Thursday Briefing: Israel Seems Poised to Invade Rafah

Israel’s allies have pressed the country not to invade Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where a million displaced Palestinians are living. But this week, Israel appeared to hint that an assault there was all but inevitable.

On Monday, an Israeli military official said that if an invasion were to begin, civilians would be relocated to a safe zone along the coast. Israel has also bombed Rafah, leading some civilians to fear that a ground assault would follow.

Israel says that a push into Rafah is necessary to eliminate the militants sheltering in a network of tunnels beneath the city, to capture or kill Hamas leaders presumed to be there and to ensure the release of the remaining hostages kidnapped during the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks.

But the invasion would be devastating for civilians. The designated humanitarian zone identified as a possible place for them to go is already overflowing with displaced people.

UNRWA: Germany said it would restore its funding for the U.N. agency for Palestinians after a report undermined Israel’s claims that terrorists were in the organization’s ranks. Germany is the agency’s second largest donor after the U.S.

Hostages: Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an Israeli American who lost part of his arm in the Oct. 7 attacks, appeared in a Hamas video. He criticized Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and said he had been held hostage for about 200 days.

President Biden signed a foreign aid package yesterday that included nearly $61 billion in assistance for Ukraine. He said the weapons shipments would begin “within hours.”

The aid includes munitions that could help Ukraine hit deep into territory held by Russia.

Last week, the U.S. secretly shipped a new long-range missile system to Ukraine, known as ATACMS. Ukraine used the weapons to attack a Russian military airfield in Crimea and Russian troops in the port city of Berdiansk on the Sea of Azov, according to a senior U.S. official. Additional longer-range missiles were included in the new aid package.

The Pentagon said it would rush a first batch of weapons, including Stinger surface-to-air missiles and other air defense munitions, 155-millimeter shells, Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, cluster munitions and battlefield vehicles.

NATO: About 90,000 troops from countries in the alliance have been training in Europe this spring. The show of force is meant to send a sharp message to Russia not to go past Ukraine.

Kharkiv: Since March, Russia has been bombarding Ukraine’s second-largest city with one of the deadliest weapons in its arsenal: powerful guided bombs known as glide bombs.

The military junta has recaptured the town of Myawaddy, a key trading center on the Thai border, weeks after rebels had captured it. The seizure of the town had been the rebels’ most significant victory since the 2021 military coup.

Recent context: In the past few months, resistance forces have seized dozens of towns and military outposts in Myanmar’s border regions. Myawaddy was an especially big prize.

Mark Zuckerberg was once known for wearing a gray T-shirt every day. He has recently had a makeover, donning shearling coats and silver chains. His new look has somehow transformed him into a kinder, gentler face of technology at a time when it has been cast in a darker, more suspicious light.

Our chief fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman, wrote about Zuckerberg’s new look.

  • A lost Klimt: “Portrait of Fräulein Lieser,” an enigmatic, long-lost painting from 1917, sold for 35 million euros at auction.

  • No, officer, he wasn’t drinking: A man was acquitted of drunken driving after doctors confirmed he had a rare condition in which his body brews beer.

“The Tortured Poets Department,” is a 31-song excavation of Taylor Swift’s recent relationships. Despite the hype, it has proved to be less universally loved than some of her previous work.

Our music writers discussed the album, which is seemingly tailor-made for her most obsessive fans, and how her narrative continues to change.

“I’ve trained myself to view Taylor Swift’s work through the eyes of her fans,” my colleague Ben Sisario said. “That’s crucial for understanding Swift, whose connection with her listeners is at the root of her success, and it’s also become part of the art itself. The question is not just what is Swift saying, but what is she telling her fans, and how will they respond to it?”

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