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Israeli soldiers were killed in efforts to create a buffer zone
Israel was trying to demolish part of a Palestinian neighborhood as it pursued a plan to create a buffer zone between Gaza and Israel when around 20 Israeli soldiers were killed on Monday in an explosion, according to Israeli officials.
The explosion occurred after Gazan militants fired toward a tank guarding an Israeli unit. The unit had been setting explosives inside Palestinian buildings on the border in central Gaza with the intention of demolishing them, according to a news briefing from Israel’s military. In the firefight, the explosives went off, killing many of the soldiers inside.
Israel wants to demolish Palestinian buildings close to the border to create what it describes as a “security zone,” according to three officials, who spoke anonymously. The idea of a buffer zone in Gaza has been rejected by both the U.S. National Security Council and the U.S. State Department because it would effectively reduce the size of the enclave. Israeli ministers had hinted of plans to create a buffer zone since the first weeks of the war.
Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, said a systematic demolition of Palestinian border homes could constitute a war crime because they pose no immediate threat to Israel.
Aid: More than half a million people in Gaza face “catastrophic hunger,” a U.N. aid agency said, and it called for a critical increase in aid as the “risk of famine grows.”
UNRWA, which aids Palestinian refugees, said its efforts to distribute aid had been impeded by fighting and blackouts of Gaza’s cellphone networks for days at a time, as well as Israeli restrictions on its ability to move around the territory and reach hospitals.
Australia: The hiring of a Lebanese Australian journalist and her forced departure after she posted about the war in Gaza, has exposed long-simmering issues at one of Australia’s most trusted institutions.
Turkey approved Sweden’s bid to join NATO
Turkey’s Parliament put Sweden one step closer to entering the military alliance by passing a bill allowing the Nordic country to join, easing a diplomatic stalemate that has clouded Turkey’s relations with the U.S. and hampered Western efforts to isolate Russia over its war in Ukraine.
The measure will go into effect once it is published in the country’s official gazette, usually a swift formality. That would make Hungary the only NATO member that has not approved Sweden’s bid, depriving the alliance of the unanimity required to add a new member.
What’s next: Sweden’s accession would allow NATO to expand its deterrence against Russia, open a vast stretch of Nordic land to potential military operations by the alliance and extend to Sweden the other members’ automatic protection.
China’s travel economy is slowly coming back
Domestic travel has thrived inside China since the country eased travel restrictions in 2023 after three years of strict Covid isolation, with high-speed rail being especially popular. But a year after China reopened its borders, international trips in and out of the country are lagging behind prepandemic levels.
The economic stakes are high. Before the pandemic, Chinese travelers were the world’s biggest spenders, accounting for 20 percent of global tourism spending, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organization. Beijing has tried to sweeten the deal for inbound travelers by waiving travel visas or extending the length of visa-free travel for visitors from eight countries, including Germany and France.
The economy will continue to be the main limiting factor for Chinese travelers. The weight of a severe real estate downturn has dampened consumer spending and confidence inside China. And global geopolitical tensions remain a wild card.
Entertainment: No Hollywood films ranked among the 10 highest-grossing movies in China last year, as tensions with the U.S. have increased and domestic offerings have improved.
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Palworld, the new video game from the Tokyo-based studio Pocketpair, started as a meme and was mocked during its three-year development for looking like “Pokémon with guns.”
But despite all the ridicule, more than 300,000 players simultaneously logged on to the game when it was released in early access on Friday. By Sunday, Palworld was one of the most popular games on the planet as players rampaged through a cruel world of chickens and squirrels engaged in shootouts.
Lives lived: Shih Ming-teh was a lifelong campaigner for democracy in Taiwan and spent over two decades in prison for his cause. He is dead at 83.
‘Oppenheimer’ leads with 13 Oscar nominations
Oscar voters lined up behind a classic studio blockbuster on Tuesday, bestowing 13 nominations on Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” the most for any movie, and setting up the long-awaited coronation of Nolan as Hollywood’s leading filmmaker. But it did not pick up a nomination for best picture.
“Poor Things,” a twist on the Frankenstein story, received the second-highest number of nominations — 11 — including one for best picture. Joining it in the best picture category were “American Fiction,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Barbie,” “The Holdovers,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Maestro,” “Past Lives” and “The Zone of Interest.”
Technology companies dominated. Netflix received a total of 18 nominations, including honors for short films. Apple TV+ received 13 nods, with “Killers of the Flower Moon” receiving 10 and “Napoleon” earning three. Amazon’s MGM division received five.
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