but the details of the changes were not made public.

In the current conflict, militants in the Gaza Strip have fired nearly 3,000 missiles, the Israeli Air Force said on Sunday, noting that about 1,150 of them had been intercepted.

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Syria’s Surprising Solar Boom: Sunlight Powers the Night in Rebel Idlib

HARANABUSH, Syria — When the Syrian government attacked their village, Radwan al-Shimali’s family hastily threw clothes, blankets and mattresses into their truck and sped off to begin new lives as refugees, leaving behind their house, farmland and television.

Among the belongings they kept was one prized technology: the solar panel now propped up on rock next to the tattered tent they call home in an olive grove near the village of Haranabush in northwestern Syria.

“It is important,” Mr. al-Shimali said of the 270-watt panel, his family’s sole source of electricity. “When there is sun during the day, we can have light at night.”

An unlikely solar revolution of sorts has taken off in an embattled, rebel-controlled pocket of northwestern Syria, where large numbers of people whose lives have been upended by the country’s 10-year-old civil war have embraced the sun’s energy simply because it is the cheapest source of electricity around.

the Islamic State lost its last patch of territory in Syria in 2019, the northwest was importing fuel from Turkey that was much purer but cost more than twice as much, now about $150 for a 58-gallon barrel of Turkish diesel, compared with $60 for a barrel from eastern Syria a few years ago.

That price spike pushed customers into the arms of solar power, said Ahmed Falaha, who sells solar panels and batteries in the town of Binnish in Idlib.

He had originally sold generators, but added solar panels in 2014. They weren’t popular at first because they produced less electricity, but when fuel prices went up, people noticed at night that their neighbors who had solar panels still had lights while they sat in the dark. Demand grew, and in 2017, he stopped selling generators.

“Now we work on solar energy day and night,” he said.

His best sellers were Canadian-made 130-watt panels that had been imported into Syria after a few years at a solar farm in Germany, he said. They cost $38 each.

For those with more to invest, he had Chinese-made 400-watt panels for $100.

His standard package for a modest home consisted of four panels, two batteries, cables and other equipment for $550, he said. Most families could use that to run a refrigerator or washing machine during the day and lights and a television at night.

As people got used to solar power, he started selling large installations to workshops and chicken farms. He recently sold his largest package yet, 160 solar panels for about $20,000, to a farmer who had nearly gone broke buying diesel to run his irrigation pump and needed a cheaper alternative.

“It is expensive at the start, but then it’s free,” Mr. Falaha said, showing a video on his phone of the solar-powered sprinklers watering a lush, green field.

Farmers who embraced solar appreciated the lack of noise and smoke, but what mattered most was price.

“Here, the last thing people think about is the environment,” Mr. Falaha said. Nearby, a colleague of his poured battery acid down the shop’s drain.

Outside of town, Mamoun Kibbi, 46, stood amid lush green fields of fava beans, eggplants and garlic.

In recent years, the price of diesel to power the family’s 40-year-old irrigation pump had gotten so expensive that it erased Mr. Kibbi’s profits. So last year he shelled out nearly $30,000 to install 280 400-watt panels on the flat roof of a defunct chicken farm.

The large swath of panels were on a seesaw base connected to a winch so he could adjust their angle to the sun through the day. When it was sunny, the system kept the pump going for eight hours. It worked less well on cloudy days, but he was pleased with how his crops looked so far.

“It is true that it costs a lot, but then you forget about it for a long time,” he said.

Most people in northwest Syria have simpler energy needs and much less money to invest. More than half of the 4.2 million people in the rebel-held area have been displaced from elsewhere, and many struggle to secure life’s basics, like healthy food, clean water and soap.

But many of the refugee families living in crowded tent camps have at least one solar panel that produces enough energy to charge their phones and power small LED lights at night. Others have three or four panels to power such luxuries as internet routers and televisions.

In the city of Idlib, Ahmed Bakkar, a former fireman, and his family had settled in the second-floor of a four-floor apartment building whose roof had been punched in by an airstrike.

The family had moved six times during the war and lost nearly everything along the way, Mr. Bakkar said. Most of the rooms in the family’s current apartment lacked windows, so he had hung blankets to block the wind. They couldn’t afford heating oil, so they burned pistachio shells to keep warm.

But he had managed to buy four used solar panels that sat on a rack on the balcony, facing the sky.

When the sun was out, they provided enough energy to pump water up to the apartment so they didn’t have to carry it up, and they charged a battery so the family could have some lights at night.

“It works for us because it’s free energy,” said Mr. Bakkar, 50.

His nephew, also Ahmed Bakkar, was less impressed.

“It is an alternative,” he said. But if Syria were more functional and the family could simply plug into the grid, “it would be better.”

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What TikTok Stars Owe ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’

In May 2010, well before the TikTok era, a 12-year-old from Oklahoma named Greyson Chance was summoned to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” A couple of weeks earlier, Greyson had found early viral fame after he posted his middle school talent show performance of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” on YouTube. When Greyson came on the show, where he sat in a plush chair directly across from the daytime star and discussed his Gaga cover, the YouTube video had a million page views.

His “Ellen” appearance brought him to a new stratosphere. In the following days, media coverage around the 12-year-old sensation exploded, and his performance ballooned to more than 30 million views. Madonna’s and Lady Gaga’s managers began representing him. Ms. DeGeneres signed him to a record contract.

“It’s crazy thinking about 30 million people,” Greyson said when he returned to the show two weeks later. “It just makes me happy.”

Next year, Ms. DeGeneres will step down from her daytime talk show, signing off after a 19-season run of light jokes, celebrity interviews and cash giveaways. But perhaps one of the most enduring legacies of her show was the host’s role in the early viral video economy: Making an appearance on “Ellen” brought a viral sensation a whole new wave of clicks, fame and cash.

“Ellen,” Ms. DeGeneres’ role in daytime television has diminished. Her viewership figures have plummeted 44 percent this season, and competitors like “Dr. Phil” (2.4 million viewers) and “Live With Kelly and Ryan” (2.6 million) are now beating “Ellen” by roughly a million viewers.

Likewise, if a YouTube or TikTok performance begins to catch steam, a stop on “Ellen” is no longer a key step to hitting a new threshold of fame.

“Ellen could pluck you off YouTube and make you a star,” said Joe Kessler, the global head of the United Talent Agency’s UTA IQ division, which uses data analytics to advise clients on digital strategies.

introduced a segment called “Ellen’s Wonderful Web of Wonderment,” which promised to “find undiscovered talent online & share it with you!”

As more viral stars appeared on her show, any time an online video started gaining traction a decade ago, “people would reply or comment on these videos: ‘Tell Ellen!’ ‘Call Ellen!’” Ms. Weber said. “That was weirdly the assumed next step for everyone.”

The year after Greyson Chance appeared on “Ellen,” the show invited 8-year-old Sophia Grace, a burgeoning internet personality, and her cousin Rosie to come in from England and to do a cover of a Nicki Minaj song. That video now has more than 144 million views on YouTube.

An “Ellen” appearance usually featured a twist, too. When Greyson came on, Lady Gaga herself phoned in to the show to express her admiration for his performance. When Sophia Grace appeared on “Ellen,” Nicki Minaj made a surprise appearance, and the 8-year-old flung herself into the arms of the singer.

Mr. DeVore estimated that the family had taken in $150,000 from all the exposure, including the sales of T-shirts. And they’re not quite finished milking it, either. Earlier this month, Mr. DeVore auctioned “David After Dentist” as an NFT, or a nonfungible token, a digital collectible item, BuzzFeed reported. It sold for $13,000.

Mr. Kessler, from UTA, estimated that big digital personalities in the early 2010s could make in the mid-six figures.

An influencer now can make in the millions, and in a handful of cases, tens of millions. And as YouTube and TikTok helped the influencer industry take flight, Ms. DeGeneres’s role as a digital kingmaker began to wane.

“If we’re comparing it to now, people’s viral moments are shorter,” Ms. Weber said. “In the time it takes as a producer to call and say, ‘Come on Ellen!’ there’s a new viral moment somewhere else. It’ll be passé.”

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Colonial Pipeline Hack Reveals Weaknesses in US Cybersecurity

For years, government officials and industry executives have run elaborate simulations of a targeted cyberattack on the power grid or gas pipelines in the United States, imagining how the country would respond.

But when the real, this-is-not-a-drill moment arrived, it didn’t look anything like the war games.

The attacker was not a terror group or a hostile state like Russia, China or Iran, as had been assumed in the simulations. It was a criminal extortion ring. The goal was not to disrupt the economy by taking a pipeline offline but to hold corporate data for ransom.

The most visible effects — long lines of nervous motorists at gas stations — stemmed not from a government response but from a decision by the victim, Colonial Pipeline, which controls nearly half the gasoline, jet fuel and diesel flowing along the East Coast, to turn off the spigot. It did so out of concern that the malware that had infected its back-office functions could make it difficult to bill for fuel delivered along the pipeline or even spread into the pipeline’s operating system.

What happened next was a vivid example of the difference between tabletop simulations and the cascade of consequences that can follow even a relatively unsophisticated attack. The aftereffects of the episode are still playing out, but some of the lessons are already clear, and demonstrate how far the government and private industry have to go in preventing and dealing with cyberattacks and in creating rapid backup systems for when critical infrastructure goes down.

nearly $5 million in digital currency to recover its data, the company found that the process of decrypting its data and turning the pipeline back on again was agonizingly slow, meaning it will still be days before the East Coast gets back to normal.

seeks to mandate changes in cybersecurity.

And he suggested that he was willing to take steps that the Obama administration hesitated to take during the 2016 election hacks — direct action to strike back at the attackers.

“We’re also going to pursue a measure to disrupt their ability to operate,” Mr. Biden said, a line that seemed to hint that United States Cyber Command, the military’s cyberwarfare force, was being authorized to kick DarkSide off line, much as it did to another ransomware group in the fall ahead of the presidential election.

Hours later, the group’s internet sites went dark. By early Friday, DarkSide, and several other ransomware groups, including Babuk, which has hacked Washington D.C.’s police department, announced they were getting out of the game.

Darkside alluded to disruptive action by an unspecified law enforcement agency, though it was not clear if that was the result of U.S. action or pressure from Russia ahead of Mr. Biden’s expected summit with President Vladimir V. Putin. And going quiet might simply have reflected a decision by the ransomware gang to frustrate retaliation efforts by shutting down its operations, perhaps temporarily.

The Pentagon’s Cyber Command referred questions to the National Security Council, which declined to comment.

The episode underscored the emergence of a new “blended threat,” one that may come from cybercriminals, but is often tolerated, and sometimes encouraged, by a nation that sees the attacks as serving its interests.That is why Mr. Biden singled out Russia — not as the culprit, but as the nation that harbors more ransomware groups than any other country.

“We do not believe the Russian government was involved in this attack, but we do have strong reason to believe the criminals who did this attack are living in Russia,” Mr. Biden said. “We have been in direct communication with Moscow about the imperative for responsible countries to take action against these ransomware networks.”

With Darkside’s systems down, it is unclear how Mr. Biden’s administration would retaliate further, beyond possible indictments and sanctions, which have not deterred Russian cybercriminals before. Striking back with a cyberattack also carries its own risks of escalation.

The administration also has to reckon with the fact that so much of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector and remains ripe for attack.

“This attack has exposed just how poor our resilience is,” said Kiersten E. Todt, the managing director of the nonprofit Cyber Readiness Institute. “We are overthinking the threat, when we’re still not doing the bare basics to secure our critical infrastructure.”

The good news, some officials said, was that Americans got a wake-up call. Congress came face-to-face with the reality that the federal government lacks the authority to require the companies that control more than 80 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure adopt minimal levels of cybersecurity.

The bad news, they said, was that American adversaries — not only superpowers but terrorists and cybercriminals — learned just how little it takes to incite chaos across a large part of the country, even if they do not break into the core of the electric grid, or the operational control systems that move gasoline, water and propane around the country.

Something as basic as a well-designed ransomware attack may easily do the trick, while offering plausible deniability to states like Russia, China and Iran that often tap outsiders for sensitive cyberoperations.

It remains a mystery how Darkside first broke into Colonial’s business network. The privately held company has said virtually nothing about how the attack unfolded, at least in public. It waited four days before having any substantive discussions with the administration, an eternity during a cyberattack.

Cybersecurity experts also note that Colonial Pipeline would never have had to shut down its pipeline if it had more confidence in the separation between its business network and pipeline operations.

“There should absolutely be separation between data management and the actual operational technology,” Ms. Todt said. “Not doing the basics is frankly inexcusable for a company that carries 45 percent of gas to the East Coast.”

Other pipeline operators in the United States deploy advanced firewalls between their data and their operations that only allow data to flow one direction, out of the pipeline, and would prevent a ransomware attack from spreading in.

Colonial Pipeline has not said whether it deployed that level of security on its pipeline. Industry analysts say many critical infrastructure operators say installing such unidirectional gateways along a 5,500-mile pipeline can be complicated or prohibitively expensive. Others say the cost to deploy those safeguards are still cheaper than the losses from potential downtime.

Deterring ransomware criminals, which have been growing in number and brazenness over the past few years, will certainly be more difficult than deterring nations. But this week made the urgency clear.

“It’s all fun and games when we are stealing each other’s money,” said Sue Gordon, a former principal deputy director of national intelligence, and a longtime C.I.A. analyst with a specialty in cyberissues, said at a conference held by The Cipher Brief, an online intelligence newsletter. “When we are messing with a society’s ability to operate, we can’t tolerate it.”

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Live Updates: Israel Deploys Ground Troops to Shell Gaza

the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Hamas then began firing into Israel with the increasingly potent rockets it has built with the aid of Iran, and Israel responded with air attacks on Hamas and other militant targets in Gaza.

The Biden administration has called for peaceful resolution, while insisting that the rocket attacks on Israel must stop and refraining from any public criticism of Israel.

But the two entrenched sides did not appear ready to cede ground.

“The Americans are talking to me, the Egyptians are talking to me,” Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, said during a video meeting with local council heads, “but I remain focused on the reason we went out on this campaign: to make Hamas and Islamic Jihad pay a price.”

Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

The most surprising turn has been the violence between Jews and Arabs who have lived side by side in Israeli cities, with reports of gangs of people from one group pummeling members of another. Riots, stone throwing and protests continued overnight.

By Friday morning, the Israeli authorities reported that eight Israelis, including one soldier, had been killed. Palestinian health officials reported the death toll in Gaza at 119.

The crisis has come at a time when Israel’s political leaders are struggling to form a government after four inconclusive elections in two years. Mr. Netanyahu’s attempt to build a majority coalition in the Israeli Parliament failed, and his rival, Yair Lapid, had been invited to try to form a government.

A building in Gaza City on Thursday that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike.
Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

GAZA CITY — The taxi was loaded with everything the family would need for Eid al-Fitr, a holiday of feasts and cookies and new clothes that Israeli airstrikes on Gaza had, even before the assault by ground forces on Friday, transfigured into a time of explosions and fear.

In their four suitcases, the al-Hatu family — mother, father, son and daughter — had made sure to pack kaak filled with date paste, the biscuits traditionally shared among friends and family during Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

But they also brought enough clothing and food for several days — no one knew when it might be safe to go back home. Until then, to try to escape the airstrikes, they were going to stay with another daughter, on Al Mughrabi Street, a five-minute drive away.

They had all agreed: It would feel safer if they were all together, said the son, Mohammed al-Hatu, 28.

They were still unloading the taxi driver’s white Skoda sedan outside their temporary home shortly before noon on Wednesday when the first drone attacked.

Mr. al-Hatu’s sister had already lugged one suitcase inside. Mr. al-Hatu, who had been carrying another, staggered into the doorway of the building, bleeding, and collapsed.

Out on the street, their father, Said al-Hatu, 65, and the taxi driver lay dead. A few yards away, their mother, Maysoun al-Hatu, 58, was alive, but desperately wounded.

“Save me,” she begged Yousef al-Draimly, a neighbor who had rushed downstairs, he recounted. “I need an ambulance. Save me.”

An ambulance came, but Ms. al-Hatu did not make it.

Less than a minute after the first strike, a second drone strike ruptured the street, killing two more men: a worker at a laundry on the block and a passer-by. Another man, a barber whose shop was next to the laundry, was so badly wounded that his leg had to be amputated.

On Thursday, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, and the fourth day of the worst conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in years, Gaza City was silent with fear, except when it was loud with terror: the sudden smash of Israeli airstrikes, the whoosh of militants’ rockets arcing toward Israel, the shouts of people checking on one another, the last moans of the dying

Jordanian protesters gathered near the Israeli embassy in Amman, the capital, this week.
Credit…Khalil Mazraawi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

AMMAN, Jordan — Thousands of protesters in Jordan, Israel’s western neighbor, marched toward the border on Friday morning, chanting slogans in solidarity with the Palestinians and waving Palestinian flags as Jordanian riot police guards surrounded them.

“We are here. Either we go down, or they will have to carry us back,” they chanted, videos posted to social media showed. “To Palestine, to Palestine. We are going to Palestine. We are going in millions as martyrs to Palestine.”

Arriving in buses and cars, the protesters called on Jordan’s government to open the border, where it has stepped up security in recent days amid the growing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Before the protesters could reach the demarcation line, however, the riot police blocked their path, social media videos and photos at the scene showed.

Jordanians have been protesting near the Israeli Embassy in Amman for several days, some of the largest expressions of solidarity for the Palestinians in a region that has otherwise reacted mildly if at all to the outbreak of violence. Protesters have called on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador.

Jordan’s 1994 treaty normalizing relations with Israel produced a chilly-at-best peace between the two countries, and the latest conflict has strained it further. This week, Jordan summoned the Israeli chargé d’affaires in Amman to condemn Israeli “attacks on worshipers” around the Aqsa Mosque compound in the walled Old City of Jerusalem, which played a major role in setting off the current conflict.

The conflict is taking a growing toll as Israeli military strikes, Palestinian rocket attacks and street violence continue.

Israeli soldiers near the border between Israel and Gaza on Friday.
Credit…Amir Cohen/Reuters

As United States and Egyptian mediators headed to Israel to begin de-escalation talks, the antagonists were weighing delicate internal considerations before agreeing to discussions on ending the violence.

But even before the mediators got to work, Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, appeared to have calculated that brute force was required first.

Early Friday, Israeli ground troops shelled Gaza — a potentially major move of escalation against the Hamas militants who have been launching hundreds of rockets at Israel.

For the Palestinians, the indefinite postponement of elections last month by the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, created a vacuum that Hamas is more than willing to fill. Hamas argues that it is the only Palestinian faction that, with its large stockpile of improved missiles, is defending the holy places of Jerusalem, turning Mr. Abbas into a spectator.

President Biden has spoken to Mr. Netanyahu and repeated the usual formula about Israel’s right to self-defense. The American leader also dispatched an experienced diplomat, the deputy assistant secretary of state Hady Amr, to urge de-escalation on both sides.

The Biden administration has resisted calls at the United Nations Security Council for an immediate discussion of the crisis, arguing that Mr. Amr and other diplomats need at least a few days to work toward a possible solution.

A proposal to convene an urgent meeting on Friday by the 15-member council was effectively blocked by the United States, diplomats said. Criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians is widespread among members of the United Nations, and the United States has often stood alone in defending Israel, its key Middle East ally.

In Washington, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, when asked about American objections to a Security Council meeting, told reporters on Thursday that “we are open to and supportive of a discussion, an open discussion, at the United Nations,” but wanted to wait until early next week.

“This, I hope, will give some time for the diplomacy to have some effect and to see if indeed we get a real de-escalation,” Mr. Blinken said.

Rockets launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip on Friday.
Credit…Anas Baba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Palestinian militants have fired some 1,800 rockets from Gaza at Israel this week, far more than in previous clashes, according to Israeli officials, who on Thursday expressed surprise at the size of the barrage and the range of some of the rockets.

Israel’s “Iron Dome” antimissile system has shot down many of the rockets, and many others have struck places where they could do little damage. But some of the rockets, which are unguided, have hit populated areas, blowing up buildings and cars and killing seven people in Israel.

The increasingly sophisticated arsenal of rockets is the primary weapon of Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. Other groups there, like Islamic Jihad, also have them. Israeli intelligence estimates there are 30,000 rockets and mortar projectiles stockpiled in Gaza.

Hamas was believed before this week to have rockets with ranges approaching 100 miles, and many more with shorter ranges. Israel’s largest cities, Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, as well as its primary airport, Ben Gurion airport, are within 40 miles of Gaza. The airport has been closed to incoming passenger flights because of the danger, with flights diverted to Ramon airport to the southeast.

But rockets have also been fired at Ramon, more than 110 miles from the nearest part of Gaza. A Hamas spokesman said the rockets aimed at that airport were a new type that could travel 155 miles, putting all of Israel within range of Gaza. The claim could not be verified, and it was not clear how many of the new rockets the group had.

In the past, many of the rockets fired from Gaza were smuggled in from Egypt, or assembled locally from smuggled parts. But in recent years, most have been made in Gaza, with technical assistance from Iran that Hamas has openly acknowledged.

A tunnel in 2018 that Israel said was dug by the Islamic Jihad group at the Israel-Gaza border.
Credit…Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

As the Israel Defense Forces strike Gaza with jets and drones, a key target has been a network of tunnels underneath the Palestinian-controlled territory that the militant Islamic group Hamas is known to use for deploying militants and smuggling weapons.

A spokesman for the Israeli military described the complex network as a “city beneath a city.”

The tunnels were also the main rationale that Israel gave for its ground invasion of Gaza during its 2014 battle with Hamas. Israel’s leaders said afterward that they had destroyed 32 tunnels during the 2014 operation, including 14 that penetrated into Israeli territory.

At the time of that fighting, the Israel Defense Forces took reporters into a 6-foot-by-2-foot tunnel running almost two miles under the border to show the threat posed by the tunnels, and the difficulty that Israel has in finding and destroying them.

Here is an excerpt from what they reported:

Tunnels from Gaza to Israel have had a powerful hold on the Israeli psyche since 2006, when Hamas militants used one to capture an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who was held for five years before being released in a prisoner exchange.

The tunnels can be quite elaborate. The tunnel toured by journalists was reinforced with concrete and had a rack on the wall for electrical wiring. It also featured a metal track along the floor, used by carts that removed dirt during the tunnel’s construction, that could be used to ferry equipment and weapons, the Israeli military said.

Israeli officials acknowledge that it is a difficult technological and operational challenge to destroy all of the subterranean passageways and neutralize the threat they pose. The tunnels are well hidden, said the officer who conducted the tour, and some tunnels are booby-trapped.

A damaged building in Petah Tikva, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.
Credit…Dan Balilty for The New York Times

There is no simple answer to the question “What set off the current violence in Israel?”

But in an episode of The Daily this week, Isabel Kershner, The New York Times’s Jerusalem correspondent, explained the series of recent events that reignited violence in the region.

In Jerusalem, nearly every square foot of land is contested — its ownership and tenancy symbolic of larger abiding questions about who has rightful claim to a city considered holy by three major world religions.

As Isabel explained, a longstanding legal battle over attempts to forcibly evict six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem heightened tensions in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of violence.

The always tenuous peace was further tested by the overlap of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with a month of politically charged days in Israel.

A series of provocative events followed: Israeli forces barred people from gathering to celebrate Ramadan outside Damascus Gate, an Old City entrance that is usually a festive meeting place for young people after the breaking of the daily fast during the holy month.

Then young Palestinians filmed themselves slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jew on a light rail, videos that went viral on TikTok.

And on Jerusalem Day, an annual event marking the capture of East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, groups of young Israelis marched through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter to reach the Western Wall, chanting, “Death to Arabs,” along the way.

Stability in the city collapsed after a police raid on the Aqsa Mosque complex, an overture that Palestinians saw as an invasion on holy territory. Muslim worshipers threw rocks, and officers met them with tear gas, rubber tipped bullets and stun grenades. At least 21 police officers and more than 330 Palestinians were wounded in that fighting.

Listen to the episode to hear how these clashes spiraled into an exchange of airstrikes that has brought Israeli forces to the edge of Gaza — and the brink of war.

The Daily Poster

Listen to ‘The Daily’: The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis, Reignited

Rockets, airstrikes and mob violence: Why is this happening now, and how much worse could it get?

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