Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Anannya Parekh
The Israel-Palestine war: The latest update
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.
Death toll: 10,569 people have been killed in Gaza—and over 4,200 of them are children. Over 88 UN members from the Relief and Works Agency have died in the region. This is the highest number of UN workers killed in any conflict so far.
The US’ red lines: On Monday, PM Netanyahu shocked Washington by declaring Israel will be responsible for Gaza’s “security… for an indefinite period.” For the first time since the October 7 attacks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out what would be unacceptable to the US:
The United States believes key elements should include no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. Not now, not after the war… No use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks. No reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza.
The last is a reference to an Israeli plan to carve out a “buffer zone” out of territory in Gaza. Washington Post has more on why the US is unhappy with Netanyahu.
But, but, but: The National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters:
I think all of us can foresee a period of time after the conflict is over where Israeli forces will likely still be in Gaza and will have some initial security responsibilities. But for how long and where and to what size and scale and scope, I think it’s too soon to know.
No one knows what that “period of time” will be—or whether Washington has the power to enforce a time limit on Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, in Washington: The House passed a resolution censuring the only Palestinian-Amercan member Rashida Tlaib for her strong criticism of Israeli strikes.
Hospital cutbacks: One of Gaza’s biggest hospitals—Al-Quds—has shut down “most operations” because its generators are running out of fuel:
It has turned off its main generator and is now operating only a smaller generator to provide essential services and two hours of electricity a day to patients and 14,000 internally displaced people who are sheltering there. Its surgical ward and oxygen generation plant have been closed.
Doctors say there are about 500 patients in the hospital—including 15 in the ICU plus newborns in incubators. (Al Jazeera)
Related must-watch: This powerful interview with an American nurse who was working with Doctors without Borders in Gaza. What’s most moving is the heroism of her Palestinian colleagues who protected her—and got her across the border:
This video of an angry Al Quds paramedic describing the conditions in Gaza—while holding a dead newborn taken out of the rubble—is almost impossible to watch. But we thought we should at least link to it.
The Israeli view of the war: Western journalists are finally entering Gaza—embedded with the Israeli military. This was standard practice for the Pentagon during the Iraq and Afghan wars. You can watch Channel Four’s report to get a sense of what they’re seeing from the other side.
Going viral: This insane 2015 video of Netanyahu where he claims Palestinian leaders forced Adolf Hitler to send Jews to the gas chambers:
“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews,” Netanyahu said in the speech. “And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (Palestine).’
“‘So what should I do with them?’” Netanyahu said Hitler asked the mufti, who responded: “Burn them.”
Related read: Vox has a very good piece on the alarming rise of vicious antisemitism in Europe.
Ethics committee recommends expelling Mahua Moitra
The context: Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has been accused by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey of taking money to raise questions in Parliament—mostly to protect the interests of a Dubai-based real-estate baron Darshan Hiranandani. She was then summoned by the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha—where the chairman allegedly asked “extremely personal” questions.
What happened now: The committee has put together a 500-page draft report—recommending the expulsion of Moitra from the Lok Sabha:
The Committee has concluded that Mahua Moitra had shared user ID with "unauthorised persons", took cash and amenities from businessman Darshan Hiranandani and it was "serious misdemeanour" on her part which calls for "serious punishment.”
And it called her actions "highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal"—which require a "legal, intensive, institutional and time-bound investigation.” Interesting to note: the details of the report were leaked by Adani-owned NDTV. The report has to now be adopted by the committee—which is likely since the BJP-led NDA holds a majority. Also: BJP MP Nishikant Dubey claims the anti-corruption body Lokpal has ordered a CBI probe into the allegations.
Key abortion rights wins in the US
The context: In June 2022, the Supreme Court of the US erased the constitutional right to abortion—and overturned a 49-year-old precedent set in the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling (explained here). What this means: each individual state is now free to make its own abortion laws. As a result, 24 out of 50 states have either banned or greatly restricted abortion—or are moving toward doing so.
What happened now: Results of the election and referendum held on Tuesday reveal a serious backlash—in some of the reddest parts of the country. In Ohio, the state constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights won by double digits. In the red-state heartland—Kentucky—Democratic Governor Andy Beshear won re-election after making support of abortion rights the focus of his campaign. And in Virginia, Democrats now control both houses of the legislature—“a substantive rebuke of Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, who’d put a 15-week abortion ban at the centre of his campaign” to help his party.
The overarching good news: “Whatever the level of prominence in the campaign, abortion rights won—and with broad support across various demographics.” Of course, Republicans are hoping the allure of Donald Trump will demolish such pesky challenges in the battle of the White House. (NBC News)
Meta’s new AI policy
The company will require advertisers to disclose any instance of using AI to alter or create political, social issue or election-related ads—especially if they have used it to “synthetically depict people and events.” Advertisers are also not allowed to use Meta’s own AI tools to create such content. Reminder: 2024 is going to be a blockbuster year for elections—there will be 40 elections held around the world. Also read in Associated Press: A former Meta exec’s congressional testimony on why Instagram is unsafe for kids. (New York Times)
Bedbugs have hit South Korea!
The pests that have recently been terrorising Paris and London have popped up on the other side of the world. This is a disaster since the country eradicated the pest in the 1960s—and there have only been nine cases since. As of Tuesday, 30 cases have been confirmed nationwide—and more than half were in the capital, Seoul. The other worry: people may not report bed bugs due to personal embarrassment: “There is a perception that bedbug appearances are down to individuals, so some people refrain from filing a report, fearing it could be seen as a sign of poor hygiene.” (The Guardian)
An unusual row over sunken treasure
The government of Colombia is racing to recover treasure from a 300-year-old shipwreck off its coast.
When the 62-gun Spanish galleon was sunk in battle by the British in 1708, it was gorged with six years worth of accumulated treasure: silver and gold from mines in Peru, chests full of Colombian emeralds and millions of pesos in gold and silver coins.
The stuff could be worth anywhere between $4 billion and $20 billion. But there’s a slight hitch—no one can agree who found the treasure. A US company called Glocca Morra says it found the San Jose back in 1981—and handed over the location to Colombia with the agreement that it would get half the treasure. But Bogota claims its navy independently stumbled upon it in 2015. The case is under arbitration in London. Below is a glimpse of the wreck—you can still see the crockery! Rest of the photos are here. BigThink has more on San Jose and its history. (Bloomberg, paywall, Independent UK)
Four things to see
One: A 17-carat pear shaped blue diamond set in a ring was sold at an auction in Geneva for a ridiculous $43.8 million. According to Christie’s, the “Bleu Royal” is the "largest internally flawless fancy vivid blue gem" ever to appear for sale in auction history. It’s a bit gaudy, na? (BBC News)
Two: This is the trailer for ‘Sam Bahadur’—a biopic of India’s first Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Vicky Kaushal plays the lead in the movie—which traces Manekshaw’s legendary military career. Don’t know about Manekshaw? Here’s a handy profile. (The Hindu)
Three: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Patrick Dempsey is People magazine’s sexiest man alive for 2023. Some cranky folks wondered why the magazine didn’t choose McDreamy earlier—when people were actually watching the show. The pick was revealed in a fun 20 questions-style Q&A on ‘Jimmy Kimmel’ live which you can watch here. (Variety)
Four: When their daughter decided to leave her toxic marriage, her parents in Jharkhand brought her home—with band, bajaa and, well, an anti-baraat? We enjoyed watching this CNBCTV18 news report.