Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, and his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, in Tel Aviv yesterday.Credit…Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters
Meetings between Israeli and U.S. officials
Top U.S. officials have again pushed Israel to do more to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip and sought to restart talks aimed at releasing hostages held by Hamas. Pressure is mounting internationally on Israel to scale back its war in Gaza, which has killed almost 20,000 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and displaced the vast majority of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, making his second trip to Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, declared that U.S. support for Israeli security “remains unshakable,” and he reiterated Israel’s “bedrock right to defend itself.” But he stressed that “protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral duty and a strategic imperative,” and he urged Israel to increase the flow of aid into Gaza.
The Biden administration envisions a new phase in the war, involving smaller groups of elite Israeli forces piercing in and out of population centers; more precise missions to find and kill Hamas leaders; the rescue of hostages seized in Israel on Oct. 7; and the destruction of Hamas’s tunnels.
In other news from the war:
Israeli forces raided northern Gaza’s last operational hospital, Gaza’s health ministry said, and detained medical staff members for hours.
BP is pausing oil tanker shipments through the Red Sea, where Iran-backed Yemeni rebels have been attacking merchant ships. Global oil prices rose on the news.
Pentagon officials said that Israel’s use of unguided munitions could explain the high death toll in Gaza.
The C.I.A. director met with Israeli and Qatari officials for talks aimed at restarting hostage and prisoner exchanges between Israel and Hamas.
A volcano erupts in Iceland
A volcano in southwestern Iceland began erupting yesterday, with lava fountains reaching high into the air and the glow visible miles away from the capital, Reykjavik. Thousands of earthquakes since late October had indicated that an eruption was likely; last month, the authorities declared a state of emergency and evacuated the nearby town of Grindavík.
There have been other eruptions on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland’s most populated corner, in the last few years. Officials said this one, which occurred near a power plant, was larger than anticipated, and that the direction of the lava flow was unpredictable.
Quotable: “This is larger than previous eruptions on Reykjanes,” said Magnus Gudmundsson, a volcanologist who viewed it from the air. A spokeswoman for the Department of Civil Protection urged people to stay away, emphasizing that this was “no tourist volcano.”
Earthquake kills more than 100 in China
An earthquake in northwestern China has killed at least 111 people and injured more than 200 others in two provinces, Chinese state media reported. Rescuers were searching for survivors after the quake, which struck Jishishan County in Gansu Province late last night.
The quake had a magnitude of 5.9, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, toppling buildings and knocking out water, electricity and transportation links in some parts of Gansu. The province, like much of the country, is enduring a cold snap, and survivors of the quake were starting fires to stay warm.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is beginning his third term as Egypt’s president, presenting himself as a beacon of stability even as his country’s economy shakes.
The police in Ireland are investigating whether a fire at a Galway hotel preparing to host asylum seekers was an arson attack.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a law that lets police arrest migrants who cross the border from Mexico.
Latvia is scrutinizing residents with Russian passports as part of efforts to combat Moscow’s influence.
Other Big Stories
Pope Francis will allow priests to bless couples in same-sex relationships, though the Catholic Church still does not recognize same-sex marriages.
A U.S. judge issued an order temporarily halting the effort to dismantle a prominent Confederate monument in Arlington National Cemetery.
The E.U. announced an investigation into X, the social media platform owned by Elon Musk, over the spread of illicit content and disinformation.
A jury found the actor Jonathan Majors guilty of assault and harassment for attacking his girlfriend. Marvel Studios dropped him soon afterward.
What Else Is Happening
The U.S. fined Southwest Airlines $140 million over a meltdown last winter that disrupted travel for about two million people during the holidays.
A father and his 4-year-old daughter in Wisconsin spotted a mysterious object on their boat’s sonar. Experts say they most likely discovered a long lost shipwreck.
A new study found that chimpanzees and bonobos can recall faces of other apes that they have not seen for as long as 26 years.
A Morning Read
Curt Bloch, a German Jew, spent more than two years hiding in a tiny attic in Enschede, a Dutch city near the German border, as the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. Helpers kept his secrets and gave him food — as well as pens, glue, newspapers and other printed materials.
Bloch used these materials to produce his own weekly satirical poetry magazine, with 95 issues between August 1943 and April 1945, when he was liberated.
The Athletic’s match dashboard: Our detailed snapshot of how a soccer game unfolds.
Grassroots GOATs: Ahmed Assem’s dedicated quest to build a soccer club from scratch.
Kolo Toure: An interview with the former defender for Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Mariah Carey’s holiday crown
In 2019, Mariah Carey’s 1994 seasonal hit, “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time, becoming the first Christmas track to reach the top spot since “The Chipmunk Song” in 1958.
Carey’s song has since returned to the top repeatedly — and has done so once again, for its 13th cumulative week at No. 1.
Like most Christmas miracles, the genesis of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” is both contentious and shrouded in mystery. Carey, who does not acknowledge her age or the passage of time, joked that when she wrote the song, she was “in the womb, darling.” The truth is that her label at the time, Columbia Records, had the idea for a Christmas album and that she initially balked.
“I’m not one to be giving all sorts of credit to record company executives,” Carey told The Times in 2019, “but I do think it turned out to be a brilliant business move.”
Cook: This hearty seafood pasta is a party dish and a crowd-pleaser.
Dress: Breaking down the etiquette of the Ugly Christmas Sweater party.
Peruse: Play the year’s best video games.
Read: Our favorite art books of 2023.
Play the Spelling Bee. And here are today’s Mini Crossword and Wordle. You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Natasha
P.S. We’re collecting holiday memories. Share yours with us here.
Reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].