Israeli tanks reach central Rafah as strikes continue

Rushdi Abu Alouf,David GrittenShare

Reuters A man and a young boy walk among ruins in Rafah

Israeli forces have reportedly reached the centre of the southern Gaza city of Rafah and seized a strategically important hill overlooking the nearby border with Egypt.

Witnesses and local journalists said tanks were stationed at al-Awda roundabout, which is considered a key landmark.

They also said tanks were on Zoroub Hill, effectively giving Israel control of the Philadelphi Corridor – a narrow strip of land running along the border to the sea.

The Israeli military said its troops were continuing activities against “terror targets” in Rafah, three weeks after it launched the ground operation there.

Western areas of the city also came under intense bombardment overnight, residents said, despite international condemnation of an Israeli air strike and a resulting fire on Sunday that killed dozens of Palestinians at a tented camp for displaced people.

The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons stored by Hamas in the vicinity.

It also denied reports from local health and emergency services officials on Tuesday afternoon that tank shells had hit another camp in al-Mawasi, on the coast west of Rafah, killing at least 21 people.

Reuters news agency cited local health officials as saying the blast occurred after Israeli tank shells hit a cluster of tents in al-Mawasi on Tuesday. An official in the Hamas-run civil defence force also told AFP there had been a deadly Israeli strike on tents.

Videos posted to social media and analysed by BBC Verify showed multiple people with serious injuries, some lying motionless on the ground, near tents and other temporary structures.

There was no clear sign of a blast zone or crater, making it impossible to ascertain the cause of the incident. The location – verified through reference to surrounding buildings – is between Rafah and al-Mawasi, and lies south of the IDF’s designated humanitarian zone.

The IDF said in a statement: “Contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the IDF did not strike in the humanitarian area in al-Mawasi.”

Israel has insisted that victory in its seven-month war with Hamas in Gaza is impossible without taking Rafah and rejected warnings that it could have catastrophic humanitarian consequences.

The UN says around a million people have now fled the fighting in Rafah, but several hundred thousand more could still be sheltering there.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began what they called “targeted” ground operations against Hamas fighters and infrastructure in the east of Rafah on 6 May.

Since then, tanks and troops have gradually pushed into built-up eastern and central areas while also moving northwards along the 13km (8-mile) border with Egypt.

On Tuesday, they reportedly reached the city centre for the first time.

The al-Awda roundabout, which is only 800m (2,600 ft) from the border, is the location of major banks, government institutions, businesses, and shops.

One witness said they saw soldiers position themselves at the top of a building overlooking the roundabout and then begin to shoot at anyone who was moving.

Video posted online meanwhile showed tank track marks on a road about 3km west of al-Awda roundabout and 300m from the Indonesian field hospital, which was damaged overnight.

Reuters A Palestinian girl sits on top of possessions being transported by a cart in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)
The UN says around a million people have fled Rafah since the start of the Israeli ground operation in the city

Earlier, residents told the BBC that tanks seized Zoroub Hill, about 2.5km north-west of al-Awda roundabout, after gun battles with Hamas-led fighters.

The hill is highest point along the Egyptian border and its seizure means the entire Gazan side of the border is now effectively under Israeli control.

Zoroub Hill also overlooks western Rafah, where residents said there had been the heaviest air and artillery strikes overnight since the start of the Israeli operation.

A local journalist said the bombardment forced hundreds of families to seek temporary shelter in the courtyard of a hospital, while ambulances struggled to reach casualties in the affected areas.

At dawn, thousands of people were seen heading north, crammed into cars and lorries and onto carts pulled by donkeys and horses.

“The explosions are rattling our tent, my children are frightened, and my sick father makes it impossible for us to escape the darkness,” resident Khaled Mahmoud told the BBC.

“We are supposed to be in a safe zone according to the Israeli army, yet we have not received evacuation orders like those in the eastern [Rafah] region,” he added. “We fear for our lives if no-one steps in to protect us.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not comment on the various reports but put out a statement saying that “overnight troops operated on the Philadelphi Corridor while conducting precise operational activity based on intelligence indicating the presence of terror targets in the area”.

“The activity is being conducted as efforts are continuing to be made in order to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians in the area,” it added.

“The troops are engaging with terrorists in close-quarters combat and locating terror tunnel shafts, weapons, and additional terrorist infrastructure in the area.”

The IDF has told civilians in eastern Rafah to evacuate for their own safety to an “expanded humanitarian area” stretching from al-Mawasi, a coastal area just north of Rafah, to the central town of Deir al-Balah.

EPA A Palestinian woman reacts next to tents destroyed by a fire triggered by an Israeli air strike in western Rafah on Sunday, in the southern Gaza Strip (28 May 2024)
Israel’s prime minister said the killing of civilians in an air strike and resulting fire in Rafah on Sunday was a “tragedy”

On Sunday night, at least 45 people – more than half of them children, women and the elderly – were killed when an Israeli air strike triggered a huge fire in a camp for displaced people near a UN logistics base in the Tal al-Sultan area, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Hundreds more were treated for severe burns, fractures and shrapnel wounds.

The IDF said it was targeting two senior Hamas officials in the attack, which happened hours after Hamas fighters in south-eastern Rafah launched rockets towards the Israeli city of Tel Aviv for the first time in months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a “tragic incident” had occurred “despite our immense efforts to avoid harming non-combatants” and promised a thorough investigation.

IDF chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday that the strike had targeted a structure used by the Hamas commanders which was away from any tents, using “two munitions with small warheads”.

“Following this strike, a large fire ignited for reasons that are still being investigated. Our munitions alone could not have ignited a fire of this size,” he said.

Rear Adm Hagari added that investigators were looking into the possibility that the fire was caused by the explosion of weapons or ammunition stored in a nearby structure, and played what he said was an intercepted telephone conversation between two Gazans suggesting that. The audio recording could not immediately be verified.

Sam Rose of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, told the BBC from western Rafah that the killing of so many civilians could not be dismissed as an accident.

“Gaza was already one of the most overcrowded places on the planet. It is absolutely impossible to prosecute a military campaign involving large-scale munitions, strikes from the sky, the sea, the tanks, without exacting large-scale civilian casualties,” he said.

“It seems like we are plumbing new depths of horror, bloodshed and brutality with every single day. And if this isn’t a wake-up call, then it’s hard to see what will be.”

Last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 252 others were taken hostage.

At least 36,090 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Russian plot to kill Zelensky foiled, Kyiv says

Telegram/SBU Footage shows a man being arrested
Ukraine said it arrested two Ukrainian officials who worked with the Russian security services

The Ukrainian security service (SBU) says it has foiled a Russian plot to assassinate President Volodymyr Zelensky and other high-ranking Ukrainian officials.

Two Ukrainian government protection unit colonels have been arrested.

The SBU said they were part of a network of agents belonging to the Russian state security service (FSB).

They had reportedly been searching for willing “executors” among Mr Zelensky’s bodyguards to kidnap and kill him.

Ever since Russian paratroopers attempted to land in Kyiv and assassinate President Zelensky in the early hours and days of the full-scale invasion, plots to assassinate him have been commonplace.

The Ukrainian leader said at the start of the invasion he was Russia’s “number one target”.

But this alleged plot stands out from the rest. It involves serving colonels, whose job it was to keep officials and institutions safe, allegedly hired as moles.

Other targets included military intelligence head Kyrylo Budanov and SBU chief Vasyl Malyuk, the agency added.

The group had reportedly planned to kill Mr Budanov before Orthodox Easter, which this year fell on 5 May.

According to the SBU, the plotters had aimed to use a mole to get information about his location, which they would then have attacked with rockets, drones and anti-tank grenades.

One of the officers who was later arrested had already bought drones and anti-personnel mines, the SBU said.

Telegram/SBU An anti-tank grenade
The SBU said it found various ordnance, including an anti-tank grenade, on the plotters

SBU head Vasyl Malyuk said the attack was supposed to be “a gift to Putin before the inauguration” – referring to Russia’s Vladimir Putin who was sworn in for a fifth term as president at the Kremlin on Tuesday.

The operation turned into a failure of the Russian special services, Mr Malyuk said.

“But we must not forget – the enemy is strong and experienced, he cannot be underestimated,” he added.

The two Ukrainian officials are being held on suspicion of treason and of preparing a terrorist act.

The SBU said three FSB employees oversaw the organisation and the attack.

One of them, named as Dmytro Perlin, had been recruiting “moles” since before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Another FSB employee, Oleksiy Kornev, reportedly held “conspiratorial” meetings “in neighbouring European states” before the invasion with one of the Ukrainian colonels arrested.

In a released interrogation with one of the suspects, they can be heard describing how they were paid thousands of dollars directly by parcels or indirectly through their relatives. It is not clear whether he was speaking under duress or not.

Investigators insist they monitored the men throughout. We are unlikely to know how close they came to carrying out their alleged plan.

The plot may read like a thriller but it is also a reminder of the risks Ukraine’s wartime leader faces.

Last month, a Polish man was arrested and charged with planning to co-operate with Russian intelligence services to aid a possible assassination of Mr Zelensky.

At the weekend Ukraine’s president appeared on the Russian interior ministry’s wanted list on unspecified charges.

The foreign ministry in Kyiv condemned the move as showing “the desperation of the Russian state machine and propaganda”, and pointed out that the International Criminal Court had issued a warrant for Vladimir Putin’s arrest.

Australian PM calls Elon Musk an ‘arrogant billionaire’ in row over attack footage

Reuters Elon MuskReutersElon Musk (pictured) has accused Anthony Albanese of censorship

Australia’s leader has called Elon Musk an “arrogant billionaire” in an escalating feud over X’s reluctance to remove footage of a church stabbing.

On Monday, an Australian court ordered Mr Musk’s social media firm – formerly called Twitter – to hide videos of last week’s attack in Sydney.

X previously said it would comply “pending a legal challenge”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s criticism followed Mr Musk using a meme to accuse his government of censorship.

On Tuesday, Mr Albanese told ABC News that Mr Musk “thinks he’s above the law but also above common decency”.

Last week Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, an independent regulator, threatened X and other social media companies with hefty fines if they did not remove videos of the stabbing at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church, which police have called a terror attack.

X has argued the order is “not within the scope of Australian law”.

The commissioner sought a court injunction after saying it was clear that X was allowing users outside Australia to continue accessing footage.

“I find it extraordinary that X chose not to comply and are trying to argue their case,” Mr Albanese told a press briefing.

In a subsequent series of online posts, Mr Musk wrote: “I’d like to take a moment to thank the PM for informing the public that this platform is the only truthful one.” Another depicted a Wizard of Oz-style path to “freedom” leading to an X logo.

Earlier, he also criticised eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant personally, describing her as the “Australian censorship commissar”.

Mr Albanese defended Ms Inman Grant, saying she was protecting Australians.

“Social media needs to have social responsibility with it. Mr Musk is not showing any,” he said.

The platform will have 24 hours to comply with Monday evening’s injunction, with a further hearing into the matter expected in the coming days.

Hasil Liga 1: Borneo FC Bantai Bhayangkara Presisi, Madura United Menang Tipis atas Persikabo


Pemain Borneo FC Wiljan Pluim dijaga bintang Bhayangkara FC Radja Nainggolan saat Borneo FC menang 4-0 di Stadion Batakan, Balikpapan, Senin (26/2/2024). (Sumber: [email protected])

Penulis : Haryo Jati | Editor : Desy Afrianti

BALIKPAPAN, KOMPAS.TV – Borneo FC dan Madura United sukses meraih kemenangan pada pekan ke-26 Liga 1 2023/2024.

Borneo FC membantai Bhayangkara Presisi 4-0 di Stadion Batakan, Balikpapan, Senin (26/2/2024).

Di saat yang sama, Madura United menang tipis 3-2 atas Persikabo 1973 di Stadion Gelora Bangkalan.

Baca Juga: Mantan Pelatih PSIS Semarang Edy Paryono Meninggal Dunia, Berikut Deretan Prestasinya

Borneo FC, yang saat ini menduduki posisi teratas Liga 1, bermain dengan intensitas tinggi seja awal.

Namun, pertahanan berlapis Bhayangkara FC sempat membuat Stefano Lilipaly dkk, kesulitan menembusnya.

Adalah Wiljan Pluim yang sukses menjebol gawang Bhayangkara usai menyambut sepak pojok Lilipaly di menit ke-45.

Di babak kedua, Pesut Etam tak berhenti bermain agresif, dan akhirnya Lilipaly mencetak gol kedua Borneo FC di menit ke-58.

Keunggulan Borneo FC bertambah lewat gol Felipe Cadenazzi di menit ke-84, serta Ikhsan Nul Zikrak di menit ke-90+4.

Hasil ini membuat Borneo FC semakin kokok di posisi teratas klasemen Liga 1 dengan raihan 60 poin, sedangkan Bhayangkara FC terbenam di dasar klasemen.

Baca Juga: Lima Tahun Tidak Beroperasi Begini Penampakan Bandara di Tambrauw

Sedangkan Madura United, harus tertinggal dua gol lebih dulu sebelum bisa menang.

Brace pemain Persikabo Dimas Drajad di menit ke-37 dan 45+1, membuat Madura United ketinggalan di babak pertama.

Namun, di babak kedua, Laskar Sape Kerrap pun bangkit dan meraih kemenangan berkat gol Jaja lewat eksekusi penalti di menit ke-65, dan 82, serta Cleberson Martins de Souza (66).

Sean Hannity and right-wing media claimed the ‘Biden crime family’ took millions in bribes. Their narrative just fell apart

Host Sean Hannity on the set of "Hannity" at Fox News Channel Studios on March 15, 2023 in New York City.

Host Sean Hannity on the set of “Hannity” at Fox News Channel Studios on March 15, 2023 in New York City. Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.New YorkCNN — 

“The Biden crime family.”

It has been one of the most dominant narratives in right-wing media and the GOP, used endlessly to demonize President Joe Biden — but on Thursday, it imploded in spectacular fashion.

For some time now, Fox News and the broader right-wing media machine have accused Biden and his son Hunter of engaging in an illicit $10 million bribery scheme to enrich themselves and sell out America. The tale, as it goes, claimed that an executive at the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid for access to then-Vice President Biden to improperly wield his influence and help squash an investigation led by a Ukrainian prosecutor into the company.

Evidence of the bribery scheme has always been thin, at best, with most authoritative news outlets treating the claims with incredulity. But MAGA Media personalities like Sean Hannity quickly shifted into hyperdrive last year when a supposedly “highly credible” FBI informant claimed to have smoking gun evidence of the conspiracy.

The emergence of a confidential FBI informant coursed through right-wing media, where talking heads and outlets spotlighted the claims as damning evidence of criminal wrongdoing. It spawned scores of articles. Hundreds of Fox News segments. Republican lawmakers like James Comer and Jim Jordan, eager to bathe in the media spotlight, appeared on radio and television programs to stoke the conspiracy flames and demand investigations.

Hannity’s program served as the primary vehicle for driving the narrative to the GOP base. On his Fox News program alone, the claims formed the basis for a staggering 85 segments in 2023 alone, according to data from the progressive watchdog Media Matters. Hannity indicated to his millions of nightly viewers that Biden had been “compromised,” using the informant claims to declare the president was “very credibly accused of public corruption on a scale this country has never seen before.”

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Comer, who chairs the powerful House Oversight Committee, used the claims being extolled in right-wing media to accuse the FBI of engaging in a coverup and attempted to construct a corruption case against Biden. Those actions were then celebrated in right-wing media. And on and on the feedback loop went.

The problem? The informant, Alexander Smirnov, made the whole story up, federal authorities said Thursday, arresting the 43-year-old at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

Special counsel David Weiss, who served as a Donald Trump -appointed U.S. attorney before assuming his current role, charged Smirnov with lying to the FBI and falsifying records. Smirnov, an indictment said, provided “false derogatory information” about Biden to the law enforcement agency. His “story to the FBI was a fabrication, an amalgam of otherwise unremarkable business meetings,” it said.

“In short, the Defendant transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against [Joe Biden], the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties for President, after expressing bias against [Joe Biden] and his candidacy,” the indictment continued.

The charges dealt a blow to the narrative Fox News had championed on its air and Republicans had pressed in Congress. But the same network that had hyped Smirnov’s claims against “the big guy,” suggesting they formed the basis of a monumental scandal that would overshadow Watergate in the history books, suddenly showed little interest in the story.

In the hours after the Weiss indictment, there was scant coverage of the development on Fox News. Most notably, Hannity didn’t bother to mention to his loyal audience that the narrative he had been tirelessly peddling to them had fallen apart. Instead, like the rest of the right-wing network’s dishonest stable of prime time talk hosts, he ignored the story.

The stunning demise of the claim is just the latest in a larger pattern from Fox News and the broader right-wing media ecosystem in which it operates.
Time and time again, MAGA Media figures have hyped dishonest narratives and conspiracy theories to their sizable audiences, only to look away when they later collapse. Just last year, Fox News paid a record $787.5 million for its promotion of election lies. It never ran a retraction on its air and executives have maintained that they are proud of the network’s 2020 coverage.

It’s a record that plays on repeat. By the time the truth can catch up to the bogus claims spreading in right-wing media, the narrative has already been set and the outlets have moved on to the next supposed scandal.

Japan just lost its crown as the world’s third-largest economy

People walking past a busy crossing in Tokyo, Japan on November 15, 2023.

People walking past a busy crossing in Tokyo, Japan on November 15, 2023. Zhang Xiaoyu/Xinhua/Getty ImagesHong Kong/TokyoCNN — 

Japan’s economy has contracted unexpectedly because of weak domestic consumption, pushing the country into recession and causing it to lose its position as the world’s third largest economy to Germany.

Gross domestic product (GDP) shrank at an annualized pace of 0.4% in the last three months of 2023, the Cabinet Office said on Thursday, after having contracted by an annualized 3.3% in the previous quarter. A recession is typically defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

The decline was well below market forecasts. Economists polled by Reuters had expected GDP to grow by an annualized 1.4% quarter-on-quarter in the October to December months.

The data confirms that Japan’s economy was the world’s fourth largest behind Germany in US dollar terms last year.

Domestic demand was particularly weak. All major domestic demand categories, including consumer spending, were negative. Only external demand, which is captured by exports of goods and services, made a positive contribution.

Private consumption — which accounts for half of the economy — declined by an annualized 0.9% in the fourth quarter, as Japanese consumers battled higher prices for food, fuel and other goods. It marks a third straight quarter of falls.

Japan imports 94% of its base energy requirements and 63% of its food, so the weak yen significantly contributes to a higher cost of living, Neil Newman, a Tokyo-based strategist at Japanmacro, told CNN.

The yen has tumbled 6.6% against the US dollar since the start of this year, making it one of the worst performers among currencies used by the Group of 10 industrialized nations.

“Private consumption was particularly weak, [and] market expectations was for it to be flat,” he said. “Unfortunately this will get worse in January following the Sea of Japan earthquake. People stop spending in times of natural disasters.”

A quake shook the Noto Peninsula in the central prefecture of Ishikawa on January 1, collapsing buildings, sparking fires and triggering tsunami alerts as far away as eastern Russia. More than 200 people died and more than 1,000 were injured.

During the fourth quarter, capital expenditures also dropped for a third consecutive quarter, down by 0.3%. Investment in housing by the private sector tumbled by 4%.

External demand however, supported overall growth. Exports jumped by an annualized 11% from the previous quarter, helped by the weak yen. In particular, inbound consumption, including spending by tourists, rose sharply.

Despite falling into a technical recession, Japan’s markets have remained buoyant, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 advancing 1.2% and closing above the 38,000 level for the first time since 1990.

Recovery expected

Some economists say the recession is likely to moderate in the coming months.

“Despite the disappointing [fourth-quarter] result, we expect [first quarter] 2024 GDP to rebound,” said Min Joo Kang, senior economist at ING Group.

After a drop late last year, private consumption should improve in the current quarter given a stabilization in inflation and expected growth in wages. On the investment side, strong corporate earnings and solid demand for IT will also lead to increases in facility investment, she added.

Analysts at Capital Economics say business surveys and the labor market paint a rosier picture of the business environment than headline numbers suggest.

The unemployment rate dropped to an eleven-month low of 2.4% in December. What’s more, the Bank of Japan’s Tankan survey showed that business conditions across all industries and firm sizes were the strongest they’ve been since the fourth quarter of 2018, they said.

It’s possible for the government to revise the fourth quarter figures upward next month during a regular review, they added.

Goldman Sachs said Thursday it expected Japan’s economy to notch 1% growth in the first quarter of 2024.

“We expect inbound consumption to slow from the rapid rise in October-December, but still expect a moderate uptrend,” its analysts said, adding that capital expenditure could also rebound by 1.3% during the same period.

Analysts from Capital Economists said they expected fourth quarter GDP to be revised upward in March and that the GDP figures were unlikely to prevent the Bank of Japan from ending its negative interest rates in April.

The country’s investors remain bullish. Japan’s equities market had an exceptional year in 2023, with the Nikkei index up 28%, making it the best performing market in Asia.

On the same day, Morgan Stanley reiterated its bullish view on Japan’s equities: “[It is] our largest [overweight] recommendation in our coverage universe.”

The rally in Japan’s equities has been mainly driven by the ongoing corporate reforms and improving return on equities, while the weak yen also helped boost profits of Japanese exporters, according to analysts from Eastspring Investments.

House Intel Chairman announces ‘serious national security threat,’ sources say it is related to Russia

Rep. Mike Turner speaks during the House GOP news conference on December 14, 2022.

Rep. Mike Turner speaks during the House GOP news conference on December 14, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)WashingtonCNN — 

House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner has made information concerning a “serious national security threat” available to all members of Congress to review, the committee said on Wednesday.

While Turner and the White House remained vague on what the threat entailed, two sources and a US official tell CNN the threat is related to Russia. Multiple sources familiar with the intelligence characterized it as “very sensitive.”

One of the sources who has seen the intelligence confirmed that “it is, in fact, a highly concerning and destabilizing” Russian capability “that we were recently made aware of.”

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Turner is calling on President Joe Biden to declassify “all information relating to this threat.”

But while a vague statement posted on X by the House intelligence committee, along with a void of immediate further information, raised initial concerns, other top leaders in Congress sought to soothe public anxiety. House Speaker Mike Johnson said Wednesday afternoon that there was no cause for alarm.

“We just want to assure everyone steady hands are at the wheel,” Johnson said. “We’re working on it and there’s no need for alarm.”

Rep. Jim Himes, the top Democrat on the House committee, said the intelligence is not “a cause for panic.”

“As to whether more can be declassified about this issue, that is a worthwhile discussion but it is not a discussion to be had in public,” Himes said in a statement.

The committee’s Senate counterparts, meanwhile, said they have been “rigorously tracking this issue from the start.”

In the meantime, we must be cautious about potentially disclosing sources and methods that may be key to preserving a range of options for U.S. action,” the statement from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio said.

The White House also signaled some frustration with Turner for going public with the warnings ahead of a planned meeting national security officials were schedule to have with top lawmakers on Thursday. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said during a press briefing Wednesday that he was “a bit surprised Turner came out publicly today,” preempting the meeting schedule for Thursday.

“I reached out to see Turner,” Sullivan said. “Turner has gone out publicly. I’m going to go see Turner tomorrow. That’s where I want to leave things for today.”

Sullivan declined to elaborate on the nature of the threat. “I’m not in a position to say anything further from this podium at this time,” he said.

While the Wednesday warning was vague, the United States has long been concerned about Russian military capabilities and the country’s destabilizing influence in Europe and around the world as the war in Ukraine continues, with the prospects of additional US aid being sent to Kyiv shaky.

Earlier Wednesday, Turner sent his Congressional colleagues a letter saying the urgent matter is “with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability.”

Turner said in the letter to his congressional colleagues that the House Intelligence Committee voted on February 13 to make certain information available for lawmakers to review and says members have time to view this between Wednesday and Friday.

Sullivan emphasized the Biden administration has “gone further and in more creative, more strategic ways, dealt with the declassification of intelligence in the national interest of the United States than any administration in history.”

“So you definitely are not going to find an unwillingness to do that when it’s in our national security interest to do so,” he said.

Israeli forces rescue 2 hostages as airstrikes kill around 100 Palestinians in Rafah

Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, the two hostages rescued from Gaza by Israeli forces.

Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, the two hostages rescued from Gaza by Israeli forces. The Hostage and Missing FamiliesCNN — 

Two Israeli-Argentinian men taken captive by Hamas on October 7 were rescued on Monday in an early morning raid in which the Israeli military carried out airstrikes that local officials said killed around 100 people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The hostages, 60-year-old Fernando Simon Marman and 70-year-old Louis Har, had spent 128 days in captivity. Both men are in relatively good condition and have since reunited with their families.

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters on Monday the complex rescue operation was conducted after receiving “highly sensitive and valuable intelligence.” It involved Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, police special forces and an IDF tank brigade.

The operation began at 1:49 a.m. local time, when Israeli special forces entered the building where the hostages were held. The duo were found on the second floor “in the hands of Hamas terrorists.” Hamas militants were also stationed in adjacent buildings, Hagari said.

Israel’s ground forces encountered resistance throughout the operation. Once the hostages were recovered, they were protectively hugged by members of the police special forces as they were escorted out under fire from Hamas, according to Hagari, who said they were taken to a safe place within Rafah for medical attention and then airlifted out of Gaza by helicopter.

Har and Marman’s rescue marks just the second time since last year’s terror attack that the Israeli military has successfully retrieved hostages in Gaza. A previous attempt in December went awry when Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Israeli hostages in Gaza after misidentifying them as threats.

While the operation to free the two men will be celebrated in Israel, significant loss of life was reported inside Gaza as a result of the Israeli Air Force providing “aerial cover” for the ground operation.

Airstrikes began 1:50 a.m., a minute after the raid began, the IDF said.

US President Joe Biden speaks about the Special Counsel report in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 8, 2024 in a surprise last-minute addition to his schedule for the day.

RELATED ARTICLEBiden and Jordanian king look to move Israel-Hamas war to a new phase

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said that more than 100 people were killed in strikes in Rafah overnight, while the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza said 94 people lost their lives. Neither group specified how many of those who died were militants.

CNN cannot independently verify either number. The discrepancy likely exists because the health ministry only updates death toll numbers after bodies have been identified. Both groups said the figure is likely to rise.

The director of Abu Yousef Al-Najjar Hospital said medical facilities in Rafah “cannot handle the large number of injuries due to the Israeli occupation’s bombardment.”

Footage obtained by CNN showed a chaotic scene inside Rafah’s Al Kuwaiti hospital, with medics trying to resuscitate a motionless child in one scene and another showing doctors treating a wounded man on the hospital floor. In another video a woman was inconsolable as she held a child’s body wrapped in white cloth.

In a video obtained by CNN from social media groups used by local Palestinian journalists, a young boy hangs lifelessly from the side of a structure as several men try to bring his body down.

A second video showed a girl wiping tears from her eyes as she described the airstrikes. “I was going to the bathroom and the strikes were ongoing. Suddenly I found fire in our house,” the girl says in the video. “Then I went to the bathroom and all the walls collapsed on me.”

The Rafah municipality said on Monday at least two mosques and around a dozen homes were struck.

Palestinians walk by a residential building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 11, 2024.

Palestinians walk by a residential building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, February 11, 2024. Hatem Ali/AP

The intensity of the bombardment prompted speculation that Israel might have been preparing for its anticipated ground offensive into the city, though the IDF said in a statement that the strikes have concluded. CNN has asked the IDF for clarity on whether the strikes were connected to a future ground assault.

A spokesman for the US State Department said Monday that the US does not view the strikes as “the launch of a full-scale offensive” in Rafah.

A potential incursion into Rafah has prompted concern in the international community, as the city has become a last refuge for Palestinians fleeing south to avoid Israel’s air and ground campaigns. More than 1.3 million people are believed to be in Rafah, the majority displaced from other parts of Gaza, according to the United Nations.

There are severe shortages of food, water, medicine and shelter, and the city has been described as a “pressure cooker of despair” by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

A military campaign in Rafah would likely result in a bloodbath, as people there have no remaining escape route; the city borders Egypt, and the sole crossing into that country has been closed for months, along with the rest of Gaza’s borders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brushed off criticism of plans for the ground assault – saying calls not to enter Rafah are like telling Israel to lose the war. He pledged to provide safe passage for civilians, but offered few details.

According to the Gazan health ministry, more than 28,100 people have been killed in the enclave since October 7.

Hostages in good condition

The IDF later released a pair of videos of what it said showed the moments the two hostages were rescued from Rafah. One aerial video showed an exchange of fire during the rescue and a voice of an unknown person saying, “the hostages are in our hands.”

In the second video, soldiers are seen comforting the rescued hostages in a vehicle shortly after the operation. When asked how they were feeling, one of the hostages said: “Shocked, shocked, all right.”

The pair, Har and Marman, were transferred early Monday to Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer, according to the IDF, and were in good medical condition.

“It’s a very special day today, at least for our family,” Idan Begerano, Har’s son-in-law, told CNN.

Marman’s niece, Geffen Sigal Ilan, said the reunion was “very emotional.”

“I couldn’t believe I was hugging him, I was so happy,” she said.

The families said they were surprised by the news of the release, which they received in the middle of the night. Both men appeared to be doing well, but months of captivity had taken a physical toll.

“They’re a little thin, a little different, they lost a little weight,” Illan said. “They were in an inhumane situation.”

Fernando Simon Marman reunites with a loved one at Sheba Medical Center, in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Monday.

Fernando Simon Marman reunites with a loved one at Sheba Medical Center, in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Monday. IDF

Louis Har is seen with his family on Monday.

Louis Har is seen with his family on Monday. IDF

Netanyahu has been under mounting pressure from the Israeli public to secure the release of captives in Gaza, with some families of those held hostage being openly critical of the government’s tactics.

The duo had been kidnapped from the Nir Yitzhak kibbutz, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said. Nir Yitzhak was one of multiple kibbutzim close to the border with Gaza that came under attack by Hamas militants during their October 7 rampage which saw some 1,200 people killed and more than 240 taken hostage.

The office of Argentina’s President Javier Milei praised Israel for the rescue, and thanked the Israeli forces behind the operation.

Gallant hailed what he called an “impressive release operation” in a statement on X, formerly Twitter, saying he had followed the operation in the Command Center along with Netanyahu and senior commanders.

Netanyahu released a statement Monday welcoming the two hostages back, and praising the Israeli forces. “Only the continuation of military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our hostages,” he said.

After Monday’s rescue, the total number of hostages left in Gaza is 134, Hagari said. Of that number, 130 hostages are from the October 7 attack – with 29 dead and 101 believed to be alive. The other four had been held in Gaza prior to the attack.

Most hostages are being held by Hamas, though some are also reportedly held by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Israel and Hamas have been unable to reach an agreement to release more hostages since one in November collapsed. That agreement resulted in a weeklong pause in fighting in exchange for the release of more than 100 hostages, mostly elderly women and children.

Hamas condemned the strikes on Monday, calling them “forced displacement attempts” and “horrific massacres against defenseless civilians and displaced children, women, and the elderly.”

It also accused US President Joe Biden and his administration of bearing “full responsibility” for the civilian deaths.

The high Palestinian death toll connected to the operation caused deep concern for the Biden administration, a senior US administration official said Monday. The US is still gathering information on the details of the rescue operation, including how exactly the operation unfolded and how many civilians may have been killed, the official added.

On Sunday, Biden and Netanyahu discussed a deal to secure the release of hostages in Gaza, according to a senior administration official, as well as Israel’s anticipated ground assault on Rafah.

According to the White House, Biden “reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there.”

Matthew Miller, the US State Department spokesman, reiterated Monday that the US does not support “any military campaign in Rafah.”

They’ve spent eight years traveling the world with their kids. But there’s one thing they miss

Jessica and Garrett Gee and their three children Dorothy, Manilla and Calihan are known as “The Bucket List Family.” Garrett Gee/National GeographicCNN — 

Aside from a one-off trip to Europe, the furthest Jessica Gee ever traveled while growing up was to Walt Disney World in Florida with her family.

However, over the past eight years, the travel influencer, known as “The Bucket List Mom,” has visited more than 90 different countries with her entrepreneur husband Garrett and their three children Dorothy, Manilla and Calihan.

“I never had the thought in my brain that ‘I want to travel around the world,’” Gee, from Denver, Colorado, tells CNN Travel. “That was never me. But the more I get out there, the more I want to see.”

According to Gee, everything changed when her husband, who she first met while on a church service mission in Vladivostok, Russia, sold his app to Snapchat for $54 million in 2014 and decided to quit his desk job.

Unique opportunity

Jessica and Garrett met in Russia and have been married for almost 15 years.

Jessica and Garrett met in Russia and have been married for almost 15 years. Garrett Gee/National Geographic

“We were in a weird situation that maybe not a lot of twenty-something-year-olds are put in,” Gee admits. “We were sitting on some new wealth, and we didn’t know what to do. So we decided that we were going to set that all aside, and see what’s out in the world.”

The couple, who’ve been married since 2009, were keen to experience different cultures and “just learn a little bit.”

“We still felt so young and naive,” adds Gee.

They soon began planning an extended trip to Southeast Asia and decided to launch an Instagram page, The Bucket List Family, to collate their adventures.

family of seven card.jpg

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Honestly, I do think we kind of had this perfect storm of Garrett’s creative skills, and my background in marketing,” Gee says, explaining that she studied product placement in college. “Now I just do it with my own life.”

After putting the acquisition money into savings, they sold their furniture and most of their belongings, raising around $45,000, and headed off around the world with Dorothy and Manilla – Callihan was born while they were on the move – in August 2015.

They had initially planned to spend a few months traveling, visiting Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, as well as Pacific islands Fiji and Tonga, but after briefly returning to the US, they decided that they wanted to keep going.

“The little bit of traveling turned into three years full-time,” adds Gee, who has just released a travel guidebook, The Bucket List Family Travel, in partnership with National Geographic.

The family went on to visit dozens of countries across the world, including Germany, Morocco, Japan, Brazil, Guatemala and Dominica.

Family favorites

The family of five have traveled to more than 90 countries.

The family of five have traveled to more than 90 countries. Garrett Gee/National Geographic

Gee lists Belize among her top “family-friendly” destinations, describing the Central American country as a good “starter destination” for US-based families who aren’t ready to venture too far afield.

She also recommends “incredible” Alaska for those seeking outdoor adventures for their children.

“You have the fishing, the wildlife, the whales and the bears,” she says. “It’s great for kids who are maybe a little bit older – five and up. But I took my two-year-old there and he had a blast.”

Gee was also incredibly impressed by East African country Rwanda, a destination that she was apprehensive about visiting due to preconceived notions.

“I had seen [the movie] ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and that’s all I knew,” she says. “So I was nervous, and scared. And it ended up being the most life-changing destination for me.”


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After spending so much time on the move, Gee is accustomed to extended travel and actually finds it easier than short-term travel, explaining that she often feels exhausted after taking a week-long vacation.

“When I’m traveling for a month at a time or more, I get into a groove, I get into a routine,” she says, adding that she packs more or less the same amount of items regardless of whether she’s traveling for a month, six months, or a fortnight.

She spent her entire third pregnancy “living out of a suitcase” before welcoming son Calihan in 2018.

“I hadn’t realized how much of a toll flying is on your body,” says Gee. “So it was exacerbated [due to my pregnancy].”

“Maybe it was also because it was my first pregnancy over the age of 30, but my back and my body hurt.

“But at the same time, we went to so many places in those nine months that I loved.”

Big adventure

Gee says that when it comes to traveling with young children, choosing "the best attitude" is key.

Gee says that when it comes to traveling with young children, choosing “the best attitude” is key. Garrett Gee/National Geographic

Gee makes a point of ensuring that her children feel involved in their travel plans before they set off anywhere, getting them to help pack their backpacks, while framing everything, even a long-haul flight, as a “big adventure.”

“Then as soon as they sit on the plane, they’re so stoked to pull out the toy, the book and the snacks that they packed,” she explains.

According to Gee, one of the best ways to make traveling with young children as painless as possible is to “choose the best attitude.”

“Kids 100% feed off of parents’ attitudes,” she says. “So when things are tiring, exhausting and stressful, you just have to buck up and be positive. Because if you’re losing it, they’re going to lose it.”

While she tries to plan for all aspects of their travels, including scheduling flights during nap times and making sure their luggage is ready, Gee’s learned from experience to always have a back-up plan.

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“Things go wrong,” she says. “You lose your luggage, or a flight gets canceled. Those hiccups.

“Having to deal with that and navigate kids and their needs – that’s always been the hardest part.”

The Bucket List Family’s Instagram account has amassed nearly three million followers over the years, and they’ve since launched successful YouTube and TikTok accounts, with the income earned from partnerships with different companies helping to support their travels.

Gee acknowledges that their situation is unique, and there are many parents who simply can’t afford to jet off around the world with their kids.

She provides money-saving tips in “The Bucket List Family Travel,” including home exchanges and budgeting apps, and encourages families to figure out what they want to do travel-wise and then try to “make it affordable.”

“A lot of times, it’s just finding a national park and camping or hiking,” she says. “Or seeing if you can work enough to earn some time away for an extended period.”

The Gee family have “service” listed among their travel goals, and do their best to incorporate activities like volunteering at an orphanage into their trips.

“Usually travel is a selfish endeavor. Taking the time to really look outside yourself and your own family and see who you could serve locally will be a huge blessing,” Gee writes.

After three years of being on the move full-time, the family-of-five returned to the US, purchasing a bungalow in Hawaii, in 2018.

Ever-changing bucket list

Gee says that her family's extensive travels have brought them closer together.

Gee says that her family’s extensive travels have brought them closer together. Garrett Gee/National Geographic

“The one thing that we miss when we’re on the road is community,” Gee says. “We missed having friends and family [around] and wanted to get our kids into sport and let them experience that.

“So that’s when we decided to settle down and then try to have the best of both worlds.”

They’ve continued to travel as a family in the years since then, and recently spent an entire summer in Africa.

But staying in one place for a long period of time has proven to be something of an adjustment for her children, particularly son Manilla, who was around 11 months old when they first set off.

“He was used to sleeping in a different bed every night or every couple of nights [when we first came back],” she explains. “So he would sleep in different rooms of the house every night.

“It was a weird adjustment for him to learn that we weren’t going to the airport and that we were staying home.”

Although Gee does her best to schedule their travels during school vacations, there are occasional exceptions, such as an upcoming visit to Antarctica.

“We have extra tutoring just to keep them on track,” she says. “And we’ll bring our school work along with us.

“And even during the summer when they don’t have school work, we still bring along those extra books and try to make it exciting for them.”

According to Gee, her family’s bucket list has changed over the years as they’ve all become huge wildlife enthusiasts, so things like seeing the “pandas in China” and the “orangutans in Borneo” have moved close to the top.

“My favorite thing to do with my family is go on safari,” she adds. “We’ve done that a handful of times now.

“But to me, there’s nothing better than being out in an environment where something new [is happening] every single day.

“You wake up and you don’t know what you’re going to see, and then to see these animals and wildlife and how they all live together and depend on each other.

“It sounds so corny, but literally the circle of life. Experiencing that and witnessing that with my family is just so beautiful.”

She advises other parents keen to travel more with their children to try to step outside their comfort zone and “get out there and explore,” whether it’s “for one week of the year or for a lifetime.”

“I feel like the more you get out and experience things, the more your bucket list grows,” says Gee.

“I think a lot of American families have their vacation that they go to. For me it was Disney World. And I love Disney World, don’t get me wrong.

“But [it’s important] to be able to get out and see the world and realize there’s so much more out there.”

Scientists just set a nuclear fusion record in a step toward unleashing the limitless, clean energy source

The inside of the JET tokamak, which has carried it out it last major nuclear fusion experiment.

The inside of the JET tokamak, which has carried it out it last major nuclear fusion experiment. United Kingdom Atomic Energy AuthorityLondonCNN — 

Scientists and engineers near the English city of Oxford have set a nuclear fusion energy record, they announced Thursday, bringing the clean, futuristic power source another step closer to reality.

Using the Joint European Torus (JET) — a huge, donut-shaped machine known as a tokamak — the scientists sustained a record 69 megajoules of fusion energy for five seconds, using just 0.2 milligrams of fuel. That’s enough to power roughly 12,000 households for the same amount of time.

Nuclear fusion is the same process that powers the sun and other stars, and is widely seen as the holy grail of clean energy. Experts have worked for decades to master the highly complex process on Earth, and if they do, fusion could generate enormous amounts of energy with tiny inputs of fuel and emit zero planet-warming carbon in the process.

The scientists fed the tokamak deuterium and tritium, which are hydrogen variants that future commercial fusion plants are most likely to use.

To generate fusion energy, the team raised temperatures in the machine to 150 million degrees Celsius — around 10 times hotter than the core of the sun. That extreme heat forces the deuterium and tritium to fuse together and form helium, a process that in turn releases enormous amounts of heat.

The tokamak is lined with strong magnets that hold the plasma in. The heat is then harnessed and used to produce electricity.

The experiment is the last of its kind for JET, which has operated for more than 40 years. Its last experiment — and new record — is promising news for newer fusion projects, said Ambrogio Fasoli, CEO of EUROfusion, the consortium of 300 experts behind the experiment. He pointed to ITER, the world’s biggest tokamak being built in southern France, and DEMO, a machine planned to follow ITER with the aim of producing a higher amount of energy, like a fusion plant prototype.

“Our successful demonstration of operational scenarios for future fusion machines like ITER and DEMO, validated by the new energy record, instil greater confidence in the development of fusion energy,” Fasoli said in a statement.

A view of Torus Hall, where the JET tokamak machine lies.

A view of Torus Hall, where the JET tokamak machine lies. United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority

While fusion energy would be a gamechanger for the climate crisis — which is caused primarily by humans burning fossil fuels — it’s a technology that’s still likely to need many years to commericialize. By the time it’s fully developed, it would be too late to use it as a main tool to address climate change, according to Aneeqa Khan, research fellow in nuclear fusion at the University of Manchester.

And myriad challenges remain. Khan points out that the team used more energy to carry out the experiment than it generated, for example.

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This is a great scientific result, but we are still a way off commercial fusion. Building a fusion power plant also has many engineering and materials challenges,” she said. “However, investment in fusion is growing and we are making real progress. We need to be training up a huge number of people with the skills to work in the field and I hope the technology will be used in the latter half of the century.”

The record was announced the same day that the European Union’s climate and weather monitoring service, Copernicus, confirmed that the world has breached a global warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius over a 12-month period for the first time.

Scientists are more concerned with longer-term warming over that threshold, but it is a symbolic reminder that the world is hurtling toward a level of climate change that it will struggle to adapt to.

Climate science shows that the world must nearly halve its greenhouse gas emissions this decade and reach zero net emissions by 2050 to keep global warming from spiraling to catastrophic levels. That means making a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, like coal, oil and gas.