Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

Israel is focusing its military efforts in the southern region of Gaza and expects the war to continue for “many more months,” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military chief of staff, said. More than 1.7 million displaced Gazans are registered in shelters in the south, including many who are sleeping along roads and in open spaces. Food and water are scarce.

“We have killed many terrorists and Hamas commanders,” Halevi said. “Some surrendered to our forces and hundreds were taken prisoner. We have destroyed underground infrastructure and large quantities of weapons.” But, he acknowledged, “it seems likely that we will still encounter fighters in this area.”

Satellite imagery verified by The Times showed Israeli forces at the outskirts of Al Bureij, a dense neighborhood in the center of the Gaza Strip, about one mile from the border with Israel. The military confirmed the advance, saying that its forces had targeted terrorist infrastructure in the area of Al Bureij and discovered a tunnel shaft.

Risks: Nasser Hospital, the largest hospital in the southern Gaza Strip still managing to function, could be imperiled if bombardment and fighting come closer, a senior U.N. official warned. The hospital is already at three times capacity, he added.

Earth is finishing up its warmest year in the past 174 years, and very likely the past 125,000. Global temperatures have for months obliterated prior records, and scientists are already sifting through evidence to see whether this year might reveal something new about the climate and what we are doing to it.

While temperatures remain within the range of those projected by computer models, one hypothesis is that the planet’s warming is accelerating. “What we’re looking for, really, is a bunch of corroborating evidence that all points in the same direction,” said Chris Smith, a climate scientist at the University of Leeds. “Then we’re looking for causality.”

One thing researchers will be watching is whether something unexpected might be happening in the interplay of two major climate influences: the warming effect of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and the cooling effect of industrial pollution, which has decreased after sustained government efforts to improve public health.

A big climate test: The Biden administration must decide whether a $10 billion natural gas facility will go ahead. Opponents say it would lock in decades of additional greenhouse gas emissions.

In the Black Sea and Crimea, Ukraine is racking up naval successes and putting Russia on the defensive. But its ground campaign is faltering, and Russia is attacking eastern battlefields after blunting Ukraine’s counteroffensive. Ukrainian officials acknowledged that they had all but retreated from the eastern city of Marinka after a monthslong battle to defend it.

A day after Russia said it had seized Marinka, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top military commander, compared it to the scorched-earth battle for Bakhmut, the eastern city that fell to Russia in May. “The situation is exactly the same as it was in Bakhmut,” he said. “Street by street, block by block, and our soldiers were being targeted. And the result is what it is.”

Hours earlier, the Ukrainian Air Force said that it had destroyed the Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, in a Crimean port. Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-installed governor of Crimea, said one person had been killed and two others wounded in the assault, which started a fire.

The big picture: Ukraine signaled that it was girding for a protracted war against Russia. On Monday, the government introduced a bill that would lower the age of people who could be drafted into the military from 27 to 25. Military officials have said that a mobilization of up to 500,000 soldiers could be necessary.

“I am your new Father Frost”: The Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny described his transfer to a remote Arctic prison with a heavy dose of irony and humor.

Deadheads, ballerinas and Mick Jagger: As 2023 winds down, revisit 59 memorable photographs that capture the year in arts and culture.

Experience meets speed: How Max Verstappen went from “rough” to a “polished diamond.”

What to watch: A starting XI of soccer documentaries.

It was a big year for Africa’s cultural industry. Lynsey Chutel, our Briefings writer in Johannesburg, shared some highlights and what to watch in 2024.

Watch: Independent African films like “Goodbye Julia,” which explores the complexities of life in Sudan and South Sudan, were celebrated at global film festivals and broke some regional box-office records. Streaming services have brought new audiences to African telenovelas and miniseries, like the Nigerian legal drama “Agu” and a historical drama about the 18th-century Zulu king “Shaka iLembe.”

Read and then watch: African fantasy is set to reach an even wider audience thanks to upcoming screen adaptations. The director of “The Woman King,” Gina Prince-Bythewood, has agreed to develop a screen adaptation of “Children of Blood and Bone,” the first book in the best-selling “Legacy of Orisha” series by the Nigerian American author Tomi Adeyemi.

Listen and dance: Amapiano, the synth-heavy South African dance music created by Gen Z producers, reverberated at Coachella and then on TikTok. “Water” went global and garnered a Grammy nomination for the performer Tyla. With Afrobeats artists incorporating the sound into this already popular genre, and with a nod from Rihanna, amapiano is taking over dance floors around the globe.