July 19, 2024

In the past three days, Russian troops have poured across Ukraine’s northeastern border. They have taken more square miles per day than at almost any other point in the war — save the very beginning — and are moving near Kharkiv.

Russian forces launched a complex offensive on Friday. At least nine villages were seized. Now, some Ukrainian troops are retreating, and some commanders have taken the unusual step of blaming each other.

Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top military commander, conceded that the situation had “significantly worsened.” But he said that Russian attempts to break through Ukrainian defensive lines had been unsuccessful so far.

Thousands fled to Kharkiv, the nearest big city to the villages. About 20 miles from the border, it is safe — for the moment. “We could hear machine gun fire coming closer and closer,” one recently arrived woman said. The Russians were “about to break in.”

Toll: Villagers in the Kherson region slowly rebuilt their lives after Ukraine pushed Russia back. Now they’re braced for a fresh assault.

In Russia: President Vladimir Putin moved Sergei Shoigu, his minister of defense, to a position running the national security council. It was the first shake-up for his national security team since the invasion began.

In Belarus: Russia is upgrading a munitions depot, possibly to house nuclear weapons, a Times analysis of satellite imagery found.

Close-quarters ground combat between Hamas fighters and Israeli troops raged in Gaza City and nearby Jabaliya over the weekend, both sides said.

It fit a scenario now familiar: Israeli forces returning to an area where they had defeated Hamas earlier in the war — especially in the north — only to see the group fill the lawless power vacuum left behind.

Military analysts have said that Hamas may reconstitute itself in those areas because Israel has declined to administer them itself or to transfer them to non-Hamas Palestinian control. In Beit Lahia, another northern town, fighting over the weekend killed at least 12 people, according to Wafa, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority.

Other updates:

  • Rafah: U.S. intelligence said that Yahya Sinwar, the top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, was not hiding in Rafah. Such an assessment could undercut the Israeli rationale for major military operations in the city, from which a U.N. agency say that about 300,000 people had fled.

  • Aid: The flow of food and goods into Gaza has almost entirely dried up over the past week, according to the U.N.

Flash floods have killed more than 300 people, destroyed thousands of homes and engulfed entire villages, Afghan and U.N. officials said. The floods were set off by heavy seasonal rains in the northern province of Baghlan, which appears to have suffered the worst devastation, and in at least three other provinces.

In Bangkok, the site of a factory that once churned out cigarettes has turned into an oasis for residents (and birds, bats and mosquito-eating dragonflies), bringing a breath of fresh air to the megacity’s congested, smoggy center.

The Australia Letter: Floods cut off the food supplies of remote Indigenous communities this year, requiring charter flights to stock shelves.

A British regional council caused quite a stir when it began removing apostrophes from street signs for thoroughfares like St. Mary’s Walk and King’s Road. In protest of the move, someone drew back an apostrophe.

Officials said that the decision would make the streets easier to search for in databases. And some grammarians said that the apostrophes served no real purpose; one linguist said they could be decorative and confusing, like the “fish forks” of punctuation.

But some proponents are furious. The chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, a tiny group in Britain, said that phasing out apostrophes was “cultural vandalism.”

“What’s next?” a former teacher said, adding, “We just use emojis?”

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