Thursday Briefing: A Race to Extend the Gaza Truce

Top officials from Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. were pushing to lock in another extension of the cease-fire in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, which is set to expire today.

Officials see it as the best way to ease the humanitarian crisis, secure the release of more hostages and slow the war’s death toll. But officials with knowledge of the talks said they also hoped that the succession of short-term pauses would pave the way to ending the war.

One of those people said that mediators expect that the longer the cease-fire lasts, the more difficult it will be for Israel to restart its offensive and reach southern Gaza, where senior Hamas leaders are believed to be hiding.

Here’s the latest.

A senior Israeli official said there were currently no negotiations aimed at a long-term cease-fire or an exchange involving all the remaining hostages for all the prisoners. Israel has vowed not to stop its offensive until Hamas’s leadership is eradicated and its military and governance systems are uprooted from Gaza. Members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government are threatening to bring it down if he does not restart the fighting.

So far, most of the exchanges have involved women and children. But when the bargaining turns to combatants, the talks will become trickier. Hamas is believed to be holding a few dozen Israeli soldiers captured during the Oct. 7 rampage, and Israel holds many high-profile Palestinian prisoners, including prominent members of Hamas whose release the group has promised to pursue.

The hostages’ ordeal: An aunt of Avigail Idan, a girl who was taken hostage by Hamas after she saw her parents killed and turned 4 before being released, said that her niece shared one piece of pita bread per day with four others, and that she did not have access to a shower or a bath during her 50 days in captivity.

Concern is rising for members of the Bibas family — a mother and her two young children — after Hamas’s armed wing claimed the three had been killed in Israeli airstrikes.

Release updates: Hamas released 10 Israeli hostages and two Thai nationals on Tuesday, raising the total number of captives released to 85. Here’s what we know about those still being held.

West Bank raid: Two children and two members of armed groups were killed by Israeli occupation forces yesterday during a raid in the city of Jenin, the Palestinian health ministry and a camp official said.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan yesterday charged an Indian national with an attempt to kill a Sikh separatist in New York City, an allegation that could complicate delicate U.S.-India relations.

Nikhil Gupta was accused of trying to hire a hit man who turned out to be an “undercover U.S. law enforcement officer,” prosecutors said. The charges were announced days after U.S. officials had expressed concerns to New Delhi about the assassination plot against the separatist, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a U.S. citizen who is general counsel for the New York-based advocacy group Sikhs for Justice.

Background: Just months ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada accused the Indian government of involvement in the June killing of another Sikh separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, near Vancouver.

The agenda for today’s meeting of OPEC is likely to be unpalatable for many members. The weak oil market is pressuring Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC Plus, a bigger group that includes Russia, to push to continue and perhaps deepen production cuts. Smaller OPEC members are being asked to sign off on lower production limits.

China, which accounted for three-quarters of global demand growth in 2023, is facing an economic slowdown. Overall economic expansion is expected to be tepid, and more efficient energy use and the proliferation of electric vehicles will reduce oil consumption. Supplies from outside producers, notably the U.S. and Brazil, are growing.

Paddington is the busiest bear in Hollywood, appearing opposite Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro. He even slipped on a spacesuit for “Interstellar.”

But his prominence has nothing to do with a promotional schedule. It’s because every day since 2021, the artist Jason Chou has photoshopped the anthropomorphized star into scenes from popular films and television shows. He has no plans to stop.

Every year, starting in the spring, my colleagues at The Book Review spend months debating the most exceptional books that come across their desks: the families they grew to love, the narrative nonfiction that carried them away, the fictional universes they couldn’t forget.

Among their selections is “Some People Need Killing” by Patricia Evangelista, a powerful memoir that chronicles the years when Rodrigo Duterte was president of the Philippines and pursued a murderous campaign of extrajudicial killings against those involved in the drug trade. The killings became so frequent that journalists like Evangelista kept track not by date, but by hour of death.

Here are the other nine books that made the cut.

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