Friday Briefing: Aid Trickles Through Gaza Pier

The U.S. predicted that a floating pier off Gaza built by its military would allow for a steady stream of humanitarian aid. But little relief has reached Palestinians in the strip, officials said this week.

Several trucks were looted as they made their way to a warehouse and operations were suspended for two days. The U.N. World Food Program has warned that the pier project could fail if Israel does not do more to ensure the safe distribution of the aid.

The relief effort faltered as Israeli forces pushed deeper into Rafah, in southern Gaza. Israel’s military said yesterday that its forces were fighting near the center of Rafah. Around 815,000 people have left the city as a result.

The assault came in a week when Israel has faced mounting diplomatic and legal pressure over its war effort. Today, the International Court of Justice in The Hague is set to respond to a South African petition for an immediate halt to the ground assault in Rafah.

Cease-fire: The C.I.A. director plans to travel to Europe this weekend for talks with his Israeli counterpart to try to revive the stalled talks.

Hostages: The families of several Israeli female soldiers released a video of their abduction by Hamas fighters on Oct. 7. They hope to pressure the Israeli government to restart the negotiations that pave the way for the captives’ release.

Taiwanese officials and military experts had been expecting China to make a show of military force after Lai’s inauguration. In his inaugural speech, he pledged to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty.

A Chinese military spokesman described the exercises as a “strong punishment” for “Taiwan independence forces,” according to state media. He also called them “a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces,” a reference to the U.S.

Stakes: The exercises could teach China’s military lessons about how to impose a possible blockade around Taiwan. Many experts believe that if China tries to force Taiwan to accept unification, it may first try using military forces to restrict air and sea access to the island.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is urging President Biden to lift the restrictions after a trip to Kyiv last week. The proposal has not yet been formally presented to Biden, who has opposed such a step. But Blinken shifted his stance after the Russians opened a new front in the Kharkiv region, with devastating results.

Russia has placed weapons right across the border from northeastern Ukraine, and aimed them at Kharkiv. President Volodymyr Zelensky told The Times that the inability to fire U.S. missiles and other weaponry at the military targets gave Russia a “huge advantage.”

Justine Payton was drawn to a Hare Krishna ashram for its cheap yoga and volunteer work. Her experience, she says, devolved into emotional and spiritual abuse — by the end, she was 28 years old and had $72 to her name.

Gardening can be a workout, a meditation and an opportunity to socialize.

It gets you moving: Shoveling mulch and pulling weeds can count as moderate-intensity physical activities. Gardeners tend to report higher levels of physical activity overall, and there’s evidence that they have better cardio-metabolic health.

It also does wonders for your mental well-being. Some studies report that gardening lowers people’s scores on anxiety and depression measures; other research has found increased confidence and self-esteem.

Read more about how gardening can have real benefits.

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