Tuesday Briefing: Biden Weighs a Visit to Israel

Palestinians wounded in Israeli airstrikes yesterday were brought to a hospital in Gaza.Credit…Yousef Masoud for The New York Times

Biden weighs a visit to Israel

President Biden is considering a trip to Israel in the coming days to demonstrate American solidarity. The trip would be a remarkable gamble and could tie Biden and the U.S. to bloodshed in Gaza.

The extraordinary invitation to Biden from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came as Israelis learned more about the attacks by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 people on Oct. 7. The Israeli military now believes the group took 199 people hostage, it said, nearly 50 more than previously thought.

“This will be a long war,” Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said after meeting with Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, in Tel Aviv. “The price will be high, but we are going to win for Israel, for the Jewish people and for the values that both countries believe in.”

Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes, which continued yesterday ahead of a widely expected ground assault. The strikes are exacting a growing toll on Gaza, where two million people are facing dwindling supplies of food, water, medical supplies and fuel.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry said that no water had reached the enclave in 10 days, despite remarks from the White House on Sunday that Israel had agreed to restore water to the southern part of the strip. The enclave’s ministry of health said yesterday that 2,808 people had been killed and 10,850 wounded.

Lebanon: Amid concerns that the conflict could spread, Israel’s military said it would evacuate people who live near the border with Lebanon. Clashes have broken out there in recent days between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed group that dominates southern Lebanon.

A warning: The Biden administration cautioned Iran against escalation through back-channel messages with intermediaries in Qatar, Oman and China. The Pentagon dispatched a second aircraft carrier to the region over the weekend along with additional warplanes.

Social media: Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, said it would enact temporary measures to push down extreme or graphic imagery coming out of Israel and Gaza. As a result, many users say their pro-Palestinian posts have been suppressed.

Nepal had sought to build an international airport in Pokhara since the late 1970s.Credit…Rebecca Conway for The New York Times

How a deal with China left Nepal saddled with debt

Leaders from dozens of countries are gathering in Beijing starting today for the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure campaign, which has doled out an estimated $1 trillion in loans and grants around the world.

A decade on, China’s overseas development projects are facing criticism for costly and poor-quality construction that has left borrower nations awash in debt. Among them is a new airport that Nepal hoped would catapult Pokhara, its second-largest city, into a global tourist destination.

A Times investigation found that the China-owned construction company in charge of the project repeatedly dictated business terms to maximize profits and protect its interests, while dismantling Nepali oversight of its work. This has left Nepal on the hook for an international airport built at an inflated price, without the necessary passengers to repay loans to its Chinese lender.

In China, officials have tried to put a floor under falling real estate sales in recent weeks but so far to little effect. China is now paying a price for its decades-long dependence on real estate to drive economic growth.

Noor Ahmad and scores of others in Afghanistan were still desperately searching for missing loved ones.Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

A father’s desperate search

More than a week after an earthquake devastated his village in northwest Afghanistan, Noor Ahmad is on a harrowing hunt to find his 5-year-old son, Sardar. Ahmad found his wife and his five young daughters — all crushed to death. But there was no sign of Sardar.

Ahmad’s son is one of hundreds still missing. The series of earthquakes, the deadliest in Afghanistan in decades, killed roughly 1,300 people and injured 1,700 more, most of whom lived in only a few villages tucked in a stretch of desert along the Iran border.


Around the World

The leader of Civic Coalition, Donald Tusk, in Warsaw, Poland, on Sunday.Credit…Janek Skarzynski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • Centrist and progressive forces were poised to oust Poland’s nationalist government after an election seen as one of the most significant in decades.

  • A judge imposed a limited gag order on Donald Trump, restricting him from making statements attacking the witnesses, prosecutors or court staff.

  • Janet Yellen, the U.S. treasury secretary, told European economic leaders that the U.S. would not back away from aiding Ukraine despite some Republican resistance.

  • Four Ukrainian children who had been taken to Russia were reunited with their families after Qatar mediated negotiations for their return.

  • Javier Milei is leading the polls in Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday, but his past comments attacking Pope Francis are still dogging him.

Other Big Stories

  • A team of scientists found that serotonin levels were lower in some people suffering from long Covid.

  • Fears of lab leaks are stalling virus studies in the U.S. that could thwart the next pandemic.

  • Rite Aid, one of the largest U.S. pharmacy chains, filed for bankruptcy, weighed down by debt, declining sales and lawsuits over prescriptions for painkillers.

A Morning Read

These coho salmon are being raised on land in tanks in New York.Credit…Amrita Stuetzle for The New York Times

About 99 percent of the world’s salmon farming takes place in open net-pens in the ocean, a system criticized for spreading pollution, diseases and pests like sea lice, which result in the use of antibiotics and pesticides. Warming oceans mean their days are likely numbered.

Land-based salmon farms in the U.S. are rising as an alternative — one that’s cleaner, more ecologically responsible and potentially has a lower carbon footprint.

Lives lived: Martti Ahtisaari, a Finnish statesman whose quests to end conflict took him from the deserts of Namibia to secret arms caches in Ireland, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize, died at 86.


Robert Sapolsky believes much of humanity’s misery is caused by “myths of free will.”Credit…Damon Casarez for The New York Times

He doesn’t believe in free will. Feel free to argue.

In his book, “Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will,” Robert Sapolsky, a biologist and neurologist at Stanford University, refutes the biological and philosophical arguments for free will. He contends that we are not free agents, but that biology, hormones, childhood and life circumstances coalesce to produce actions that we merely feel are ours to choose.

“I want to wean people off the knee-jerk reaction to the notion that without free will, we will run amok because we can’t be held responsible for things,” Sapolsky said. Read the full conversation about his book.


Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.

Cook this comforting skillet chicken with mushrooms and caramelized onions.

Listen to Drake’s “For All the Dogs,” his 13th LP to hit No. 1.

Pack your overnight bag with all your essentials.

Wrap up your marathon training by tapering off without losing fitness.

Play Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Justin

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