Wednesday Briefing

Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military chief of staff, said Israeli forces were “close to completing the dismantling of Hamas’s battalions in the northern Gaza Strip.”Credit…Atef Safadi/EPA, via Shutterstock

Israel reports more gains in Gaza

Israel is focusing its military efforts in the southern region of Gaza and expects the war to continue for “many more months,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military chief of staff, said. More than 1.7 million displaced Gazans are registered in shelters in the south, including many who are sleeping along roads and in open spaces. Food and water are scarce.

“We have killed many terrorists and Hamas commanders,” Halevi said. “Some surrendered to our forces and hundreds were taken prisoner. We have destroyed underground infrastructure and large quantities of weapons.” But, he acknowledged, “it seems likely that we will still encounter fighters in this area.”

Satellite imagery verified by The Times showed Israeli forces at the outskirts of Al Bureij, a dense neighborhood in the center of the Gaza Strip, about one mile from the border with Israel. The military confirmed the advance, saying that its forces had targeted terrorist infrastructure in the area of Al Bureij and discovered a tunnel shaft.

Risks: Nasser Hospital, the largest hospital in the southern Gaza Strip still managing to function, could be imperiled if bombardment and fighting come closer, a senior U.N. official warned. The hospital is already at three times capacity, he added.

In other news:

  • A member of Israel’s war cabinet, Ron Dermer, was set to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, amid divisions between the U.S. and Israel over the war in Gaza.

  • Israel said it would stop automatically issuing visas to U.N. employees after rejecting the organization’s calls for a cease-fire.

  • The U.N. appointed a Dutch politician to oversee aid cargo entering Gaza, filling a crucial role called for in a Security Council resolution adopted last week.

A liquefied natural gas facility in Louisiana.Credit…Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

A worryingly warm 2023

Earth is finishing up its warmest year in the past 174 years, and very likely the past 125,000. Global temperatures have for months obliterated prior records, and scientists are already sifting through evidence to see whether this year might reveal something new about the climate and what we are doing to it.

While temperatures remain within the range of those projected by computer models, one hypothesis is that the planet’s warming is accelerating. “What we’re looking for, really, is a bunch of corroborating evidence that all points in the same direction,” said Chris Smith, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds. “Then we’re looking for causality.”

One thing researchers will be watching is whether something unexpected might be happening in the interplay of two major climate influences: the warming effect of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and the cooling effect of industrial pollution, which has decreased after sustained government efforts to improve public health.

A big climate test: The Biden administration must decide whether a $10 billion natural gas facility will go ahead. Opponents say it would lock in decades of additional greenhouse gas emissions.

The Novocherkassk in 2021. Ukraine says it destroyed the Russian ship yesterday.Credit…Murad Sezer/Reuters

Success and setbacks for Ukraine

In the Black Sea and Crimea, Ukraine is racking up naval successes and putting Russia on the defensive. But its ground campaign is faltering, and Russia is attacking eastern battlefields after blunting Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Ukrainian officials acknowledged that they had all but retreated from the eastern city of Marinka after a monthslong battle to defend it.

A day after Russia said it had seized Marinka, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top military commander, compared it to the scorched-earth battle for Bakhmut, the eastern city that fell to Russia in May. “The situation is exactly the same as it was in Bakhmut,” he said. “Street by street, block by block, and our soldiers were being targeted. And the result is what it is.”

Hours earlier, the Ukrainian Air Force said that it had destroyed the Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, in a Crimean port. Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-installed governor of Crimea, said one person had been killed and two others wounded in the assault, which started a fire.

The big picture: Ukraine signaled that it was girding for a protracted war against Russia. On Monday, the government introduced a bill that would lower the age of people who could be drafted into the military from 27 to 25. Military officials have said that a mobilization of up to 500,000 soldiers could be necessary.

“I am your new Father Frost”: The Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny described his transfer to a remote Arctic prison with a heavy dose of irony and humor.


Around the World

Credit…Marian Carrasquero for The New York Times
  • Volkswagen Beetles are a rarity in much of the world — but in one Mexico City neighborhood, they’re alive and well.

  • U.S. airstrikes in Iraq most likely destroyed three facilities used by Iranian proxies to target U.S. and coalition troops, officials said.

  • Holiday spending increased in the U.S. despite lingering inflation. Still, analysts are divided on whether the country’s economy can avoid a severe downturn next year.

  • Dozens of public figures in France issued a letter defending Gérard Depardieu, the actor accused of sexual harassment and assault.

  • Sweden is a step closer to joining NATO after a parliamentary panel in Turkey approved its bid.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times
  • Donald Trump said that, if re-elected, he would introduce sweeping changes to trade policy. Experts said that could risk alienating allies and igniting a global trade war.

  • Anophthalmus hitleri, a small, amber-colored beetle native to a few damp caves in Slovenia, has a glaring public relations problem.

  • New York City officials put forward a plan to build affordable housing in wealthier neighborhoods.

What Else Is Happening

  • Elite chess players keep accusing each other of cheating.

  • “I looked different, I dressed different”: Barbra Streisand gave a rare interview about her style.

  • Ye, the artist once known as Kanye West, apologized to Jews in Hebrew for his antisemitic comments.

  • Nine predictions for how we’ll eat and drink in 2024.

A Morning Read

Credit…Peter Fisher for The New York Times

Deadheads, ballerinas and Mick Jagger: As 2023 winds down, revisit 59 memorable photographs that capture the year in arts and culture.


Experience meets speed: How Max Verstappen went from “rough” to a “polished diamond.”

What to watch: A starting XI of soccer documentaries.


Celebrating artists

It was a big year for Africa’s cultural industry. Lynsey Chutel, our Briefings writer in Johannesburg, shared some highlights and what to watch in 2024.

Watch: Independent African films like “Goodbye Julia,” which explores the complexities of life in Sudan and South Sudan, were celebrated at global film festivals and broke some regional box-office records. Streaming services have brought new audiences to African telenovelas and miniseries, like the Nigerian legal drama “Agu” and a historical drama about the 18th-century Zulu king “Shaka iLembe.”

Read and then watch: African fantasy is set to reach an even wider audience thanks to upcoming screen adaptations. The director of “The Woman King,” Gina Prince-Bythewood, has agreed to develop a screen adaptation of “Children of Blood and Bone,” the first book in the best-selling “Legacy of Orisha” series by the Nigerian American author Tomi Adeyemi.

Listen and dance: Amapiano, the synth-heavy South African dance music created by Gen Z producers, reverberated at Coachella and then on TikTok. “Water” went global and garnered a Grammy nomination for the performer Tyla. With Afrobeats artists incorporating the sound into this already popular genre, and with a nod from Rihanna, amapiano is taking over dance floors around the globe.


Credit…Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Cook: Make a stack of pancakes for visiting guests.

Watch: This short animated documentary about how knitting can help us heal.

Care: Here are answers to the 10 top health questions of 2023.

Read: These are some of the year’s best graphic novels.

Experience: How an Arctic influencer embraces months of darkness.

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

Reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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