[bauaw] Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, February 3, 2024

  • From: bonnieweinstein <giobon@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: BAUAW <bauaw@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2024 10:32:01 -0800

       


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"The Art of Movement"

An evening of reading, and discussion on the life of Leonard Peltier

Tuesday, February 6, 2024, 7:30 P.M., in person and virtual

Bound Together Books

1360 Haight Street

San Francisco, CA


https://www.facebook.com/events/s/art-of-movement-and-evening-of/370445182255203/?mibextid=RQdjqZ

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Gaza Strip Access Restrictions.pdf since 2007

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gaza_Strip_Access_Restrictions.pdf
Palestinians killed and wounded by Israel:As of February 3, 2024, the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel is now over 26,000,* 63,740 wounded, and more than 492 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.  The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) and the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission released a new tally of Palestinians detained by "Israel", revealing that the number of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank has risen to more than 6,115.


*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 32,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.


NO JUSTICE! NO PEACE!FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA  PALESTINE WILL BE FREE!END ALL U.S. AID TO ISRAEL!FOR A DEMOCRATIC, SECULAR PALESTINE!

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We are all Palestinian

Listen and view this beautiful, powerful, song by Mistahi Corkill on YouTube at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQwuhbLczgI

Greetings,

Here is my new song and music video, We are all Palestinian, linked below. If you find it inspiring, please feel free to share with others. All the best!

Mistahi

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Thousands at stadium sing, "You'll Never Walk Alone," and wave Palestinian flags in Scotland.


We are all Palestinian

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQwuhbLczgI


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Labor for Palestine

Thousands of labor representatives marched Saturday, December 16, in Oakland, California. —Photo by Leon Kunstenaar

Video of December 16th Labor rally for Palestine.

 

Bay Area Unions and Workers Rally and March For Palestine In Oaklandhttps://youtu.be/L9k79honqIA


For More Information:bayarealabor4palestine@xxxxxxxxxProduction of Labor Video Project

www.labormedia.net

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Free Julian Assange


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Immediate Repeated Action Needed to Free Assange

 

Please call your Congressional Representatives, the White House, and the DOJ. Calls are tallied—they do count.  We are to believe we are represented in this country.  This is a political case, so our efforts can change things politically as well.  Please take this action as often as you can:

 

Find your representatives:

https://www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member

 

Leave each of your representatives a message individually to: 

·      Drop the charges against Julian Assange

·      Speak out publicly against the indictment and

·      Sign on to Rashida Tlaib's letter to the DOJ to drop the charges: 

           202-224-3121—Capitol Main Switchboard 

 

Leave a message on the White House comment line to Demand Julian Assange be pardoned: 

             202-456-1111

             Tuesday–Thursday, 11:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M. EST

 

Call the DOJ and demand they drop the charges against Julian Assange:

             202-353-1555—DOJ Comment Line

             202-514-2000 Main Switchboard 



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Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!

FREE HIM NOW!

Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733



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Leonard Peltier Update - Not One More Year

 

Coleman 1 has gone on permanent lockdown.

The inmates are supposed to be allowed out two hours a day. I have not heard from Leonard since the 18th. 

The last time I talked to Leonard, he asked where his supporters were. He asked me if anyone cared about these lockdowns.

Leonard lives in a filthy, cold cell 22 to 24 hours a day. He has not seen a dentist in ten years. I asked him, “On a scale of 1 to 10, is your pain level at 13?” He said, “Something like that.” Leonard is a relentless truth-teller. He does not like it when I say things that do not make sense mathematically. 

That is why Leonard remains imprisoned. He will not lie. He will not beg, grovel, or denounce his beliefs. 

Please raise your voice. Ask your representatives why they have abdicated their responsibility to oversee the Bureau of Prisons and ensure they adhere to Constitutional law.

Uhuru, The African People’s Socialist Party, has stepped up for Leonard. NOT ONE MORE YEAR.

 

Fight for Free Speech – YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM8GDeGv90E

 

Leonard should not have spent a day in prison. Click “LEARN” on our website to find out what really happened on that reservation: 

www.freeleonardpeltiernow.org


A Plea for the Compassionate Release of Leonard Peltier

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Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier


Write to:

Leonard Peltier 89637-132

USP Coleman 1

P.O. Box 1033

Coleman, FL 33521

Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.

Video at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWdJdODKO6M&feature=youtu.be
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.

 

https://www.freeleonardpeltier.com/petition

 

Email: contact@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603


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Updates From Kevin Cooper 

A Never-ending Constitutional Violation

A summary of the current status of Kevin Cooper’s case by the Kevin Cooper Defense Committee

 

      On October 26, 2023, the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, LLP wrote a rebuttal in response to the Special Counsel's January 13, 2023 report upholding the conviction of their client Kevin Cooper. A focus of the rebuttal was that all law enforcement files were not turned over to the Special Counsel during their investigation, despite a request for them to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office.

      On October 29, 2023, Law Professors Lara Bazelon and Charlie Nelson Keever, who run the six member panel that reviews wrongful convictions for the San Francisco County District Attorney's office, published an OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle calling the "Innocence Investigation” done by the Special Counsel in the Cooper case a “Sham Investigation” largely because Cooper has unsuccessfully fought for years to obtain the police and prosecutor files in his case. This is a Brady claim, named for the U.S. Supreme court’s 1963 case establishing the Constitutional rule that defendants are entitled to any information in police and prosecutor's possession that could weaken the state's case or point to innocence. Brady violations are a leading cause of wrongful convictions. The Special Counsel's report faults Cooper for not offering up evidence of his own despite the fact that the best evidence to prove or disprove Brady violations or other misconduct claims are in those files that the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office will not turn over to the Special Counsel or to Cooper's attorneys.

      On December 14, 2023, the president of the American Bar Association (ABA), Mary Smith, sent Governor Gavin Newsom a three page letter on behalf of the ABA stating in part that Mr.Cooper's counsel objected to the state's failure to provide Special Counsel all documents in their possession relating to Mr.Cooper's conviction, and that concerns about missing information are not new. For nearly 40 years Mr.Cooper's attorneys have sought this same information from the state.

      On December 19, 2023, Bob Egelko, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an article about the ABA letter to the Governor that the prosecutors apparently withheld evidence from the Governor's legal team in the Cooper case.

      These are just a few recent examples concerning the ongoing failure of the San Bernardino County District Attorney to turn over to Cooper's attorney's the files that have been requested, even though under the law and especially the U.S. Constitution, the District Attorney of San Bernardino county is required to turn over to the defendant any and all material and or exculpatory evidence that they have in their files. Apparently, they must have something in their files because they refuse to turn them over to anyone.

      The last time Cooper's attorney's received files from the state, in 2004, it wasn't from the D.A. but a Deputy Attorney General named Holly Wilkens in Judge Huff's courtroom. Cooper's attorneys discovered a never before revealed police report showing that a shirt was discovered that had blood on it and was connected to the murders for which Cooper was convicted, and that the shirt had disappeared. It had never been tested for blood. It was never turned over to Cooper's trial attorney, and no one knows where it is or what happened to it. Cooper's attorneys located the woman who found that shirt on the side of the road and reported it to the Sheriff's Department. She was called to Judge Huff's court to testify about finding and reporting that shirt to law enforcement. That shirt was the second shirt found that had blood on it that was not the victims’ blood. This was in 2004, 19 years after Cooper's conviction.

      It appears that this ongoing constitutional violation that everyone—from the Special Counsel to the Governor's legal team to the Governor himself—seems to know about, but won't do anything about, is acceptable in order to uphold Cooper's conviction.

But this type of thing is supposed to be unacceptable in the United States of America where the Constitution is supposed to stand for something other than a piece of paper with writing on it. How can a Governor, his legal team, people who support and believe in him ignore a United States citizen’s Constitutional Rights being violated for 40 years in order to uphold a conviction?

      This silence is betrayal of the Constitution. This permission and complicity by the Governor and his team is against everything that he and they claim to stand for as progressive politicians. They have accepted the Special Counsel's report even though the Special Counsel did not receive the files from the district attorney that may not only prove that Cooper is innocent, but that he was indeed framed by the Sheriff’s Department; and that evidence was purposely destroyed and tampered with, that certain witnesses were tampered with, or ignored if they had information that would have helped Cooper at trial, that evidence that the missing shirt was withheld from Cooper's trial attorney, and so much more.

      Is the Governor going to get away with turning a blind eye to this injustice under his watch?

      Are progressive people going to stay silent and turn their eyes blind in order to hopefully get him to end the death penalty for some while using Cooper as a sacrificial lamb?


An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974

 

Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)


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The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 


See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:

https://www.amazon.com/Reports-Within-Belly-Beast-Department-ebook/dp/B084656JDZ/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings


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Sign the petition:

https://dontextraditeassange.com/petition/


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Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale

 

I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”


We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!

Jesselyn Radack
Director
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)
ExposeFacts

Twitter: @JesselynRadack

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Resources for Resisting Federal Repressionhttps://www.nlg.org/federalrepressionresources/

 

Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 

 

The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 

 

Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.

 

Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement, you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 

 

State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 

 

Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312

San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or fbi_hotline@xxxxxxxxx

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:

 

National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811


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Articles

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1) Chicago becomes the largest U.S. city to approve a cease-fire resolution.

By Colbi Edmonds, Feb. 1, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/01/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news

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Protesters calling for a cease-fire during a Gaza rally near the University of Illinois, Chicago, this month. Credit...Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press


The Chicago City Council voted on Wednesday to approve a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas, making it the largest city in the United States to do so.

 

Mayor Brandon Johnson broke a 23-to-23 tie to ensure passage of the resolution.

 

Before the council discussion, residents and activists spoke passionately about their support of a cease-fire, cheering and clapping for their peers. Mr. Johnson at one point cleared the council chamber to lower the volume of dissent while Debra Silverstein, the council’s only Jewish member, spoke in opposition to the resolution.

 

Similar debates have played out in communities nationwide as the passions ignited by the war in Gaza have reverberated through American politics. But the issue has been particularly contentious in Chicago and its suburbs. On Tuesday, hundreds of Chicago Public School students walked out of class in support of the resolution.

 

“You serve a county that is home to the largest population of Palestinians in America, Palestinians who have been here because they were exiled for the last 75 years,” a resident said during the public-comment session that preceded the council discussion and vote. “For four months, you’ve heard us loud and clear, and it’s a shame that it’s taken this long.”

 

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the civil rights activist, attended the meeting in support of the resolution. He is one of many Black religious leaders across the country who have called on President Biden for a cease-fire.

 

Alderman Daniel La Spata, a sponsor on the resolution, acknowledged on Wednesday that the city’s vote would not directly affect international policy.

 

“We vote with solidarity,” Mr. La Spata said. “We vote to help people feel heard in a world of silence.”

 

But despite the emotions surrounding the issue, council members held a largely restrained and respectful discussion.

 

“I think some of the arguments here on the floor defy some logic,” Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez said, adding: “We all want peace, as we said, but how can we want peace and be against cease-fire?”

 

The topic has been contentious among city leadership since the Oct. 7 attacks. Ms. Silverstein won passage of a resolution condemning Hamas a week after the attack, and on Wednesday she lamented that similar language was not part of this resolution as well.

 

“We all want an end to the bloodshed and an end to the war,” Ms. Silverstein said during Wednesday’s meeting. “But it is vital to understand what caused the conflict, and we should pass a resolution that addresses the issue responsibly.”

 

Around 70 cities in the country, including San Francisco, Seattle and Detroit, have passed resolutions on the war, with at least 47 of those calling for an immediate cease-fire, according to Reuters.


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2) The Dawn of a New Era of Oppression

By Charles M. Blow, Jan. 31, 2024

“Democratic candidates committed to White supremacy replaced every Republican incumbent in the 1875 elections.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/31/opinion/racist-backlash-history.html

Attachment: A close-up of large chains with tape that are part of Charles Gaines’s sculpture “Moving Chains.”
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Detail of “The American Manifest: Moving Chains” (2022) by Charles Gaines. Credit...Ike Edeani for The New York Times


I am fascinated, and alarmed, by the swiftness with which periods of backlash take shape after surges of Black progress, and I believe that we have entered another such period.

 

Much of my inquiry on the matter has focused on the period after Reconstruction was allowed to fail and that saw Jim Crow begin to rise. Much of this was embodied by the state of Mississippi, which in 1870 was majority Black. White supremacists in the state developed the “Mississippi Plan” in advance of the state’s 1875 elections to use fraud and the intimidation of Black voters, including through violence, to retake state power from progressives.

 

The plan worked. As the historian Jason Phillips wrote for the Mississippi Historical Society and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, “Democratic candidates committed to White supremacy replaced every Republican incumbent in the 1875 elections.”

 

The racists took control of the state’s legislature and judiciary, impeached the Republican governor and installed a replacement of their liking.

 

Reconstruction ended when, with the Compromise of 1877 to end a contested presidential election, Democrats in Congress, mostly from the South, allowed Republican Rutherford B. Hayes to claim the presidency in exchange for the withdrawal of all federal troops. They had been enforcing the Reconstruction-era constitutional amendments and were providing a measure of protection for Black citizens in the South.

 

The next step was the calling of the Mississippi constitutional convention of 1890, which had the express purpose of encoding white supremacy into the state’s DNA. Other Southern states followed suit as the Jim Crow era took shape.

 

This was the start of a pattern that seems to repeat itself every few decades. In the 1910s, after the beginning of the first wave of the Great Migration, there would come the violent backlash of the Red Summer, as bloody riots targeting Black Americans broke out, some taking place in cities to which Black people had migrated, lured by the promise of better economic and social conditions, and fleeing racial terrorism.

 

And in the 1920s — as Richard Rothstein outlines in “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” — restrictive covenants, the practice of putting clauses in deeds to forbid the selling or renting of real estate to Black people, spread across the country.

 

Backlash would flare again after the civil rights movement. During the last years of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, his cause lost favor, even in liberal cities. For instance, just weeks after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a New York Times survey found that most white New Yorkers “said they believed the Negro civil rights movement had gone too far.”

 

In 1968, King was killed during Richard Nixon’s run for the White House. Nixon visited King’s wife and went to King’s funeral. His campaign also did some cursory outreach to Black voters, which led to him winning 15 percent of the Black vote, even though only 3 percent of Black voters identified as Republican that year.

 

But we now know what was happening behind the scenes. In an interview published in 2016, the Nixon aide John Ehrlichman said: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people.” He went on to explain how Nixon’s team underscored the criminalization of drugs as a way to discredit both groups, helping to usher in the war on drugs and mass incarceration, which have been catastrophic for the Black community.

 

I now believe that we are in the early phase of yet another backlash, with the dismantling of affirmative action, governmental attacks on the teaching of Black history and the full-court press on the political right to get rid of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives.

 

The symbolic alignment of a cross-section of Americans, particularly the young, with Black liberty and Black lives after the murder of George Floyd and the wave of protests that it brought forth, retreated with the speed of the tide before the advance of the tsunami.

 

The results for this era could be wide-reaching, altering the composition of student bodies and corporate workforces, locking in and perpetuating privilege and disadvantage for a generation. And as with previous backlashes, some liberals have grown weary, distracted or disaffected, and their allyship has withered and fallen away.

 

And then there are the more explicit attacks. Newly reported F.B.I. data reveals that the number of hate crimes in schools nearly doubled between 2018 and 2022, with African Americans being the most frequent victims. The most common victims of hate crimes outside of schools were also African Americans.

 

This disturbing data arrived to little attention as people remain distracted by raging wars, a border crisis, the various court cases of a former president and the start of the presidential primaries.

 

I believe that the whiplash from these events has been particularly disorienting and enraging for younger Americans, for whom this may be their first experience of such a backlash, and that their frustration has manifested in a broad dissatisfaction with politics in general that has fed a dissatisfaction with the current administration.

 

The unfortunate reality of all this is that if history is our guide, the effects of these backlashes linger for decades.


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3) A Select Few Witnessed Alabama’s Nitrogen Execution. This Is What They Saw.

There are contrasting accounts of the first U.S. execution by nitrogen gas, but most witnesses agreed on one thing: It did not go as Alabama had promised.

By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Feb. 1, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/01/us/alabama-nitrogen-execution-kenneth-smith-witnesses.html

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Kenneth Smith was executed last week at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala. Credit...Edmund D. Fountain for The New York Times


When Alabama conducted the first known execution using nitrogen gas last week, the world was watching — in a figurative sense.

 

Only a small group of witnesses actually watched Kenneth Smith die on a gurney in an execution chamber in rural Alabama, an execution that state officials described as a model for other states looking for alternatives to lethal injection.

 

The witnesses offered a range of descriptions on what exactly occurred in the 22 minutes during which curtains were drawn back on the death chamber — allowing them to watch as a man, strapped to a gurney, struggled through the last minutes of his life.

 

Mr. Smith was one of three men convicted of murder in the 1988 stabbing death of Elizabeth Sennett, whose husband had hired the men to kill her. Mr. Smith had already survived one failed execution, in November 2022, when executioners spent hours trying to access a vein to inject him with lethal drugs.

 

He was “terrified” of the nitrogen execution, according to a man who spent time with him in recent months as a spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeff Hood.

 

Lawyers for the state had asserted in court papers that the use of nitrogen gas, pumped into a mask, would render Mr. Smith unconscious within seconds and then kill him. But a week after the execution, most witnesses who have spoken publicly said Mr. Smith remained conscious for several minutes, and many described it as a profoundly disturbing event.

 

As several states begin considering laws to adopt the use of nitrogen gas in their executions, here are the accounts of some of those who witnessed the first one.

 

Kenneth Smith is led into the execution chamber

 

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed shortly before 7 p.m. local time, and Mr. Smith was taken to the execution chamber.

 

The only public account of what took place in the chamber before the curtains were opened has come from Mr. Hood, who entered when summoned by prison officials and then largely remained with Mr. Smith.

 

When we were waiting to enter the execution chamber, the corrections officer kept banging on the door. She told me, “He’s resisting.” When I walk in, the entire execution squad is in the execution chamber, which I’ve never seen before. Kenny said something like, “I’m giving them hell.” They have to strap him down, and obviously, if you resist that, that’s not going to be an easy thing to do.

 

Mr. Hood said he anointed Mr. Smith’s head with oil as he lay on the gurney. Then, Mr. Hood was led back outside briefly while Mr. Smith was fitted with the mask.

 

We go in again and as soon as I get in there, he’s trying to comfort me. … He kept on saying, “I’ve got this, I’ve got this, I’ve got this.” … He kept on talking about his “release date” — that today was his release date — that he was free and that he’s out of there.

 

Mr. Hood began to read Bible passages to Mr. Smith, and said he responded energetically after nearly every line.

 

I would say, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and he would say, “Damn right!” When I’m reading, “You who are without sin shall cast the first stone,” he looks at the guards and says, “You know he’s talking to y’all?” I think he saw that as his final resistance.

 

It was only moments before the execution would begin.

 

When he was in the chamber, before they opened the curtains, he was bouncing his head around, as if he was listening to music.

 

The execution begins

 

Marty Roney, a longtime reporter for The Montgomery Advertiser, had witnessed two previous executions. This time, he said, the dimly lit viewing room had a strong scent of disinfectant as five journalists and Mr. Smith’s family members were led in. His job, in part, would be to keep track of the elapsed time, if he could.

 

The room is probably 8 by 12 [feet], with 13 folding chairs — it’s tight. There is a large glass window in front of the media room that lets you look into the death chamber. The five of us [reporters] decided to divvy up duties. … My job was, if I found the clock, I would keep the clock.

 

In another witness room sat two sons of the murder victim, Mike and Chuck Sennett, as well as their wives, a friend and another relative of Ms. Sennett’s.

 

Mike Sennett said there were also two people he did not know; he thought they were prison officials from another state. In 2010, the family attended the lethal injection execution of John Parker, who was also convicted in his mother’s murder.

 

We went down for the Parker execution and it was like him going to sleep. We didn’t know what to expect with this. My anxiety was just building all day long, wondering what’s going to happen.

 

Kim Chandler, a reporter with The Associated Press, wrote an account of what she saw when the curtains were pulled back at 7:53 p.m.

 

Smith, wearing a tan prison uniform, was already strapped to the gurney and draped in a white sheet. A blue-rimmed respirator mask covered his face from forehead to chin. It had a clear face shield and plastic tubing that appeared to connect through an opening to the adjoining control room.

 

Another media witness, Ralph Chapoco of The Alabama Reflector, wrote that Mr. Smith seemed to be trying to reassure his relatives.

 

From the moment the curtain opened and throughout the time that corrections staff read the death warrant, Kenneth Eugene Smith never took his eyes off his supporters or the members of his family. … He scanned their faces one by one, smiled at each of them and several times made a sign with his fingers which meant “I love you.” He would look into the eyes of one person, smile, then move onto the next person, smile and then move on to the next person.

 

The gas begins flowing

 

Mr. Smith remained conscious for several minutes, according to the five media witnesses, including Mr. Roney.

 

For four minutes, he was gasping for air. He appeared to be conscious. He was convulsing, he was writhing, the gurney was shaking noticeably.

 

Mr. Roney said that he tried to count the seconds between Mr. Smith’s gasps.

 

We’re not allowed watches. There is no second hand on the clock. It’s a digital clock that’s on military time. I’m sitting there, “one Mississippi, two Mississippi,” between his breaths.

 

He said the execution was vastly different than the two he had witnessed before.

 

The two lethal injections I saw, I saw very little physical movement after we believe the process began. Their head goes down, their eyes roll in the back of their head, and then you look for the chest to stop working. You can always fool yourself in that situation into thinking you’re watching someone fall asleep. But there was no mistaking this for what it was.

 

John Hamm, the commissioner of Alabama’s prison system, said at a news conference that he believed Mr. Smith had tried to hold his breath when the nitrogen started flowing, potentially prolonging the process.

 

It appeared that, one, Smith was holding his breath as long as he could. And then there’s also information out there, he struggled against his restraints a little bit but there was some involuntary movement and some agonal breathing. So, that was all expected and is in the side effects that we’ve seen or researched on nitrogen hypoxia. So, nothing was out of the ordinary of what we were expecting.

The media witnesses said Mr. Smith’s breathing was no longer visible at 8:08 p.m.

 

In the room where the Sennett family was seated, there was near silence, Mike Sennett said, as they watched Mr. Smith convulse. Mr. Sennett said he, too, believed that Mr. Smith had initially tried to hold his breath. As Mr. Smith continued to shake, Mr. Sennett said he began to think, “How long is this going to take?”

 

We were told by some people that worked [in the prison system] that he’d take two or three breaths and he’d be out and gone. That ain’t what happened. After about two or three breaths, that’s when the struggling started. Other people kept saying he was trying to raise himself up. Yeah, he was. I’d probably try and do the same, try and get off the table.

 

Mr. Sennett says he has been unable to get the violence of Mr. Smith’s last moments out of his mind.

 

With all that struggling and jerking and trying to get off that table, more or less, it’s just something I don’t ever want to see again.

 

The curtains close

 

The curtains to the media witness room were closed at 8:15 p.m.

 

Mr. Sennett had jotted down some notes for a brief address but, overwhelmed with emotions and without his glasses, he said he struggled to read from them. The family wasn’t celebrating, he told reporters; they were just glad the execution had finally happened, after more than 35 years. He later said that he meant to say more about feeling sorry for the Smith family and their loss.

 

Mr. Chapoco found it difficult to turn to the task of writing an article.

 

Trauma has a way of playing tricks on a person’s mind. I knew what I experienced. I could even visualize it. For some reason, however, I could not string a series of coherent thoughts together. … Frankly, I underestimated the impact [the] execution would have, believing I could place it in the back of my mind.

 

Mr. Roney said a rush of adrenaline helped him to focus and type up his story.

 

Once the whistle blows, you do your job. When the curtain opened up, you don’t really have time to — you take it all in — but you don’t have time to let it affect you. I have a job to do. I’m thinking, “Don’t screw it up. Am I seeing what I think I see?” And then you’re in the media room and you’re on deadline and it’s all business.

 

Later, there was a news conference in the hotel lobby of a Holiday Inn Express with Mr. Hood and two death penalty opponents. Joining them was Mr. Smith’s wife, Deanna Smith, who married him while he was in prison in 2021. She wore a shirt that said, “Never Alone” and described the painful experience of watching her husband die.

 

Tonight, I watched my husband jerk and convulse and gasp for air for at least 10 minutes.

 

She said it was difficult to sit in the same room with reporters who were focused on chronicling the moment.

 

They put the media in that room with us, our family. And while our son was crying, having just watched his father take his last gasp for air, the media is sitting behind us, shuffling papers and talking about time. My question to you guys is, where’s the humanity? Where’s the compassion? Where’s love and forgiveness?

 

When Mr. Sennett returned to his hotel — the same one — he was stunned to see the news conference in the lobby.

 

When we come back to the hotel, the guy said, “They’re having a big rally in there.” We just sat there and listened, and about half of what he said had really happened. They played it up pretty good. Wasn’t expecting that.

 

Afterward, Mr. Sennett met one of Mr. Smith’s sons. They wound up embracing.

 

He just more or less said that he’d been waiting a long time to meet us and tell us he’s very sorry. I told him: “You were a baby back then. You had nothing to do with it. Your family had nothing to do with it. We don’t blame any of y’all. We blame Kenneth Smith.”

 

Mr. Sennett said that over the years, he had been most bothered by how long it took Alabama to carry out the execution, and the fact that Mr. Smith never wrote an apology to the family.

 

We did not get a letter of apology in 35 years. That’s all we wanted. His spiritual adviser told us that he tried to get that out of him, and he would not say it. So good riddance to you. That’s all we wanted was that letter of apology. That’ll stay with me for a long time.

As the night wore on, people began to return to their hotel rooms. Unable to sleep, Mr. Roney said he poured himself a drink and watched television.

 

All of a sudden it’s over with and done, but there’s no way you can go to bed for two hours because you can’t switch it off like that. … This one has stuck with me. When I drove home, about an hour and a half away, my wife gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, “Was it bad?” and I said, “Uh-huh.”


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4) In the West Bank, Palestinians Struggle to Adjust to a New Reality

The volatile mix of violence, tensions and Israeli restrictions has had a stultifying effect on the West Bank

By Yara Bayoumy and Rami Nazzal, Feb. 2, 2024

Reporting from multiple cities in the West Bank

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/02/world/middleeast/west-bank-palestine-israel.html

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Relatives mourning Ahmed and Jalal Jabarin, who were shot dead by Israeli troops after their car broke through a checkpoint near the city of Hebron, West Bank, this month. Credit...Marco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


At one of the main checkpoints between the West Bank and Jerusalem, only two of four lanes were open recently and the hours of operation were shortened to 12 hours a day.

 

Haneen Faroukh, 26, said she now had to wait for hours to run simple errands. Israeli soldiers had sown panic among ordinary Palestinians who make the crossing frequently to reach jobs, doctors, relatives or just their homes.

 

“They yell at us all the time,” said Ms. Faroukh. “We’re too scared to say anything.”

 

For many Palestinians, life in the West Bank, already hard under years of Israeli occupation, is now subject to ever more onerous restrictions and an increased military presence since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that killed an estimated 1,200 people.

 

Israeli authorities have created new choke points for travel, throttling traffic. They have stopped allowing many Palestinians to work in Israel, a lifeblood for the local economy. And they have increased the intensity of raids and arrests in West Bank neighborhoods.

 

The Israeli military says there has been a “significant increase in terrorist attacks” in the West Bank since Oct. 7, necessitating the need for the additional security measures and raids.

 

Many Palestinians who spoke to The New York Times say these measures, at times humiliating, have provoked frustration and anger. They have watched in horror as an estimated 26,000 people, including friends and relatives, have been killed under heavy Israeli bombardment in Gaza, while facing worsening conditions at home under Israeli authority and attacks at the hands of Jewish settlers.

 

In the extreme, it has translated into violence by Palestinian factions. Last month, two Palestinian men stole cars and ran over Israelis in a suburb of Tel Aviv, the Israeli police said. One person was killed and 17 others were injured, according to emergency officials. Both men were residents of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

 

The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank — which includes a number of Palestinian cities interlaced with Israeli settlements — have long had to reckon with an Israeli occupation that largely dictates their lives.

 

Israel controls access to most of the water in the West Bank, restricts Palestinian access to several roads and decides who can enter Israel for work. Israel has continued to authorize the construction of thousands of new buildings on Jewish settlements, while making it extremely difficult for Palestinians to obtain building permits in the areas of the West Bank that Israel directly administers, a fact that blocks most Palestinian development in those areas.

 

Before the war, more than 100,000 Palestinians in the West Bank were working in Israel and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to Raja Khalidi, who leads the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute.

 

Since Oct. 7, Israel has canceled the majority of those work permits. And the steady flow of workers from the West Bank who usually cross the border has been reduced to a trickle.

 

For a few weeks after the Hamas-led attack, buses from Jerusalem to Ramallah in the West Bank were only allowed to drop off passengers as far as the checkpoint, forcing passengers to take different forms of transportation.

 

Charlie Gabajee, 47, said he worked as a delivery man between Israel and the West Bank until his permit was revoked.

 

“Life is so restricted now,” he said in his car as he inched his way through the checkpoint to take his 85-year-old mother, Claire, to the hospital.

 

He explained how Israeli soldiers regularly check cars with their guns trained on the passengers. He fears that it could get worse in the West Bank.

 

“I think there is a plan for the Israeli government that, after they finish in Gaza, they’ll come here to the West Bank and try to shut it down even more,” he said.

 

By the middle of December, the number of “access and movement restrictions” Israeli forces established in the West Bank, including checkpoints and road blocks, rose to 694 from 645, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

 

The economic shock waves have rippled through the West Bank.

 

Israel collected tax money in Gaza and the West Bank and gave the funds to the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank. After Oct. 7, Israel withheld funds earmarked for salary and pension expenses in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, in turn, refused to accept the partial transfer, which led to many Palestinian civil servants having their wages cut. The Israeli government recently approved a plan for the frozen tax funds to be held by Norway.

 

With the money frozen, Palestinian banks face increased risks of default on loans to Gazans, Palestinian workers in Israel and to salary-squeezed employees of the Palestinian Authority.

 

The Palestinian Authority was forced to take out a $400 million loan in December to keep itself afloat. This brought the Palestinian banking system’s overall public debt load to $2.5 billion, Mr. Khalidi said.

 

“I don’t want to use the phrase ‘perfect storm,’ because it seemed appropriate for Covid, but it’s much worse than that,” Mr. Khalidi said. “The overall blow to aggregate demand and consumption in the economy is being felt through the West Bank, while the collapse in Gaza is seen as a worst case that may yet befall the West Bank.”

 

Some public schools in the West Bank have shut down because teachers have stopped receiving salaries from the Palestinian Authority. Even if schools are open, some parents are too scared to send their children out of fear they may get caught in an Israeli raid.

 

“I send my daughter to school but I feel like she’ll die at any moment. I’m on my nerves,” said Manal Hamade, 42, who runs a women’s salon in the Balata neighborhood on the outskirts of Nablus.

 

“The Israelis used to carry out raids at night, but now at any moment they come in,” she said.

 

Her anxiousness and wariness reflected the mood of the neighborhood, where residents keep watch for any signs of outsiders that could signal an Israeli raid on the camp.

 

Across the West Bank and Jerusalem, the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah says, at least 380 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7 by Israeli forces.

 

The Israeli military said in a statement that it “conducts nightly counterterrorism operations to apprehend suspects, many of them are part of the Hamas terrorist organization. In addition, as part of the security operations in the area, dynamic checkpoints have been put up over different places.”

 

Even before the Hamas attacks, settler violence was hitting its highest levels since the U.N. began tracking it in the mid-2000s. According to U.N. figures in November 2023, there was an average of one incident of settler violence a day in 2021. Since Oct. 7, the average is seven incidents per day. Extremist settlers have been attacking Palestinian homes and businesses in the West Bank. They have burned down the tents of seminomadic Bedouin herders and shot people, witnesses have said.

 

On Thursday, President Biden ordered broad financial and travel sanctions be imposed on Israeli settlers accused of violent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.

 

Hadya Sidr, 42, lives in the city of Hebron with her husband, Abed, and four children and stepchildren. They said they had gotten used to occasional harassment from settlers living nearby. But since the Oct. 7 attacks, they said, the settlers have felt more emboldened.

 

Most evenings, Ms. Sidr said, settlers throw stones, trash and empty wine bottles to harass them.

 

“We were living normally before, you could go out and about, but now, it’s not possible. It’s just too scary,” she said.

 

Her husband added that the settlers also yell profanity at them: “Muhammad is a pig,” referring to the Prophet Muhammad.

 

“After 4 or 5 p.m., we do not leave our homes. Why? Because we’re worried that a settler sees us and shoots at us,” he said.

 

The Sidrs, like many Palestinian families living in the West Bank’s numerous refugee camps — many of which are built-up areas that were established decades ago — said the declining economy had hit them particularly hard.

 

“In normal times, we’re barely able to get enough food,” said Mr. Sidr, who sews Palestinian embroidery on various textiles. “There is no more living here. Everyone who had some money hidden away has spent it.”

 

“After the war, we’re going to be forced to beg from people,” he added.


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5) Israel’s defense minister signals the army could push toward Gaza’s southernmost point.

By Aaron Boxerman and Nick Cumming-Bruce reporting from Jerusalem and Geneva, Feb. 2, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/02/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news#israels-defense-minister-signals-the-army-could-push-toward-gazas-southernmost-point

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Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, speaking in Tel Aviv, Israel, in December. Credit...Pool photo by Alberto Pizzoli


Israel’s defense minister has signaled that Israeli ground forces could advance on Rafah — one of the last southern Gaza cities that Israeli ground forces have not yet reached — raising concerns in a corner of the enclave where hundreds of thousands of people have crowded for shelter from the war.

 

“We are completing the mission in Khan Younis, and we will reach Rafah as well, and eliminate every terrorist there who threatens to harm us,” the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said during a visit to troops in Khan Younis, according to footage distributed by his office late Thursday.

 

It was not clear whether Mr. Gallant’s comments reflected an immediate military objective or were intended more as a signal of resolve both to the Israeli public and to Hamas as Israel awaits the armed group’s response to a proposed initial framework for a cease-fire and release of more Israeli hostages from Gaza.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will continue fighting Hamas in Gaza until “complete victory,” even as he faces rising domestic pressure to make a deal to free the hostages and international calls to ease the fighting and limit harm to civilians.

 

Thousands of Palestinians have fled south in recent days to escape the fighting in Khan Younis and central Gaza, many with just the clothes they were wearing. The United Nations has described dire conditions in Khan Younis, where Israel has engaged in intense urban fighting as it says it is trying to kill or capture Hamas leaders it believes are hiding in and beneath the city in an extensive network of tunnels.

 

Roughly half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have crammed into the area surrounding Rafah, a city at the enclave’s southern border where about 200,000 lived before the war, the United Nations said on Friday.

 

Israel’s stated goal of toppling Hamas’s rule in Gaza would most likely require at least some of its forces to enter Rafah to attack the group’s network there.

 

If Israel were to advance on Rafah, it is not clear how it would provide for the safety of civilians, many of whom have fled multiple times as Israel has called for evacuations of areas it intended to target.

 

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the agency was deeply concerned about escalating combat in Khan Younis and the rise in displaced Gazans fleeing for Rafah.

 

“Rafah is a pressure cooker of despair, and we fear for what comes next,” Mr. Laerke told journalists in Geneva on Friday.

 

Severe constraints on deliveries of supplies like food, water and medicine, and escalating levels of disease have increased the sense of desperation, Mr. Laerke said. “Every week we think it can’t get any worse,” he added. “Well, go figure, it gets worse.”

 

Mr. Netanyahu has said that Israel must take control of a strip of land along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt to defeat Hamas. The move could effectively cut Egypt off from Gaza, potentially weakening Egypt’s regional role and bringing the fighting directly to its border.

 

Egyptian officials have said that Israeli military control of the land corridor would violate agreements between the two sides.

 

“It must be strictly emphasized that any Israeli move in this direction will lead to a serious threat to Egyptian-Israeli relations,” Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian government spokesman, said in late January.


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6) The Palestinian Red Crescent says Israeli forces attacked a hospital in Khan Younis.

By Raja Abdulrahim, Feb. 2, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/02/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news#israels-defense-minister-signals-the-army-could-push-toward-gazas-southernmost-point

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An injured man was brought to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip in January. Credit...Haitham Imad/EPA, via Shutterstock


Israeli forces attacked a hospital complex in southern Gaza on Friday and killed a number of people, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which said one of its employees was among the dead.

 

The Israeli military declined to comment on the Red Crescent report. It has said its intelligence indicates that Hamas is operating from inside and around the hospital, Al-Amal, though it has not offered evidence to support its claims.

 

The Al-Amal complex, and a second hospital, the Nasser Medical Complex, have been surrounded for days by Israeli ground forces, according to aid groups and the Gazan Health Ministry, trapping thousands of patients, medical staff and displaced Palestinians who had sought shelter.

 

They are two of the last partially functioning hospitals in southern Gaza, though they are facing shortages of water, food, oxygen and medicine needed for thousands of patients, health officials say.

 

Israel said last week that it was “carrying out precise operations” in Khan Younis against Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that controls Gaza. The military said its intelligence indicates that Hamas is operating from inside and around both the Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals.

 

Israel has long contended that Hamas uses hospitals, a charge denied by both Hamas and hospital administrators.

 

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that Israeli forces on Thursday had stormed the courtyard of Al-Amal and opened fire, hitting five vehicles, including ambulances.

 

Two Red Crescent staff members were shot and killed by Israeli forces near the entrance gate of Al-Amal the day before, the group said. The Israeli military did not respond on Friday to questions about those claims.

 

“The situation in the hospital is terrible in all aspects,” said Dr. Mohammad Abu Moussa, a radiologist at Nasser whose family is sheltering there. He said that he had seen an airstrike nearby from the top floor of the hospital Friday afternoon. “There are very few doctors and not many with specialties. There are only two surgeons.”

 

The United Nations has said that heavy fighting around both hospitals has jeopardized the safety of medical staff, injured and sick patients and thousands of other Palestinians sheltering there. Oxygen supplies at both hospitals are nearing depletion, according to the U.N. and Red Crescent.

 

Despite the heavy military operations around Nasser hospital, the World Health Organization said that it and other aid groups were able to reach the facility this week and deliver badly needed medical supplies.

 

“Within a week Nasser has gone from partially to minimally functional, reflecting the unwarranted and ongoing dismantling of the health system,” the W.H.O. chief, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, wrote on social media this week. “The morale of the medical staff has significantly declined due to these grim circumstances.”


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7) American officials say there were no back-channel discussions with Tehran.

By David E. Sanger and Farnaz Fassihi, Feb. 3, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/03/world/us-strikes-israel-hamas-news

People gathering for an annual rally in Tehran last year, with missiles displayed in the background. Credit...Arash Khamooshi for The New York Times


As Iran and the United States assessed the damage done by American airstrikes on 85 targets in Syria and Iraq, the ball suddenly shifted to Tehran’s court and its pending decision over whether to respond or take the hit and de-escalate.

 

The betting in Washington and among its allies is that the Iranians would choose the latter course, seeing no benefit in getting into a shooting war with a far larger power, with all the risks that implies. But it is not yet clear whether the varied proxy forces that have conducted scores of attacks on American bases and ships — who rely on Iran for money, arms and intelligence — will conclude that their interests, too, are served by backing off.

 

In the aftermath of the strike against Iranian forces and the militias they support, American officials insisted there was no back-channel discussion with Tehran, no quiet agreement that the U.S. would avoid high-value targets like missile sites, drone-launching facilities, ammunition stores and command-and-control complexes, in response to an attack last Sunday that took the lives of American soldiers.

 

“There’s been no communications with Iran since the attack that killed our three soldiers in Jordan,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters in a call on Friday night after the retaliatory strikes were completed.

 

But even without direct conversation, there has been plenty of signaling, in both directions.

 

Mr. Biden is engaged in a military, diplomatic and election-year gamble that he can first restore some semblance of deterrence in the region, then help orchestrate a “pause” or cease-fire in Gaza to allow for hostage exchanges with Israel, and then, in the biggest challenge of all, try to reshape the dynamics of the region.

 

But it is all happening in an area of the world he hoped, just five months ago, could be kept on the back burner while he focused on competition with China and the war in Ukraine, and in the midst of a campaign where his opponents, led by former President Donald J. Trump, will declare almost any move a sign of weakness.

 

For their part, the Iranians have been broadcasting in public that they want to take down the temperature — on the attacks, even on their quickly advancing nuclear program — even if their ultimate objective, to drive the United States out of the region once and for all, remains unchanged.

 

Their first response to the military strikes on Saturday morning was notably mild.

 

“The attack last night on Syria and Iraq is an adventurous action and another strategic mistake by the American government which will have no result other than increasing tensions and destabilizing the region,” said Nasser Kanaani, the foreign ministry spokesman.

 

Until Friday night, every military action by the United States has been soaked in calibration and caution, the hallmark of Mr. Biden’s approach. The deaths of the American soldiers forced his hand, though, administration officials said.

 

He had to make clear that the United States would seek to take apart many of the capabilities of the groups that call themselves the “Axis of Resistance,” a reference to the one concept that unites a fractious, often undisciplined group of militias — opposition to Israel, and to its chief backer, the United States.

 

And the strikes, Mr. Biden’s advisers quickly concluded, had to aim at facilities used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

 

But the president made the decision to strike largely at facilities and command centers, without aiming to decapitate their leadership or threatening Iran’s regime directly.

 

There was no serious consideration of striking inside Iran, one senior administration official said after the first round of strikes were complete. And the telegraphing of the punch gave Iranians and their proxies time to evacuate senior commanders and other personnel from their bases, and disperse them in safe houses.

 

To Mr. Biden’s critics, this is too much calibration, too much caution.

 

“The overriding intellectual construct of Biden foreign policy is avoidance of escalation,” said Kori Schake, a former Republican defense official in the Bush administration who directs foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

 

“They are not wrong to be worried about escalation,” she said. “But they don’t take into account that it encourages our adversaries. We often seem more worried about fighting wars we can win, and that encourages them to manipulate our fear.”


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8) Syria and Iraq are angered by U.S. strikes, warning they could deepen regional turmoil.

By Raja Abdulrahim, Feb. 3, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/03/world/us-strikes-israel-hamas-news

The U.S. military strikes that targeted sites in Syria and Iraq were largely conducted by two American B-1B bombers. Credit...Douglas C. Brunelle/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Syria and Iraq condemned U.S. strikes on Iran-backed militias in their countries, saying such attacks only impede the fight against Islamic State terrorists and threaten to drag the region even deeper into instability.

 

The U.S. strikes overnight hit 85 targets at seven sites in the two countries in retaliation for a drone attack on a remote outpost in Jordan on Sunday that killed three American soldiers. Washington has suggested that an Iran-linked Iraqi militia was behind that attack.

 

The Biden administration warned these strikes would not be the last.

 

“These strikes constitute a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, an undermining of the efforts of the Iraqi government,” Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for Iraq’s military, said late Friday. He called the U.S. attacks “unacceptable” and “a threat that will drag Iraq and the region into unforeseen consequences.”

 

The Iraqi government said that 16 people, including civilians, had been killed and 25 wounded, and warned that it would summon the U.S. envoy in Baghdad to protest the strikes.

 

The Syrian defense ministry called the attacks a “blatant air aggression,” according to state media. The strikes targeted 26 sites connected with the Iran-backed militias including bases and grain silos, killing at least 18 members of Iran-backed groups, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group with researchers in Syria.

 

The Syrian foreign ministry condemned what it called U.S. “aggression” and said that it would weaken Syrian efforts to combat terrorism.

 

The defense ministry said that the areas targeted were places where Syria’s military was fighting the Islamic State terrorist group, which continues to maintain an underground presence and carry out attacks inside Syria. The United States has hundreds of troops in other parts of Syria focused on fighting the remnants of Islamic State.

 

U.S. officials said they were confident the strikes had hit “exactly what they meant to hit.”

 

The targets were all linked to specific attacks against U.S. troops in the region, officials said, describing them as command and control operations, intelligence centers weapons facilities and bunkers used by the Quds Force — the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards — and affiliated militias. The Quds Force oversees Iran’s proxies around the Middle East.

 

Iran’s interior minister denied that Revolutionary Guards sites were hit in an interview with Al Manar, a Lebanese broadcaster linked to the Iran-backed Lebanese militant and political group Hezbollah.

 

John F. Kirby, a U.S. National Security Council spokesman, said the Iraqi government had been notified ahead of the strikes, which the Iraqi government called a “false claim.”

 

The United States had telegraphed for nearly a week before the strikes that it intended to retaliate.

 

But the Syrian Observatory reported that there was confusion among Iran-backed militias in Syria about what might be targeted. Leaders of the groups went to Damascus and Homs provinces and told others affiliated with them to remain in their homes, the Observatory reported.

 

In the days after President Biden said he had decided on a U.S. response to the Jordan attack, Mr. Kirby said it was very possible that the United States would carry out “a tiered approach” over a period of time rather than a single action.

 

Falih Hassan, Hwaida Saad and Victoria Kim contributed reporting.


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9) Hamas signals that wide gaps remain on reaching a cease-fire agreement.

By Aaron Boxerman, Feb. 3, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/03/world/us-strikes-israel-hamas-news

Damage in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Saturday. Credit...Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Even as hopes have risen about the possibility of reaching a hostage release deal and cease-fire in the nearly four-month war between Israel and Hamas, substantial gaps between the two sides remain, a Hamas official has said.

 

A proposal hammered out in Paris last week “is being studied by the movement’s leadership and other resistance factions,” Osama Hamdan, a leader in Hamas’s political wing in Lebanon, told the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International on Friday. “But we cannot say that we have reached a conclusion.”

 

In the negotiating room, Israel was still insisting that “the military operation in Gaza would continue” after the cease-fire, Mr. Hamdan said, which contradicted Hamas’s condition for a permanent truce. Another key sticking point was an Israeli demand for a buffer zone inside Gaza, he added.

 

Israeli leaders have said they will not compromise on their goal of toppling Hamas’s rule in Gaza and told the Israeli public to expect months more of fighting. Israeli troops have been destroying buildings to clear out what they have described as a security zone inside Gaza, in an attempt to prevent another surprise attack similar to the Hamas-led assault on Oct. 7 that prompted the war, Israeli officials have said.

 

Israel and Hamas do not recognize one another and negotiate via mediators, primarily Qatar and Egypt. On Sunday, Israeli, Egyptian and American intelligence chiefs met with the Qatari premier in Paris, working out a framework for a potential cease-fire agreement, which was passed on to Hamas.

 

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas’s political bureau, spoke on Friday with leaders of two other Palestinian armed groups — Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — about the potential deal, his office said in a statement.

 

In the statement, Mr. Haniyeh emphasized to his counterparts that the talks were aimed at “totally ending the aggression and the withdrawal of the occupation army outside of Gaza.”

 

As part of any cease-fire agreement, Hamas has demanded that Israel release the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prison in exchange for the over 100 Israeli hostages held captive in Gaza. Mr. Hamdan said that would include Palestinians serving life sentences for killing Israelis, including Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life terms in Israeli prison for killings committed during the second intifada in the early 2000s.

 

“Our demand is for the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners, especially because we have enough imprisoned Israeli soldiers in our possession to enable us to do so,” Mr. Hamdan said, later mentioning Mr. Barghouti by name.

 

Many Palestinians revere Mr. Barghouti as a courageous resistance figure untainted by the accusations of corruption and rights abuses that dog the current Palestinian leadership. Israeli officials view him as a terrorist responsible for deadly attacks.

 

In a Tuesday speech at a military academy in the occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel appeared to rule out a mass Palestinian prisoner release, further raising doubts on the ability of both sides to reach a deal.

 

“We will not withdraw the Israel Defense Forces from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “What will happen? Total victory!”


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10) Iran says an Israeli strike in Syria has killed a member of the Revolutionary Guards.

By Farnaz Fassihi, Feb. 3, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/03/world/us-strikes-israel-hamas-news

Mourners in Iraq last month carrying the coffin of Razi Moussavi, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards who was killed in an Israeli strike. Iran says Israel killed another member of the Guards on Friday. Credit...Qassem Al-Kaabi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Iran said on Friday that an Israeli strike early in the morning in the southern district of Damascus had killed one of its military officers in Syria, the latest in a series of recent attacks on Iranian forces.

 

Iranian media said the slain officer, Saeed Alidadi, was a member of the Revolutionary Guards Corps who had been deployed to Syria as a military adviser. Since late December, at least four other officers in the Quds Forces, the external branch of the Guards that operates in Syria, have been killed in strikes associated with Israel.

 

Israel did not publicly take responsibility for the strike or comment on it.

 

A Middle Eastern defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Israel had killed Mr. Alidadi as part of a wider campaign against Iranians helping militias that have fought Israel on multiple fronts.

 

Mr. Alidadi was a technical expert who specialized in electronic engineering for missiles and drones, according to a person affiliated with the Guards.

 

The entire region has been on edge in anticipation of U.S. strikes in retaliation for the killing of three American soldiers in a drone attack at a remote base in Jordan last week. The Biden administration blamed the attack on a network of Iran-linked militias in Iraq, and on Friday the United States launched a series of attacks on military bases in Iraq and Syria that are affiliated with various proxy groups backed by Iran.

 

Iranian officials had warned all week that if U.S. struck targets inside Iran or killed any of its military personnel, Iran would strike back, though they have stressed they are not seeking a war with America. President Ebrahim Raisi was the latest to voice that position on Friday.

 

“If an oppressive and bullying power wants to bully, the Islamic Republic will deliver a stern answer,” Mr. Raisi said at a speech in the southern city of Minab.

 

Iran had taken steps this week to lessen tensions with the United States, in an apparent effort to reduce the likelihood of a strike on its territory or on regional interests it considers vital. At the same time, it has placed its forces on the highest level of alert and has identified a list of American targets to attack if its territory is violated, according to two people familiar with Tehran’s military planning.

 

On Friday, all Iranian military bases in Iraq and Syria were evacuated and senior commanders of the Guards were placed “out of reach” to protect them, according to an Iranian member of the Guards in Lebanon who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

 

At the same time, the Iranian intelligence ministry issued a statement claiming it had arrested a network of Israeli spies in Iran. In addition, the statement said Iran had discovered the identities of Iranian spies in 28 countries and planned to work with local authorities to detain them. The Iranian claims could not be confirmed, and the ministry did not offer details on the identities or whereabouts of the accused spies.

 

Iran routinely labels dissidents, journalists and activists as spies for foreign intelligence agencies and has a track record of kidnapping and killing its opponents abroad.

 

In Damascus, a funeral procession was held for Mr. Alidadi at a Shia shrine called Seydeh Zeinab, which is considered a holy site, according to photos and reports on Iranian media affiliated with the Guards. His coffin was draped in the flag of Iran, adorned with white flowers, and a banner with his picture and the word, “the martyr of Al Aqsa” a reference to Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, which it named the “Al Aqsa Flood.”


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11) What are U.S. troops doing in the Middle East?

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Alan Yuhas, Feb. 3, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2024/02/03/world/us-strikes-israel-hamas-news

U.S. forces during an exercise in northeastern Syria in 2021. Credit...Baderkhan Ahmad/Associated Press


When a drone attack killed three U.S. soldiers at a base in Jordan on Jan. 28, many Americans were left wondering why, years after the U.S. ended its combat mission in Iraq, are the country’s soldiers still in the region?

 

Where are U.S. forces in the region?

 

Roughly 40,000 American troops are stationed across the Middle East, mostly in countries with close ties to the United States. There are far fewer in the region now compared with when the United States was trying to oust the Islamic State from Iraq, or during the preceding years of war.

 

There were more than 160,000 American troops in Iraq alone in 2007, during the war that followed the U.S. invasion. Now there are only about 2,500 U.S. troops there, stationed at installations like Al Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western desert, to support Iraq’s military.

 

There are currently about 900 U.S. troops stationed in Syria, where they support Kurdish forces and work to enforce U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based group backed by Iran.

 

Some of those troops are deployed at the Tanf garrison in southeastern Syria, which is served by a border outpost in Jordan, Tower 22. About 350 Army and Air Force personnel are stationed at Tower 22, the site where the three American soldiers were killed in the drone strike.

 

Most of the U.S. military presence in the Middle East is in countries with longstanding relationships with Washington. At an air base in Azraq, Jordan, the United States has about 2,000 troops, as well as Special Operations forces and military trainers. There are about 13,500 U.S. forces based in Kuwait, and thousands more in countries including Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Qatar, which helped build an air base used by U.S. Central Command.

 

Why are so many troops there?

 

Before the war in Gaza began, the U.S. military presence in the Middle East had been shrinking. In the aftermath of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Biden administration had turned to focus elsewhere, like supporting Ukraine against Russia and potential threats from China.

 

But American troops have remained in the region in part, U.S. officials say, to project U.S. power — such as deterring Iran from direct war with an American ally, Israel — and to prevent a resurgence of groups like the Islamic State, which emerged from the insurgency and civil war of post-invasion Iraq.

 

By 2015, the Islamic State controlled several cities in Iraq and Syria, including Mosul and Raqqa, as well as a large chunk of territory along the border between the two countries. A military coalition led by the United States, including forces in Syria and Iraq, defeated it. But although the U.S. military declared its combat mission over in 2021, troops remained to help Iraq battle the group’s remnants, and experts warn that regional instability could provide an opportunity for it to grow again.

 

Are U.S. forces in the region in danger?

 

Since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, there have been more than 160 attacks by militias backed by Iran against U.S. forces in Syria, Iraq and Jordan, according to the Pentagon.

 

The attack on the Tower 22 outpost was the first one known to be lethal, but dozens of service members have been injured. Those include 34 who were wounded at the Jordan base when the drone crashed into the base’s living quarters, and 19 U.S. soldiers who suffered traumatic brain injuries in October attacks in Iraq on Al Asad Air Base and Al Tanf.

 

President Biden has retaliated with attacks on Iran-aligned militants, hitting groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. But top American and Iranian officials have also sought to avoid triggering a direct war, even as they have blamed the other side for stoking regional conflict.

 

“While we are not seeking war, we are also neither afraid nor running away from war,” Gen. Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, said on Wednesday.


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12) What Can We Possibly Say to the Children of Gaza?

By Nicholas Kristof, Feb. 3, 2024

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/03/opinion/gaza-israel-war-children.html

Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


There’s a whip-smart 10-year-old girl in Gaza who speaks good English, displays a radiant smile and seemed to have a bright future. The daughter of an X-ray technician, she had been accepted to an international exchange program and was supposed to be leaving soon.

 

Instead, she’s lying in a hospital bed with a badly infected wound in her thigh from a bomb blast. A photo shows a football-size open wound, with a chunk of her femur missing.

 

“She was supposed to be in Japan,” said Dr. Samer Attar, an orthopedic surgeon who cared for the girl and told me about her. “Now she’s lying in bed deciding whether to have her leg removed.” I’ve known Dr. Attar for a decade, ever since he volunteered to work in secret hospitals in Aleppo, Syria, to save victims of Russian bombings. A professor at Northwestern University School of Medicine, he has worked in war zones and crisis areas around the world, including Ukraine and Iraq — and recently, at hospitals in Gaza, through the medical volunteer organizations Rahma Worldwide and IDEALS.

 

Dr. Attar said the girl needed an amputation at the hip to save her life. Her dad, struggling to come to terms with how his and his daughter’s lives have collapsed, is resisting for now.

 

Over the years, I’ve covered many bloody wars and written scathingly about how governments in Russia, Sudan and Syria recklessly bombed civilians. This time, it’s different: My government is on the side engaged in what President Biden has referred to as “indiscriminate bombing.” This is not the same as deliberately targeting civilians, as those other countries did — but this time, as a taxpayer, I’m helping to pay for the bombs.

 

Gaza is also different from Syria and Ukraine, of course, in that Israel did not start this war. Instead, Israel was brutally attacked by Hamas in a rampage of murder, torture and rape. Any government would have struck back, and Hamas maximized the suffering of civilians by using them as human shields.

 

Yet military response is not a binary choice; it exists on a continuum. Israel, traumatized by the attack it suffered, elected to retaliate with 2,000-pound bombs, destroy entire neighborhoods and allow only a trickle of aid into the territory, which is now teetering on the brink of famine. The upshot is that this does not feel like a war on Hamas but rather a war on Gazans.

 

In November, I wrote about Mohammed Alshannat, a doctoral student in Gaza who was desperately trying to keep his children alive. I offer a sad update: One of his sons has been gravely injured.

 

“He is 13 years old and was injured while we were running for our lives,” Alshannat wrote in a WhatsApp message. “I had to carry him bleeding under heavy artillery shelling for two hours. I found a doctor who was sheltering in a school, and he took a risk and saved my son’s life.”

 

“He went through a complicated surgery later and still unable to walk. He is very sick and suffers from malnutrition,” Alshannat wrote.

 

How can Alshannat’s American friends face him and his son after the war?

 

Many Americans are conflicted about the war. They may keep quiet rather than enter a debate that is bitter and polarizing and may cost friendships, or they may avert their eyes. But the great Elie Wiesel described indifference as “the most insidious danger of all” and observed, “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”

 

The suffering of children — and half of Gazans are children — should particularly concern us. UNICEF estimates that in the chaos of war and displacement, at least 17,000 children in Gaza are unaccompanied or separated from their parents.

 

Two teenage brothers with mangled bodies haunt Dr. Attar. One boy had his leg amputated at the hip; he died on the operating table as the anesthesiologist wept. The other, who had lost much of the skin on his body, survived overnight but died in the morning.

 

The hospitals were short of nearly everything, Dr. Attar said, and patients spent weeks on the floor waiting in great pain for care. A woman’s screaming lingers in his ears: She was pleading for help for her husband, whose wounds had been untreated for a week in the chaos of the hospital, and maggots were crawling in the flesh.

 

Some will blame all this on Hamas: If it had not attacked Israeli civilians, there would be no Israeli bombing. That’s true, but to me it seems an evasion of moral responsibility. Israel and America have agency, and the atrocities suffered by Israeli civilians do not justify the leveling of Palestinian neighborhoods.

 

President Biden should search his soul: He excoriates Russia for bombing civilians and undermining the rules-based international order, even as we supply bombs that can wipe out neighborhoods in Gaza, even as we give diplomatic cover to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while Gazans face looming starvation.

 

Biden has suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, which is responsible for delivering assistance to Gazans — without outlining any viable alternative plan to distribute aid. He is right to be outraged that a dozen UNRWA staff members (out of 13,000 employees) allegedly participated in the Oct. 7 attacks, and it’s good that the U.N. promptly fired those workers.

 

Still, if UNRWA is unable to function because of the suspended funding, Gazan children will die.

 

It would be unconscionable if Hamas terrorists sheltered in the ranks of a U.N. agency. And it would be unconscionable if children end up starving as a result of our actions — even as we tell ourselves we’re taking the moral high ground.

 

Decisions about waging war are wrenching because, invariably, innocent civilians suffer. This requires a calculus of strategic gain versus human cost. People will weigh the trade-offs differently, but let’s resist the tendency to otherize those of different races, faiths and ethnicities. When we are caught in a conflict, we tend to dehumanize the other side; we can fight that impulse by asserting our shared humanity and recognizing that all lives have equal value.

 

One life, as precious as that of any American or Israeli child, belongs to a bright 10-year-old girl in Gaza who should be excitedly planning a trip to Japan. Instead, she smiles bravely through excruciating pain and must endure an amputation if her life is to be saved — and we Americans should face our complicity in her tragedy and all Gaza’s.


My NYT Comments:

We, as an American citizens and taxpayers, should not accept complicity in the U.S./Israeli war on Gaza since we had no choice in the matter whatsoever.  We don't get to vote on whether or not to go to war or ti give aid to Israel. The vast majority of the American people are opposed to what's happening in Gaza right before our eyes. Our only option is to continue to protest our government's role in supporting the apartheid state of Israel and Israel's brutal assault and occupation of the Palestinian people since 1948. —Bonnie Weinstein


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13) Northern Ireland Has a Sinn Fein Leader. It’s a Landmark Moment.

The idea of a first minister who supports closer ties to the Republic of Ireland — let alone one from Sinn Fein, a party with historic ties to the Irish Republican Army — was once unthinkable. On Saturday, it became reality.

By Megan Specia, Feb. 3, 2024

Reporting from Belfast, Northern Ireland

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/03/world/europe/northern-ireland-sinn-fein-michelle-oneill.html

Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein at the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast on Saturday. Credit...Peter Morrison/Associated Press


As Michelle O’Neill walked down the marble staircase in Northern Ireland’s Parliament building on Saturday, she appeared confident and calm. She smiled briefly as applause erupted from supporters, but her otherwise serious gaze conveyed the gravity of the moment.

 

The political party she represents, Sinn Fein, was shaped by the decades-long, bloody struggle of Irish nationalists in the territory who dreamed of reuniting with the Republic of Ireland and undoing the 1921 partition that has kept Northern Ireland under British rule.

 

Now, for the first time, a Sinn Fein politician holds Northern Ireland’s top political office, a landmark moment for the party and for the broader region as a power-sharing government is restored. The first minister role had previously always been held by a unionist politician committed to remaining part of the United Kingdom.

 

“As first minister, I am wholeheartedly committed to continuing the work of reconciliation between all our people,” Ms. O’Neill said, noting that her parents and grandparents would never have imagined that such a day would come. “I would never ask anyone to move on, but what I can ask is for us to move forward.”

 

The idea of a nationalist first minister in Northern Ireland, let alone one from Sinn Fein, a party with historic ties to the Irish Republican Army, was indeed once unthinkable.

 

But the story of Sinn Fein’s transformation — from a fringe party that was once the I.R.A.’s political wing, to a political force that won the most seats in Northern Ireland’s 2022 elections — is also the story of a changing political landscape and the results of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the decades-long sectarian conflict known as the Troubles.

 

“It’s certainly symbolically very significant,” said Katy Hayward, a professor of political sociology at Queen’s University, Belfast. “It tells us just quite how far Northern Ireland has come, and in many ways the success of the Good Friday agreement and use of democratic and peaceful means of achieving cooperation.”

 

It is not yet clear what a Sinn Fein first minister will mean for the hopes of those who want to reunite the island after a century of separation. Although Mary Lou McDonald, the president of Sinn Fein, who leads the opposition in the Republic of Ireland’s Parliament, said this past week that the prospect of a united Ireland was now in “touching distance,” experts believe it remains far off.

 

For now, the territory’s two main political powers — unionists and nationalists — are locked together in the power-sharing arrangement that was laid out in the Good Friday Agreement.

 

That arrangement had collapsed over the question of how the political powers of Northern Ireland see themselves after Brexit.

 

Northern Ireland’s leading unionist party, the Democratic Unionists, quit the government in 2022, in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union, which had placed a trading border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Wanting to safeguard ties to Britain, the D.U.P. feared that the sea border was the first step to tearing them apart.

 

Its boycott of the assembly ended this past week after the British government agreed to reduce customs checks, strengthen Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and hand over 3.3 billion pounds, about $4 billion, in financial sweeteners.

 

Because it had the most unionist seats in the 2022 elections, the D.U.P. had the right to nominate the deputy first minister on Saturday — Emma Little-Pengelly, who will work alongside Ms. O’Neill.

 

“The past with all of its horrors can never be forgotten,” Ms. Little-Pengelly said as she described being a child during the Troubles and seeing the devastation of an I.R.A. bomb outside her house when she was 11. But she added, “While we are shaped by the past, we are not defined by it.”

 

The first and deputy first minister roles are officially equal, with neither able to act alone, to prevent either community from dominating the other. As the top executives in the devolved government, they make decisions on health care, social services, education and other issues for the region.

 

“People like to say here, one can’t order paper clips without the approval of the other,” Ms. Hayward said. But the titles, and the fact that the first minister’s role reflects the largest number of seats, creates a “first among equals” notion.

 

And Ms. O’Neill’s appointment has inevitably brought to the fore conversations about the prospect of Northern Ireland one day reuniting with the Republic of Ireland.

 

Experts said that while an ascendant Sinn Fein could provide further momentum to that cause, the party’s rise was more a reflection of the fractures that appeared among unionist parties after Britain left the European Union, rather than a widespread surge in Irish nationalism. Current polling suggests that the majority of the population across the island does not support unification.

 

“They’ve made the prospect look realistic, and Brexit helped, because support has increased somewhat,” said Jonathan Tonge, a professor of politics at the University of Liverpool who specializes in Northern Ireland, and who has extensively analyzed polling on the issue.

 

“It’s still got a distance to run,” he said, adding that with an election looming in the Republic of Ireland in 2025, and the potential for a Sinn Fein government there, “it’s huge in those terms.”

 

He noted that a quarter of a century ago, few would have envisaged a Sinn Fein first minister.

 

Part of that success is down to Ms. O’Neill and Ms. McDonald, who have helped change perceptions of the party.

 

“These two women don’t have the baggage of the membership or close association with the I.R.A.,” said Robert Savage, a professor at Boston College who is an expert in Irish history. “They are younger, articulate, popular and astute at addressing the concerns, particularly of younger people.”

 

Ms. O’Neill, 47, was born in Cork, a county on Ireland’s southern coast, into a prominent republican family from Northern Ireland. Her father, who served time in prison for being an I.R.A. member, later became a Sinn Fein politician. But she has already made an effort to frame herself as a first minister for all. She attended both Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and the coronation of King Charles III last year.

 

Many unionists associate Sinn Fein with its I.R.A. history, as do some nationalists and those who do not identify with either group. But increasingly, particularly among a younger cohort, the party has proved appealing.

 

In the Republic of Ireland, the party won the popular vote in 2020, partly by focusing attention on social issues like housing and positioning itself as an alternative to the status quo. But its popularity did not extend to older voters who remember the violence of the Troubles.

 

In some ways, the growth of nationalist political representation is unsurprising. Demographics have shifted significantly in Northern Ireland, with the Protestant majority’s slow erosion there first attributed to the Catholic Church’s opposition to birth control and then to economic factors like the decline in industrial jobs, which were held predominantly by Protestants.

 

Catholics outnumbered Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time in 2022, according to census figures. And Northern Ireland is not the binary society it once was. Decades of peace drew newcomers in, and like much of the world, the island has grown increasingly secular. The labels of Catholic and Protestant have been left as a clumsy shorthand for the cultural and political divide.

 

A large percentage of the population identifies as neither religion. And when it comes to political attitudes, the largest single group — 38 percent — regards itself as neither nationalist nor unionist, according to the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.

 

Since Brexit, there has been a fall in support for Northern Ireland’s remaining in the United Kingdom and a rise in support for Irish unification. Many voters saw the break from Europe as economically damaging and threatening to cross-border relations, as the island had enjoyed decades where E.U. membership helped shore up peace.

 

For now, the restored government in Belfast has more urgent issues to address. Last month, tens of thousands of public sector workers walked out in protest over pay, in Northern Ireland’s largest strike in recent memory. The health care sector is in crisis, and the rising cost of living has been felt more acutely there than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

 

“Look at what happened when people did get around a table and work to create peace here, and the Good Friday agreement came from that,” said Paul Doherty, a city councilor who represents West Belfast, one of Northern Ireland’s most deprived communities. “I think we need to rekindle that spirit we had back in the ’90s.”


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