June 18, 2024

Israel’s defense minister ordered a “complete siege” of the long-blockaded Gaza Strip yesterday, as Israeli forces battled Palestinian assailants in border towns for a third day and launched retaliatory strikes that hit hundreds of sites in Gaza, including mosques and a marketplace.

Hamas, the militant group controlling Gaza, threatened to execute a civilian hostage every time an airstrike hit Gazans “in their homes without warning.” At least 150 Israelis have been taken hostage by Palestinian assailants since the brazen incursion on Saturday. A Hamas spokesman added that the group will not negotiate the issue of prisoners while the fighting with Israel is ongoing. Here’s what we know about the captives.

Israel’s army regained control of border communities, the country’s chief military spokesman said, but he acknowledged that “there may still be terrorists in the area.” Lt. Col. Richard Hecht of the Israel Defense Forces said in a briefing yesterday that the fighting continued, adding: “We thought by this morning we’d be in a better place.”

Israel’s defense minister said that “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” would be allowed into Gaza, in effect cutting off a crowded coastal territory that is already under a 16-year blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.

The violence has added to the stunned disbelief enveloping Israel, where families are watching men and women who finished their main military service be called back to serve and where the names of the dead have scrolled across television screens.

The toll: About 800 Israelis have been killed, at least 85 of them soldiers, Israel said. At least 687 Palestinians have been killed, including 140 children, according to authorities in Gaza. A number of foreign nationals have also been confirmed dead or missing, including at least 11 Americans.

Airstrikes: Israeli forces have launched hundreds of strikes in Gaza since the incursion. Israeli officials said the strikes targeted sites linked to Hamas, but U.N. and Palestinian officials say a hospital, homes and mosques have been hit. We mapped the sites that were targeted.

Lebanon border: Fighting also erupted along Israel’s volatile northern border yesterday, adding to mounting concerns that the conflict could spread to multiple fronts.

Analysis: Even though Israel had considered Hamas a terrorist organization, it thought the group could help govern the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls. Now, senior Israeli officials say that Hamas must be crushed.

What’s next: Israel mobilized 300,000 military reservists and sent troops and tanks to the south to prepare for what military officials said would be the next stage of the war. Analysts say that could involve a ground invasion of Gaza. But the timing and scale of such an operation remains unclear because Hamas is holding so many Israelis hostage.

The Russian economy has proved to be much more resilient than many Western governments assumed it would be after a punishing string of sanctions, giving Russia leeway to pump money into its military machine.

Moscow has found other buyers for its oil, placed almost every available worker in a job and enlarged weekly paychecks. Russia’s new budget figures also make clear that the economy is increasingly being restructured around the conflict. Nearly a third of the country’s spending next year — roughly $109 billion — will be devoted to “national defense,” redirecting money that might otherwise have flowed to health care, education, roads and other sectors.

Russia’s G.D.P.: The Russian Central Bank estimates that total output may rise as much as 2.5 percent this year, which could outpace the E.U. and possibly even the U.S.

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, met with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer in Beijing yesterday and expressed hopes of “peaceful coexistence” between China and the U.S. — even as escalating violence in the Middle East threatened to deepen a wedge between the two powers. Schumer told Xi that he was “disappointed” by China’s lack of sympathy for Israel in its official response to the attack by Hamas, opting instead to continue to cast itself as a neutral party.

What’s next? Xi’s amicable tone at the meeting is likely to increase expectations that he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering in San Francisco in November and meet with President Biden.

Can Europe fight the effects of extreme weather while producing enough affordable food? Supporters of the Doode Bemde nature preserve, in Belgium, say it offers one solution.

The idea behind the preserve was to persuade farmers to sell their land while allowing them to continue to use it under certain conditions, such as swearing off pesticides. Supporters say it offers a blueprint for reconciling farming and nature.

A coterie of tech insiders believe we can fix much of what ails society with “prediction markets.”

These people believe the world is full of bad information. They think that prediction markets — online platforms where users can wager on future events — offer a better way to search for truth, rewarding those who are good at forecasting by allowing them to make money.

Any question about the future can be wagered on, like “Will Ukraine regain control over Crimea before the end of 2024?” or “Will Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have a physical fight in 2023?” Proponents of these markets, which at the moment use fake money, believe that if enough people, with enough information behind them, make enough bets, markets will reveal something useful about the future.

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