Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Anannya Parekh
Israel-Palestine War: Finally, a short truce!
For more context on the Israel-Palestine war, check out our two-part series on the Hamas attack on Israel: part one lays out the Hamas offensive and failures of Israeli intelligence; part two explains the big picture—and Hamas’ motive driving what seems like a suicidal attack. Also read: our Big Story on the ground offensive by Israel, which will decide the fate of Gaza and the power balance in the Middle East. We look at the larger geopolitical picture in the region in this Big Story. We explained the Al-Shifa hospital in north Gaza that has turned into a battlefield in this Big Story.
Death toll: Palestinian health officials in Gaza said that they have lost the ability to count the dead because of “a breakdown in communication between hospitals and disruption to the internet,” as the Israeli ground invasion intensifies. The officials believe that the death toll has jumped sharply in the past week. The health ministry in the West Bank, meanwhile, was releasing regular reports and the latest one noted that more than 13,300 people have died in the region—of them over 5,600 are children and 3,550 are women. But, the United Nations said that it could not verify the numbers and yesterday, even the West Bank ministry stopped releasing their reports. Associated Press has more.
A four-day truce: Negotiations between Hamas and Israel have resulted in a deal. They have agreed to swap 50 hostages taken from Israel—mostly women and children—for 150 Palestinian prisoners. And just as important, there will be a pause in fighting for at least four days—to allow a significant infusion of humanitarian aid into Gaza. But it may last longer since “the release of every 10 additional abductees will result in an additional day of respite.”
But, but, but: PM Benjamin Netanyahu says the war will continue—as will the bombing of Gaza—after the temporary ceasefire: "We are at war and we will continue the war until we achieve all our goals. To destroy Hamas, return all our hostages and ensure that nobody in Gaza can threaten Israel."
Point to note: As The Guardian notes, the pressure on Israel to cut a deal is rising:
In recent days, support among senior military officers for a deal appears to have grown, with a new understanding that the release of the hostages should be the main objective of the Israeli offensive. Many within the Israeli security establishment have always believed that significant concessions were inevitable. “We know we will have to pay a painful price,” one senior Israeli intelligence official told the Guardian last month.
Also: if the first 50 hostages are rescued, the pressure to rescue the remaining 150 will undoubtedly increase. So resuming the war may not be as simple as Bibi makes it seem.
A new Israeli video: The IDF has released a new clip that shows a Hamas gunman executing a woman at the music festival on October 7—shooting at her in point-blank range. We are not embedding that video, but you can see it here. (Reuters)
Modi skips BRICS meeting: In an extraordinary meeting of the group—viewed as representing the Global South—President Xi pressed for an immediate ceasefire. He also called for a two-state solution to “restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinian nation.”
What’s more notable is that PM Modi decided to skip this key meeting—and was represented by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. He chose to emphasise the urgent need to deliver humanitarian aid—and rescue the Israeli hostages. Unlike Xi, Jaishankar underlined the terrorism angle—and did not call for a ceasefire.
Reminder: A high-ranking delegation of foreign ministers is expected to arrive in New Delhi this week. It will be interesting to see what note Jaishankar will strike at that meeting. Beijing’s strong remarks came in the wake of a meeting between Xi and the delegation. (WION)
Something to see: Here’s something heartwarming—though in a bitter-sweet way. Moroccan footballer Yassine Bounou FaceTimed a little boy who lost his leg to an airstrike. He had dreamed of becoming a goalie like Bounou.
Uttarkashi tunnel collapse: The latest update
The context: Forty one workers have been trapped in a collapsed tunnel that was under construction in Uttarakhand since November 12. We explained the collapse, the struggle to rescue the workers—and the reasons for this tragedy in our Big Story.
What happened now: Authorities have released the first visuals of the trapped workers—taken by a camera sent in through a six-inch pipe. The clip—which you can see below—seems designed to reassure the public and the workers’ families. (The Hindu)
Big point to note: There doesn’t seem to be any agreement on a timeline. Officials told Indian Express, the workers could be freed within two to three days. But the international expert called in to direct the rescue effort—Arnold Dix—estimates it will take up to a month: “They are coming out some day between Diwali and Christmas… But I don’t know when these men would be out.” The Telegraph has a good piece on the very odd Mr Dix.
The OpenAI tamasha: The latest update
The context: Open AI CEO Sam Altman was fired by the board, making it one of the biggest stories in tech. (This saga is so complicated, you will have to read our Big Story ICYMI. We can’t summarise it for you). Immediately after, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Atlman and his team would be joining Microsoft’s AI division.
What happened now: The board and recently fired CEO Sam Altman are in talks—negotiating the terms of his possible return. This seems to have Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s blessings—as he told reporters that the company is open to OpenAi staff either staying put—or coming on as employees. Guess they all work for him one way or another. Meanwhile, the newly appointed OpenAI CEO Emmett Shearer wants the board to give him proof of Altman’s wrongdoing.
PS: Nadella is also pushing through big changes at the non-profit. He wants a bigger and more experienced board—and, of course, more of a say in any big decisions… like firing the CEO. Bloomberg News has that angle.
Shakira’s got a taxing problem
The pop legend has been charged by Spanish authorities for failing to pay €14.5 million in taxes—between 2012 and 2014. Although her official residence is in the Bahamas, she spent enough time in Spain to owe taxes on her income. Shakira was due to go on trial on Monday but settled on the very first day—agreeing to pay a fine of €7 million. She will also receive a suspended three-year jail sentence. Reminder: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were also convicted of tax fraud by Spanish authorities—and paid fines of €252,000 and €19 million respectively. (Independent UK)
Also getting terrible PR: Brad Pitt—whose son Pax went on a tirade on a private Insta story—calling him “a f**king awful human”—just in time for Father’s Day in 2020:
Happy Father's Day to this world class a*****e!! You time and time and again prove yourself to be a terrible and despicable person. You have no consideration or empathy toward your four youngest children who tremble in fear when in your presence. You will never understand the damage you have done to my family because you are incapable of doing so. You have made the lives of those closest to me a constant hell. You may tell yourself and the world whatever you want, but the truth will come to light someday.
Meanwhile, Pitt’s 18-year-old daughter Zahara appears to have dropped her father’s name.
Reminder: Angelina Jolie accused Pitt of attacking her and the children on a private jet in 2016—as part of a legal battle over a winery in 2022. Times UK has more details.
Vir Das scores an International Emmy
The comedian shared the top honour for comedy with the third season of ‘Derry Girls’—which is truly excellent company. Das was recognised for his Netflix comedy special ‘Vir Das: Landing.’ You can watch his acceptance speech below. Also honoured: Ekta Kapoor who became the first Indian woman to receive the International Directorate Award—which recognises outstanding contribution to international television. (Mint)
A street artist named Robbie
An old BBC interview may have outed the mysterious Banksy. BBC has unearthed one of the earliest known radio interviews with the artist—where he identifies himself. In this 2003 interview, the reporter asks him if he is called "Robert Banks''—and he replies: "It's Robbie." It is the first-ever opportunity to hear his voice. EuroNews has the story—but to hear his voice—listen to this podcast episode. FYI: There has been great speculation that an upcoming copyright lawsuit would force Banksy to reveal their identity. Recent theories also suggest that Banksy is not a person but a collective of artists—The Conversation has more on that angle.
Two things to see
One: Everyone is talking about this vid that captures PM Modi’s consolation tour of the Indian team’s dressing room after the World Cup debacle. Some see it as a genuine attempt to comfort the boys in blue—others say it’s a shameless photo-op. This is the original:
Two: We quite liked the trailer for ‘Kadak Singh’. Pankaj Tripathi plays the title role—a man with retrograde amnesia trying to figure out his identity and his past. The movie is expected to stream on ZEE5 on December 8. (The Telegraph)