KOROPY, Ukraine — Four men tugged at long strips of fabric to lift a coffin out of the gaping hole in the backyard of a small house. They flung the lid open to reveal the moldy corpse of Oleksiy Ketler, who had been killed instantly by shrapnel when a mortar fell on the road in Koropy, a village outside Khavkiv in northeastern Ukraine, in March.
Mr. Ketler, a father of two young children, would have celebrated his 33rd birthday on June 25, if he had not been outside his house at the wrong time. Now, his body has become another exhibit in Ukraine’s wide-ranging effort to collect evidence to prosecute Russia and its military for war crimes in the brutal killings of Ukrainian civilians.
Experts say the process is proceeding with extraordinary speed and may become the biggest effort in history to hold war criminals to account. But it faces an array of formidable challenges.
rape, execution-style killings and the deportation of what Mr. Belousov said could be tens of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia — were being investigated.
Better Understand the Russia-Ukraine War
At the same time, hundreds of international experts, investigators and prosecutors have descended on Ukraine from an alphabet soup of international agencies.
Early in the war, the top prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, arrived in Ukraine with several dozen investigators. But the court, which is based in the Netherlands, tries a limited number of cases, and usually seeks to prosecute only the upper echelon of political and military leaders.
It is also slow: Investigators working on the 2008 Russian-Georgian war did not apply for arrest warrants until this year.
There are a number of other initiatives, too. Amal Clooney, an international human rights lawyer, is part of a team advising the Ukrainian government on bringing international legal action against Russia. The United Nations has started a commission to investigate human rights violations in Ukraine — with three human rights experts — but cannot establish a formal tribunal because Russia wields veto power on the U.N. Security Council.
Investigators in Poland are collecting testimonies from refugees who fled there to feed to Ukrainian prosecutors. France has sent mobile DNA analysis teams to embed with the Ukrainian authorities to collect evidence. Nongovernmental organizations based in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, are going to territories recently occupied by Russian soldiers to collect witness statements.
The involvement of multiple countries and organizations does not necessarily lead to a more productive investigation, said Wayne Jordash, a British criminal lawyer who lives in Ukraine. Mr. Jordash, who is part of an international task force supporting Ukrainian prosecutors, was critical of some of the efforts to assist Ukraine judicially, describing it as “smoke and mirrors,” without results and clear priorities.
The International Criminal Court’s investigators were only just getting going, he noted, and experts from other countries have also been cycling in for stints of several weeks.
“You can’t just parachute into an investigation for two weeks and expect it to be meaningful,” Mr. Jordash said.
Iva Vukusic, a scholar of post-conflict justice at the University of Utrecht, said, “Resources are being poured in, but maybe down the line we will see that they were not being spent the right way,” for instance, duplicating investigation efforts rather than providing psychosocial support to victims.
Ms. Vukusic pointed out the large size of the endeavor. Across the country, she said, “there are thousands of potential suspects, and thousands of potential trials.” All of the material needs to be properly marshaled and analyzed, she said.
“If you have 100,000 items — videos, statements, documents — if you don’t know what you’re sitting on, it limits the use of material,” Ms. Vukusic said.
She also cautioned that the International Criminal Court’s leadership could face criticism by collaborating too closely with the Ukrainian authorities because, she said, Ukraine was also “an actor in this war.”
She feared Ukrainian officials were setting expectations for justice very high, and possibly wasting scarce resources on absentia trials.
“No big caseis going to be finished in two years or five years because of the scale of the violence and the fact it is going on for so long,” she said.
Mr. Belousov, the Ukrainian war crimes prosecutor, acknowledged as much. “We are playing a long game,” he said. Even if the perpetrator is tried and convicted in absentia, Mr. Belousov said, “We understand in a year, or two or three or five, these guys won’t be able to avoid punishment.”
Mr. Belousov said that he appreciated the international assistance but that coordinating it was the “biggest challenge” law enforcement authorities experienced.
For example, the Kharkiv prosecutors used a shiny new forensic investigation kit donated by the European Union for their exhumation in Koropy, the village in northeast Ukraine. But a police officer from a unit in Dmytrivka, a 45-minute drive west of Kyiv, said they had not seen or met with any international investigators or received any equipment from them.
Mr. Belousov said Ukraine wanted to take the lead in prosecuting the cases — a divergence from previous post-conflict situations in which the national authorities initially left the process to international tribunals.
But most Ukrainian investigators have little experience in these kinds of inquiries.
For example, Andriy Andriychuk, who joined the police force in the region west of Kyiv two years ago, said his work previously involved investigating local disputes or livestock theft. Now it involves “a lot more corpses,” he said.
On a recent sunny afternoon, he was called to a wooded area near the town of Dmytrivka. Several days before, police officers had received a call from foresters who had come upon a man’s grave. The dead man, Mykola Medvid, 56, had been buried with his passport; his hat was hung on top of a cross made out of sticks.
His daughter and his cousin identified his body. The local morgue officially established the cause of death: a fatal shot in the chest.
Since then, his daughter Mariia Tremalo has not heard from the investigators. No witnesses have come forward, and it was unclear who might have killed her father, or why. Still, she is hungry for justice.
“My father will never be returned,” she said. “But I would like the perpetrators to be punished.”
Right now that seems all but impossible.
In Koropy, the village near Kharkiv, Mr. Ketler’s mother, Nadezhda Ketler, was inconsolable as the gravediggers and inspectors worked. She wandered down the road to another part of her property. Six officials stood over her son’s body, photographing and documenting as his best friend, Mykhailo Mykhailenko, who looked petrified and smelled of stale alcohol, identified him.
The next day, Mr. Ketler’s body was taken to the city’s morgue, where the final cause of death was established.
Eventually, Ms. Ketler gathered the strength to show investigators the crater made by the bomb that killed him, leading the police to the exact spot where he died. Ms. Ketler stood looking at the trees as they rustled in the wind. She did not speak to anyone. She said she did not know if a guilty verdict in a war crimes trial, if it ever came, would ease the pain of losing her child.
“I had to bury my son twice,” Ms. Ketler said later. “You understand, this is hard enough to do once, and to have to do it a second time. The pain of a mother will not go anywhere.”
Evelina Riabenko, Diana Poladova and Oleksandr Chubko contributed reporting.
KHARKIV, Ukraine — Russia plunged into a new chapter of the Ukraine war on Tuesday, intent on capturing the eastern part of the country and crushing Ukrainian defenses without the same blunders that badly damaged Russian forces in the conflict’s initial weeks.
“Another phase of this operation is starting now,” Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia said, as the Russian Defense Ministry announced that its missile and artillery forces had struck hundreds of Ukrainian military targets overnight.
The strikes mainly hit the eastern region known as Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, where pro-Moscow separatists have battled Ukrainian forces since Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.
The Donbas has now become the stated territorial objective of Russia’s redeployed invasion force along a front that stretches roughly 300 miles, from an area near the northern city of Kharkiv to the besieged southern port of Mariupol, where die-hard Ukrainian defenders ensconced in a sprawling steel plant have repeatedly defied Russian demands to surrender.
rushing to send longer-range weapons including howitzers, antiaircraft systems, anti-ship missiles, armed drones and even tanks — arms that American officials said were designed to thwart the Russian offensive.
Western military experts said the offensive promised to be much more methodical than the blitz-like operation the Kremlin launched Feb. 24 to subjugate Ukraine, which was marked by rapid and ultimately unsuccessful advances of tanks and helicopter assaults deep inside the former Soviet republic.
left thousands of civilians dead or wounded, caused Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, deeply isolated Russia economically because of Western sanctions and turned President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia into a pariah who has been described as a war criminal in the United States and Europe.
While there have not yet been any large offensives in the Donbas region, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said in a statement Tuesday that Russian forces were laying the groundwork for a future push: more surface-to-air missile systems have been shuttled to the front to protect important positions and more artillery positions have appeared.
were trapped at a large steel factory in Mariupol along with Ukrainian forces that are waging what appears to be the last defense of the city. Russia is seeking to take the city as part of a strategically important “land bridge” to occupied Crimea.
Possible banned weapons. Based on evidence reviewed by The Times, it is likely that Ukrainian troops used cluster munitions in an eastern village that they were attempting to retake from Russian forces. The weapons are banned by many countries for the harm they can cause to civilians.
Russia’s economy. While President Vladimir V. Putin boasted that the Russian economy is holding up under Western sanctions, his central bank chief warned that the consequences were only beginning to be felt, and Moscow’s mayor said that 200,000 jobs are at risk in the capital alone.
The Donbas battle, on wide-open terrain, will look significantly different from the urban warfare around Kyiv, where the Russian military tried and failed to advance.
This does not mean that Ukraine no longer needs the anti-tank and air-defense systems that have been so effective so far, military analysts said. In addition, the Ukrainians will need powerful arms to enable a counteroffensive of their own.
The $800 million military aid package to Ukraine that President Biden announced last week for the first time included more sophisticated artillery weaponry as well as 200 armored personnel carriers. In a conference call with allies on Tuesday, Mr. Biden promised more artillery for Ukraine’s forces.
Atlantic Council analysis last week.
“This phase of the conflict will be distinct from phase one, with a greater focus on offensives against dug-in combatants as opposed to Ukrainian defense against a large attacking force,” Colonels Wetzel and Barranco wrote. “The campaign is likely to become a bloody war of attrition with limited territorial gains on either side.”
Capturing the besieged city of Mariupol is a key part of the Russian campaign. The fall of the city, which has come to symbolize the death and devastation wrought by the invasion, would allow Russia to complete a land bridge between Russian-held territory and the Crimean peninsula.
A sprawling Soviet-era steel factory in Mariupol, which its designers have said was built to withstand a nuclear attack, has been sheltering thousands of soldiers and civilians and is the last Ukrainian redoubt there.
Russian commanders said Tuesday they were beginning their final assault on the factory, the Azovstal steel plant, after the defenders had rejected ultimatums to surrender. A Ukrainian officer in Mariupol, Maj. Sergiy Volyna, wrote on a Telegram channel that “we are ready to fight to the last drop of blood.”
Thomas Gibbons-Neff reported from Kharkiv, Michael Schwirtz from Dnipro, Ukraine, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Reporting was contributed byNatalia Yermak and Tyler Hicks from Kharkiv. Katie Rogers from Washington and Rick Gladstone from New York.
“Cards was my childhood, how can I hate it?” Raoul said recently. “And I was the best.”
One night, as Raoul slept — his bedroom window had the dining table nailed to it, to protect against snipers — bombing started. His mother cried out for him, looking frantically until they found Raoul, then 5, crying while hugging a framed photo of the Virgin Mary that had fallen from the wall, praying for his life. He developed a stutter after that.
“When I left Lebanon, I left. I only took my stutter with me,” said Raoul, who has lived in the United Arab Emirates and Poland since leaving Lebanon. “That’s it. That’s the baggage I took with me.”
I was lucky. I did not grow up in Lebanon, at least not full time, as my father worked abroad, waiting for the war to end and the chance to move back.
Yet every summer, no matter what happened — an Israeli invasion, the suicide bombing that killed hundred of U.S. Marines — we went back, to be with our family, to hold their hands and say: We have not abandoned you. It was the most twisted of survivor’s guilt, a role I played every summer until we moved back to Lebanon in the early 1990s when I was 10.
We had our close calls during those summer visits. In 1985, my mother took my siblings and me to run an errand and she pulled off the highway to take another route. Seconds later, a giant explosion ripped through where our car had been idling, killing at least 50 people. We watched the wounded flee, blood streaming down their faces.
Many are left wondering how their adult lives would be better if their childhoods had been different.
For Abed Bibi, a 58-year old married to a friend of mine, he cannot handle the dark.
PANJSHIR, Afghanistan — In this lush strip of land — walled off from potential invaders by high mountain peaks and narrow, ambush-prone passes — former mujahedeen fighters and Afghan commandos regrouped in the days after the Taliban toppled the Afghan government, vowing to fight to the last man. With its history of resistance and its reputation for impenetrability, the Panjshir Valley seemed an ideal place for a determined force of renegades to base an insurgency.
By Sept. 6, however, the Taliban claimed to have captured the entire province of Panjshir, a momentous victory in a region that repelled numerous Soviet offensives in the 1980s, and had remained beyond the Taliban’s control during its rule from 1996 to 2001.
their origin story and their record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be. One spokesman told The Times that the group wanted to forget its past, but that there would be some restrictions.
He said that Qari Qudratullah, the new provincial governor, was meeting with elders to discuss a peaceful handover.
A Taliban military commission official, Mullah Hafiz Osman, later confirmed this was true, while Mr. Nazary, the resistance spokesman, denied the claim.
Behind the Panjshiri fighters flew the green, white and black flag of the Northern Alliance, repurposed to signify the National Resistance Front, which is led by Ahmad Massoud, son of Ahmad Shad Massoud, the leader assassinated in 2001. But villagers said that the Taliban had long been active in the valley, and that their takeover had been negotiated by some of the residents.
Outside the tomb of the elder Massoud, a young Talib, far from his home in Helmand Province in the south, performed his evening prayers.
Days earlier, photos of the partially destroyed tomb, in a dramatic hilltop mausoleum overlooking the valley, appeared on social media alongside accusations that the Taliban had ransacked the place. “This wasn’t our work,” one of the Taliban guards said. “Civilians broke in and smashed the glass.”
The site had since been repaired by the Taliban and was now in its original state. A group of guards stood around the tomb, and as evening fell, they stretched a green shroud over it and closed the doors for the night.
Outside the valley, those who had fled wondered if they would ever be able to return.
When the Taliban first entered Panjshir, Sahar, 17, and her family barricaded themselves at home, thinking the resistance would eventually chase the Talibs away. But the fighting steadily drew closer.
Neighbors started to flee, said Sahar, whose last name is being withheld to protect her identity. Her uncle and cousin were stopped at a Taliban checkpoint near the village, she said, where they were beaten and ordered to turn over their weapons and the names of resistance fighters.
Last week, the family escaped through the mountains. They walked for five days, through remote valleys and over mountain ridges. Sahar fainted three times from dehydration, she said, and her mother had blisters and swollen feet. Her father, who is diabetic, nearly collapsed.
Eventually, they hitched a ride to Kabul, the country’s capital, where they had relatives with whom they are now living.
“We don’t know what will happen,” Sahar said by phone from Kabul. “We may never be able to get back.”
Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York, N.Y. Wali Arian contributed from Istanbul, Turkey.
She was a gifted agricultural scientist educated at prestigious universities in Shanghai and Tokyo. She said she wanted to help farmers in poor areas, like her hometown in Xinjiang, in western China. But because of her uncle’s activism for China’s oppressed Muslim Uyghurs, her family and friends said, the Chinese state made her a security target.
At first they took away her father. Then they pressed her to return home from Japan. Last year, at age 30, Mihriay Erkin, the scientist, died in Xinjiang, under mysterious circumstances.
The government confirmed Ms. Erkin’s death but attributed it to an illness. Her uncle, Abduweli Ayup, the activist, believes she died in state custody.
Mr. Ayup says his niece was only the latest in his family to come under pressure from the authorities. His two siblings had already been detained and imprisoned. All three were targeted in retaliation for his efforts to expose the plight of the Uyghurs, he said.
called a genocide, prompting foreign governments to impose sanctions.
Now the Chinese authorities are pushing back against overseas Uyghurs by targeting their relatives.
The Communist Party has long treated the relatives of dissidents as guilty by association and used them to pressure and punish outspoken family members. With the courts under the control of the authorities, there is little recourse to challenge such prosecutions. Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo, spent nearly eight years under house arrest after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Her younger brother, Liu Hui, served two years in prison for a fraud conviction she called retaliation.
But with the Uyghurs, the authorities seem to be applying this tactic with unusual, and increasing severity, placing some Uyghur activists’ relatives in prison for decades, or longer.
Dolkun Isa, the German-based president of the World Uyghur Congress, a Uyghur rights group, said he believes his older brother is in detention. He learned in late May that his younger brother, Hushtar, had been sentenced to life in prison. “It was connected to my activism, surely,” Mr. Isa said.
Radio Free Asia, a United States-funded broadcaster, says that more than 50 relatives of journalists on staff have been detained in Xinjiang, with some held in detention camps and others sentenced to prison. The journalists all work for the broadcaster’s Uyghur language service, which has in the past several years stood out for its reporting on the crackdown, exposing the existence of camps and publishing the first accounts of deaths and forced sterilizations.
The sister of Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur American activist, was sentenced in December to 20 years in prison for terrorism. The sister, Gulshan Abbas, and her aunt had been detained in 2018, days after Rushan Abbas spoke at an event in Washington denouncing the crackdown and widespread detention in Xinjiang.
use of the Uyghur language. The government regarded even the most moderate expression of ethnic identity as a threat and Mr. Ayup was arrested in 2013 and spent 15 months in prison. After he was released, he fled abroad, but his experience emboldened him to continue campaigning.
a leaked government document outlining how Uyghurs were tracked and chosen for detention.
The circumstances of Ms. Erkin’s death remain unclear.
Radio Free Asia, which cited a national security officer from Ms. Erkin’s hometown as saying she had died while in a detention center in the southern city of Kashgar. Mr. Ayup said he believed it was the same place where he himself had been beaten and sexually abused six years earlier.
Ms. Erkin’s family was given her body, Mr. Ayup said, but were told by security officials to not have guests at her funeral and to tell others she died at home.
In a statement to The New York Times, the Xinjiang government said that Ms. Erkin had returned from overseas in June 2019 to receive medical treatment. On Dec. 19, she died at a hospital in Kashgar of organ failure caused by severe anemia, according to the statement.
From the time she went to the hospital until her death, she had always been looked after by her uncle and younger brother, the government wrote.
Before she returned to China, Ms. Erkin seemed to be aware that her return could end tragically.
“We all leave alone, the only things that can accompany us are the Love of Allah and our smile,” she wrote in text messages to Mr. Ayup when he tried to dissuade her from going home.
“I am very scared,” she admitted. “I hope I would be killed with a single bullet.”
A scrappy force of local Tigrayan recruits scored a cascade of battlefield victories against the Ethiopian military, one of Africa’s strongest. Times journalists witnessed the decisive week in an eight-month civil war.
Text by Declan Walsh
Photographs by Finbarr O’Reilly
SAMRE, Ethiopia — The Tigrayan fighters whooped, whistled and pointed excitedly to a puff of smoke in the sky, where an Ethiopian military cargo plane trundling over the village minutes earlier had been struck by a missile.
Smoke turned to flames as the stricken aircraft broke in two and hurtled toward the ground. Later, in a stony field strewn with smoking wreckage, villagers picked through twisted metal and body parts. For the Tigrayan fighters, it was a sign.
“Soon we’re going to win,” said Azeb Desalgne, a 20-year-old with an AK-47 over her shoulder.
The downing of the plane on June 22 offered bracing evidence that the conflict in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia was about to take a seismic turn. A Tigrayan guerrilla army had been fighting to drive out the Ethiopian military for eight months in a civil war marked by atrocities and starvation. Now the fight seemed to be turning in their favor.
The war erupted in November, when a simmering feud between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Tigrayan leaders, members of a small ethnic minority who had dominated Ethiopia for much of the three previous decades, exploded into violence.
airstrike had struck a crowded village market that day, killing dozens. We watched as the first casualties arrived at Mekelle’s largest hospital.
Days later, three aid workers from Doctors Without Borders were brutally murdered by unknown assailants.
In the countryside, the war was moving at a furious pace. Ethiopian military positions fell like dominoes. Hours after the Tigrayans shot down the military cargo plane, we reached a camp holding several thousand newly captured Ethiopian soldiers, about 30 miles south of Mekelle.
Clustered behind a barbed wire fence, the prisoners erupted into applause when we stepped from our vehicle — hoping, they later explained, that we were Red Cross workers.
Some were wounded, others barefoot — Tigrayans confiscated their boots as well as their guns, they said — and many pleaded for help. “We have badly wounded soldiers here,” said Meseret Asratu, 29, a platoon commander.
Further along the road was the battlefield where others had died. The bodies of Ethiopian soldiers were scattered across a rocky field, untouched since a fight four days earlier, now swelling in the afternoon sun.
Personal items cast aside nearby, amid empty ammunition boxes and abandoned uniforms, hinted at young lives interrupted: dog-eared photos of loved ones, but also university certificates, chemistry textbooks and sanitary pads — a reminder that women fight on both sides of the conflict.
Stragglers were still being rounded up. The next day, Tigrayan fighters marched five just-captured prisoners up a hill, where they slumped to the ground, exhausted.
Dawit Toba, a glum 20-year-old from the Oromia region of Ethiopia, said he had surrendered without firing a shot. War in Tigray was not like he had imagined it. “We were told there would be fighting,” he said. “But when we got here it was looting, robbery, attacks on women.”
“This war was not necessary,” he added. “Mistakes have been made.”
Driving off, we came across a figure sprawled on the roadside — an Ethiopian, stripped of his uniform, with several bullet wounds to his leg. He groaned softly.
The wounded soldier appeared to have been dumped there, although it wasn’t clear by whom. We drove him back to the prisoner camp, where Ethiopian medics did some basic treatment on the ground outside a school. Nobody was sure if he would survive.
Artillery boomed in the distance. The Tigrayan offensive was continuing to the north, using captured heavy guns against the Ethiopian troops who had brought them in. A platoon of fighters walked through, bearing a wounded man on a stretcher. Teklay Tsegay, 20, watched them pass.
Before the war, Mr. Teklay was a mechanic in Adigrat, 70 miles north. Then, last February, Eritrean soldiers fired into his aunt’s house, killing her 5-year-old daughter, he said. The following day, Mr. Teklay slipped out of Adigrat to join the resistance.
“I never thought I would be a soldier,” he said. “But here I am.”
As Tigrayans quietly mustered a guerrilla army this year, they drew on their experience of fighting a brutal Marxist dictatorship in Ethiopia in the 1970s and 1980s, under the flag of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Then, Tigrayan intellectuals used Marxist ideology to bind peasant fighters to their cause, much like the Viet Cong or rebels in Angola and Mozambique.
But this time, the Tigrayan fighters are largely educated and hail from the towns and cities. And it is anger at atrocities, not Marxism, that drew them to the cause.
At the recruitment camp, instructors standing under trees gave speeches about Tigrayan culture and identity, and taught new recruits to fire an AK-47.
The wave of recruits has included doctors, university professors, white-collar professionals and diaspora Tigrayans from the United States and Europe, colleagues and friends said. Even in government-held Mekelle, recruitment grew increasingly brazen.
Two weeks ago, a T.D.F. poster appeared on a wall beside St. Gabriel’s, the city’s largest church. “Those who fail to join are as good as the walking dead,” it read. Hours later, Ethiopian soldiers arrived and tore it down.
Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe, 61, a senior fellow at the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, in Massachusetts, was visiting Mekelle when war erupted in November. I found him near the town of Samre, a leather-holstered pistol on his hip.
“I joined the resistance,” said the academic, who once helped broker a peace deal for the United Nations in Darfur. “I felt I had no other option.”
Even some Ethiopian commanders felt alienated by Mr. Abiy’s approach to the conflict.
Until late June, Col. Hussein Mohamed, a tall man with a gold-tooth smile, commanded the 11th Infantry Division in Tigray. Now he was a prisoner, held with other Ethiopian officers in a closely guarded farmhouse.
Of the 3,700 troops under his command, at least half were probably dead, said Colonel Hussein, confirming that he was speaking voluntarily. “The course of this war is political madness, to my mind,” he said.
He always had serious reservations about Mr. Abiy’s military alliance with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s old foe, he said: “They ransack properties, they rape women, they commit atrocities. The whole army is unhappy about this marriage.”
Still, Ethiopian soldiers have been accused of much the same crimes. I met Colonel Hussein in a stone-walled room, with a tin roof, as rain splattered outside. When the room’s owner, Tsehaye Berhe, arrived with a tray of coffee cups, her face clouded over.
“Take it!” she snapped at the Ethiopian officer. “I’m not serving you.”
Moments later Ms. Tsehaye returned to apologize. “I’m sorry for being emotional,” she said. “But your soldiers burned my house and stole my crops.”
Colonel Hussein nodded quietly.
Even before Ethiopian forces abandoned Mekelle on June 28, there were hints that something was afoot. The internet went down, and at the regional headquarters where Mr. Abiy had installed an interim government, I found deserted corridors and locked offices. Outside, federal police officers were slinging backpacks into a bus.
Smoke rose from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces’ headquarters in Mekelle — a pyre of burning documents, it turned out, piled high by detainees accused of supporting the T.D.F.
Weeks earlier, Ethiopian intelligence officers had tortured one of them, Yohannes Haftom, with a cattle prod. “We will burn you,” Mr. Yohannes recalled them saying. “We will bury you alive.”
But after he followed their orders to cart their confidential documents to the burn pit on June 28, the Ethiopians set Mr. Yohannes free. Hours later, the first T.D.F. fighters entered Mekelle, setting off days of raucous celebration.
Residents filled streets where young fighters paraded on vehicles like beauty queens, or leaned from speeding tuktuks spraying gunfire into the air. Nightclubs and cafes filled up, and an older woman prostrated herself at the feet of a just-arrived fighter, shouting thanks to God.
On the fourth day, fighters paraded thousands of Ethiopian prisoners through the city center, in a show of triumphalism that was a pointed rebuke to the leader of Ethiopia. “Abiy is a thief!” people chanted as dejected soldiers marched past.
The celebrations eventually reached the house where Mr. Getachew, the Tigrayan leader and T.D.F. spokesman, now descended from his mountain base, was staying.
As the whiskey flowed, Mr. Getachew juggled calls on his satellite phone while a generator rattled in the background. Mr. Abiy had once been his political ally, even his friend, he said. Now the Ethiopian leader had cut the power and phone lines to Mekelle and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Buoyed by victory, the guests excitedly discussed the next phase of their war in Tigray. One produced a cake with the Tigrayan flag that Mr. Getachew, sharing a knife with a senior commander, cut to loud cheers.
For much of his career, he had been a staunch defender of the Ethiopian state. But the war made that position untenable, he said. Now he was planning a referendum on Tigrayan independence.
“Nothing can save the Ethiopian state as we know it, except a miracle,” he said. “And I don’t usually believe in them.”
GAZA CITY — The nine-day battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military has damaged 17 hospitals and clinics in Gaza, wrecked its only coronavirus test laboratory, sent fetid wastewater into its streets and broke water pipes serving at least 800,000 people, setting off a humanitarian crisis that is touching nearly every civilian in the crowded enclave of about two million people.
Sewage systems inside Gaza have been destroyed. A desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people in the territory is offline. Dozens of schools have been damaged or closed, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes. Some 72,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes. And at least 213 Palestinians have been killed, including dozens of children.
The level of destruction and loss of life in Gaza has underlined the humanitarian challenge in the enclave, already suffering under the weight of an indefinite blockade by Israel and Egypt even before the latest conflict.
demonstrations began peacefully but led to clashes in some places in the West Bank Outside Ramallah, a group of Palestinians who had gathered separately from the protesters set fires on a major thoroughfare and later exchanged gunfire with Israeli soldiers, officials said. Three Palestinians were killed.
Rocket fire from Palestinian militants has also harmed Israeli infrastructure, damaging a gas pipeline and pausing operations at a gas rig and at two major Israeli airports.
But the damage was incomparable to that in Gaza.
Until Monday evening, Al Rimal health clinic in central Gaza City housed Gaza’s only coronavirus test laboratory. Doctors and nurses there administered hundreds of vaccinations, prescriptions and screenings a day to more than 3,000 patients.
But on Monday night an Israeli airstrike hit the street outside, sending shrapnel into the clinic, shattering windows, shredding doors, furniture and computers, caking rooms in debris and wrecking the virus lab.
adherence to the international laws of war, which bar the targeting of purely civilian sites and limit acceptable collateral damage to that which is proportionate to any military advantage.
according to a report last year by the United Nations, have left Gaza with “the world’s highest unemployment rate” and more than half of its population living below the poverty line.
By Monday, Israeli bombs had destroyed 132 residential buildings and rendered 316 housing units uninhabitable, according to Gaza’s Housing Ministry.
One airstrike essentially destroyed the Hala al Shawa clinic in northern Gaza which also provides primary health-care services and vaccinations, while another damaged four ambulances nearby, the Health Ministry said.
The blast from a third airstrike broke windows in operating rooms, forcing the clinic to transfer surgery patients to other hospitals, said Abdelsalam Sabah, the ministry’s hospitals director. A separate airstrike caused some structural damage to the nearby Indonesian hospital, he added. A piece of shrapnel flew into the emergency room at the Gaza Eye Hospital, nearly wounding a nurse, he said.
The strike on Al Rimal clinic in Gaza City also damaged the administrative offices of the Hamas-run Health Ministry, said Dr. Majdi Dhair, director of the ministry’s preventive medicine department.
One ministry employee was hospitalized and in serious condition after shrapnel struck him in the head, Dr. Dhair said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“This attack was barbaric,” he said. “There’s no way to justify it.”
Reporting was contributed by Patrick Kingsley and Myra Noveck from Jerusalem; Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel; and Irit Pazner Garshowitz from Tzur Hadassah.
Yitzhak Arad, who as an orphaned teenage partisan fought the Germans and their collaborators during World War II, then went on to become an esteemed scholar of the Holocaust and the longtime chairman of the Yad Vashem remembrance and research center in Israel, died on May 6 in a hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 94.
Yad Vashem announced the death but did not specify the cause.
Mr. Arad was not even bar mitzvahed when the Germans invaded Poland and what is now part of Lithuania in 1939 and began rounding up and murdering Jews and forcing them into ghettos. His parents and 30 close family members would perish before the war ended in 1945.
But he survived, at first as a forced laborer — cleaning captured Soviet weapons in a munitions warehouse — and then, sensing what fate awaited, by smuggling weapons to partisans in the nearby forests and forming an underground movement in the ghetto. He, his sister and their underground associates eventually stole a revolver and escaped, meeting up with a brigade of Soviet partisans.
Acquiring the lifelong nickname Tolya (diminutive for Anatoly), he took part in ambushing German bases in what is now Belarus and setting up mines that blew up more than a dozen trains carrying German soldiers and supplies. Among his exploits was a battle with pro-German Lithuanian partisans in fields and forests covered in deep snow in the village of Girdan.
“We fought with them for a whole day, but by evening none of them remained alive,” he wrote in a 1979 memoir, “The Partisan: From the Valley of Death to Mt. Zion.” “The next day we counted over 250 Lithuanian dead.”
A Zionist since childhood, Mr. Arad made his way to Palestine, then a British mandate, aboard a ship, the Hannah Senesh, filled with immigrants.
He changed his Polish name, Icchak Rudnicki, to the Hebrew, Yitzhak Arad, and joined the fight for an autonomous Jewish land, serving with the Palmach, the elite fighting force that was eventually incorporated into the Israeli Army after Israel declared its independence in 1948. Assigned to an armor brigade, he rose to the rank of brigadier general, retiring in 1972.
He devoted himself to researching the history of the Holocaust, completing a doctorate at Tel Aviv University with a treatise on the destruction of the Jews of Vilna, Lithuania’s capital, now known as Vilnius. He was among the first scholars to study the Jewish partisans in the forests and the ghettos and the systematic murder of Jews by killing squads as the German Army moved deeper into Soviet territory.
“What gave Yitzhak Arad credibility was both the fact that he was a survivor and a historian,” said Abraham H. Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “He could discuss and teach about the Shoah from a very personal perspective.”
When another Palmach veteran, Yigal Allon, became a minister of education and culture, he asked Mr. Arad in 1972 to lead Yad Vashem — which means “a memorial and a name” and is taken from a verse in Isaiah.
A complex of museums, archives and memorial sculptures on a Jerusalem hill, Yad Vashem is considered the world’s leading repository of Holocaust documents, survivor interviews and other material. He served as its chairman of the directorate for more than two decades, until 1993.
“He never forgot,” said Avner Shalev, Mr. Arad’s successor as chairman. “He was part of the most important event for Jews in the 20th century — the Shoah — and he understood that it is an important mission in his life to research and commemorate that event.”
For most of his tenure at Yad Vashem, the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries in its bloc cut off diplomatic relations with Israel. But Mr. Arad took pride in having established working relationships with archivists in those countries and securing hundreds of thousands documents that detailed the scope of the Holocaust.
Under his leadership, Yad Vashem added a number of monuments, including the Valley of the Communities, 2.5 acres of intersecting walls made of rough-hewed stone blocks engraved with the names of 5,000 Jewish communities, most of which were destroyed in the Holocaust.
He lectured at Tel Aviv University and wrote several books considered essential for scholars, including “The Holocaust in the Soviet Union,” which won a National Jewish Book Award in 2009, and “Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: the Operation Reinhard Death Camps,” which chronicled the murder of millions in those death camps.
In 2006, he was briefly the target of a war crimes investigation in Lithuania. A state prosecutor claimed there was evidence that a Soviet partisan band to which he belonged had killed 38 civilians, mostly women and children, in January 1944 in the village of Koniuchy.
Mr. Arad denied ever killing anyone in cold blood and pointed out that the village had been defended by a Lithuanian militia that collaborated with the Nazis. In the international outcry that ensued, historians noted that, at that point, Lithuania had never charged any non-Jews with war crimes despite the thousands of Lithuanians who had collaborated with the Nazis in the slaughter of 200,000 Jews. The case was dropped in 2008.
Mr. Arad was born on Nov. 11, 1926, in the ancient town of Swieciany, then within Poland but now part of Lithuania and known as Svencionys. (Another prominent resident was Mordecai Kaplan, the co-founder of Reconstructionist Judaism.) His father, Israel, was a synagogue cantor, and his mother, Chaya, a homemaker. The family moved to cosmopolitan Warsaw and sent Yitzhak to a Hebrew school. He belonged to a club that was part of the Zionist movement.
After the German blitzkrieg, his parents sent him and his older sister to live with his grandparents in his hometown, Swieciany, thinking they would be safe there. But the Germans occupied the town in June 1941, ordered all the Jews into a ghetto and soon began deportations to death camps and labor camps.
Mr. Arad’s wife, Michal, died in 2015. He is survived by two sons, Giora and Ruli, a daughter, Orit Lerer, 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Mr. Arad remained active with Yad Vashem until his last weeks. Last year, he took part in a photography exhibition about Holocaust survivors and their lives after the war. When it was his turn to speak, he confronted the audience with a hard truth borne of his own ordeals.
“What happened in the past,” he said, “could potentially happen again, to any people, at any time.”
KABUL, Afghanistan — Western spy agencies are evaluating and courting regional leaders outside the Afghan government who might be able to provide intelligence about terrorist threats long after U.S. forces withdraw, according to current and former American, European and Afghan officials.
The effort represents a turning point in the war. In place of one of the largest multinational military training missions ever is now a hunt for informants and intelligence assets. Despite the diplomats who say the Afghan government and its security forces will be able stand on their own, the move signals that Western intelligence agencies are preparing for the possible — or evenly likely — collapse of the central government and an inevitable return to civil war.
Courting proxies in Afghanistan calls back to the 1980s and ’90s, when the country was controlled by the Soviets and then devolved into a factional conflict between regional leaders. The West frequently depended on opposing warlords for intelligence — and at times supported them financially through relationships at odds with the Afghan population. Such policies often left the United States, in particular, beholden to power brokers who brazenly committed human rights abuses.
Among the candidates being considered today for intelligence gathering is the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famed Afghan fighter who led fighters against the Soviets in the 1980s and then against the Taliban as head of the Northern Alliance the following decade. The son — Ahmad Massoud, 32 — has spent the last few years trying to revive the work of his father by assembling a coalition of militias to defend Afghanistan’s north.
Afghans, American and European officials say there is no formal cooperation between Mr. Massoud and Western intelligence agencies, though some have held preliminary meetings. While there is broad agreement within the C.I.A. and France’s D.G.S.E. that he could provide intelligence, opinions diverge on whether Mr. Massoud, who is untested as a leader, would be able to command an effective resistance.
The appeal of building ties with Mr. Massoud and other regional power brokers is obvious: Western governments distrust the Taliban’s lukewarm commitments to keep terrorist groups out of the country in the years ahead and fear that the Afghan government might fracture if no peace settlement is reached. The Second Resistance, as Mr. Massoud now calls his armed uprising force, is a network that is opposed to the Taliban, Al Qaeda or any extremist group that rises in their shadow.
Top C.I.A. officials, including William J. Burns, the agency’s director, have acknowledged that they are looking for new ways to collect information in Afghanistan once American forces are withdrawn, and their ability to gather information on terrorist activity is diminished.
But Mr. Massoud’s organization is in its infancy, desperate for support, and legitimacy. It is backed by a dozen or so militia commanders who fought the Taliban and the Soviets in the past, and a few thousand fighters located in the north. Mr. Massoud says his ranks are filled by those slighted by the government and, much like the Taliban, he thinks that Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, has overstayed his welcome.
“We are ready, even if it requires my own life,” Mr. Massoud said in an interview.
Even the symbols at Mr. Massoud’s events harken back to the civil war era: old Northern Alliance flags and the old national anthem.
But for all of Mr. Massoud’s bluster at recent rallies and ceremonies, the idea that the Northern Alliance could be rebranded and that its former leaders — some of whom have since become ambassadors, vice presidents and top military commanders in the Afghan government — would follow someone half their age and with little battlefield experience to war seems unrealistic at this point, security analysts have said.
Today, supporting any sort of insurgency or building a resistance movement poses real challenges, said Lisa Maddox, a former C.I.A. analyst who has done extensive work on Afghanistan.
“The concern is, what would the second resistance involve and what would our goals be?” she said. “I fear folks are suggesting a new proxy war in Afghanistan. I think that we’ve learned that we can’t win.”
Even considering an unproven militia leader for possible counterterrorism assurances as international forces leave undermines the last two decades of state-building, security analysts say, and practically turns the idea of an impending civil war into an expected reality by empowering anti-government forces even more. Such divisions are rife for exploitation by the Taliban.
The United States had a fraught relationship with the Northern Alliance, making it difficult to collect intelligence in the country. The French and British both backed the senior Massoud in the 1980s, while the Americans instead focused mostly on groups aligned with Pakistan’s intelligence services. The C.I.A. connections with Mr. Massoud and his group were limited until 1996, when the agency began providing logistical help in exchange for intelligence on Al Qaeda.
One of the reasons the C.I.A. kept Massoud at arm’s length was his track record of unreliability, drug trafficking and wartime atrocities during the early 1990s, when Mr. Massoud’s forces shelled Kabul and massacred civilians, as other warlords did.
Now, various allied governments and officials have different views of Mr. Massoud and the viability of his movement. The French, who were devoted supporters of his father, see his efforts as full of promise to mount a real resistance to Taliban control.
David Martinon, the French ambassador to Kabul, said he has watched Mr. Massoud closely over the last three years, and nominated him for a for a trip to Paris to meet with French leaders, including the president. “He is smart, passionate and a man of integrity who has committed himself to his country,” Mr. Martinon said.
Washington is more divided, and some government analysts do not think Mr. Massoud would be able to build an effective coalition.
Eighteen months ago, Lisa Curtis, then a National Security Council official, met with Mr. Massoud along with Zalmay Khalilzad, the top U.S. diplomat leading peace efforts with the Taliban. She described him as charismatic, and said he spoke convincingly about the importance of democratic values. “He is very clearheaded and talks about how important it is to preserve the progress of the last 20 years,” she said.
In Afghanistan, some are more skeptical of Mr. Massoud’s power to influence a resistance.
“Practical experience has shown that no one could be like his father,” said Lt. Gen. Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, a former deputy minister in the Interior Ministry. “His son lives in a different time and does not have the experience that matured his father.”
Others in the Afghan government see Mr. Massoud as a nuisance, someone who has the potential to create problems in the future for his own self-interests.
Even if there are varying opinions of his organizational prowess, there is broad agreement that Mr. Massoud can help function as the eyes and ears for the West — as his father did 20 years ago.
Mr. Massoud, who was educated at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in Britain, returned to Afghanistan in 2016. He spent the next three years quietly building up support before he emerged more publicly in 2019 by holding rallies and mounting recruiting drives in the country’s north.
In recent months, Mr. Massoud’s rhetoric has grown tougher, lashing out at Mr. Ghani during a recent ceremony in Kabul, and his efforts to secure international support more aggressive. In addition to reaching out to the United States, Britain and France, Mr. Massoud has courted India, Iran and Russia, according to people familiar with his pursuits. Afghan intelligence documents suggest that Mr. Massoud is purchasing weapons — through an intermediary — from Russia.
But Europe and the United States see him less as a bulwark against an ascendant Taliban than as a potentially important monitor of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. A generation ago, Mr. Massoud’s father was outspoken on the burgeoning terrorist threats in the country. And even if the son cannot command the same forces as his father, perhaps he will be able to offer similar warnings.
As a young diplomat, Mr. Martinon remembers hearing about the late Massoud warning to the world during his April 2001 visit to France.
“What he said was beware, beware,” Mr. Martinon recalled. “The Taliban are hosting Al Qaeda and they are preparing something.”
Julian E. Barnes reported from Washington. Najim Rahim and Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul.
The International Criminal Court’s main prosecutor said on Wednesday that she was closely watching Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, for potential new war crimes in the current conflict.
“I note with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute,” the prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in a statement. She was referring to the court’s statute on crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Ms. Bensouda’s office said in March, before the latest conflict erupted, that it had begun an investigation into mutual accusations of war crimes by Israel and Palestinian militant groups. That decision, which infuriated Israeli leaders, was largely welcomed by the Palestinian leadership and its supporters.
The court had already started a preliminary investigation six years earlier, on the heels of the 50-day Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014. It covers alleged crimes since June 13, 2014, shortly before the start of that fighting.
Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court, which is based in The Hague, and it has maintained that the court has no jurisdiction over the area in question. But the court ruled that its jurisdiction extended to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
On Wednesday, Ms. Bensouda said that her office would continue to monitor the situation and address “any matter that falls within its jurisdiction.” The prosecutor’s office will investigate all sides to assess whether there is individual criminal responsibility under the statute, she added.
“I echo the call from the international community for calm, restraint and a stop to the violence,” she added.