Your Monday Briefing
Good morning. We’re covering a tense peace between Israel and Hamas, the stunning arrest of a Belarusian journalist and an Indian pandemic success story.
A fraught quiet in Israel and Gaza
The end of fighting between Israel and Hamas does little to address the underlying tensions that precipitated the more than 10 days of violence that ended in a cease-fire on Friday.
Israelis emerged from bomb shelters frustrated at the hasty truce. Many wish the country had continued its bombardment, and officials acknowledge the possibility of more violence, perhaps in the near future.
For Palestinians, the combat inflamed their quest for greater rights and recognition. Many look with rage at Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes destroyed about 1,000 residential units, officials said, and damaged or demolished mosques, hospitals, schools and infrastructure.
Skirmishes continued around the region just hours after the cease-fire went into effect on Friday. In several places around the West Bank, Israeli forces used rubber bullets and live rounds to break up demonstrations. And in an echo of the police raids that brought about the conflict, Israeli soldiers also stormed Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque, saying they were responding to Palestinians throwing rocks and firebombs.
The root: In East Jerusalem, housing fights like the one that led to the recent conflict are an unrelenting source of strain as Palestinian families are regularly forced to demolish the only houses they have ever known.
Analysis: President Biden used a light touch with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, building his credibility — which he may need to leverage with Iran — in order to exert pressure in private. He also said that the Democratic Party had not shifted away from its support for Israel, but walked a fine line, acknowledging commitments to Palestinians. The U.S. intends to help Gaza rebuild and use financial investments to pressure Hamas to maintain peace.
Belarus grounds plane to seize dissident
The brutal and erratic leader of Belarus forced a commercial flight to land on Sunday in order to arrest a prominent opposition journalist, prompting international outrage.
A fighter jet intercepted a Ryanair plane flying from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania. Once grounded in Minsk, Belarusian forces arrested Roman Protasevich, 26, a leading opposition journalist. He has been living in Lithuania in exile, fearing imprisonment on charges of inciting hatred and mass disorder. If convicted, Protasevich faces more than 12 years in prison.
Aleksandr Lukashenko, who is often called “Europe’s last dictator,” personally sent the fighter jet. Belarusian authorities said they had ordered the plane to land because of a bomb threat, although Ryanair said nothing had been found. The top investigative agency in Belarus opened a criminal case into a false bomb threat.
Media: Protasevich and his team report from a Telegram channel. The social network is one of the country’s only remaining means of uncensored communication since most independent media organizations were forced to shut down after large-scale protests erupted over a disputed presidential election in 2020, when Lukashenko clung to power.
International reaction: Greece and Lithuania both called the incident a hijacking by the Belarusian government.
India’s rare virus success story
In Kerala, a southern Indian state, local officials have succeeded where the national government has failed in providing relief to coronavirus victims.
The state expanded oxygen production months before the second wave of the virus arrived. Coordination centers use data to direct patients and resources. Workers make sure that patients stick to their home quarantines and are able to get food and medicine. Its official death rate — though government data is lacking — is less than 0.4 percent, one of India’s lowest.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Although deaths are rising in Kerala, the state has consistently better managed the crisis than India as a whole. Throughout the pandemic, it has had more doctors, more testing and five times more hospital beds than the national average. Now, its vaccination rate is nearly double the national average of 3 percent.
In other developments:
Nepal’s Parliament was dissolved on Saturday for the second time in five months, deepening a political crisis as a devastating Covid-19 outbreak rages.
In Pakistan, which has limited vaccine supplies and reams of red tape, the wealthy are buying doses.
In the U.S., the C.D.C. is looking into reports of a heart problem in a very small number of young Covid vaccine recipients, though the agency has not determined whether it is related to the inoculation.
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The Future Is Wiggly
In interior design, wiggles are everywhere: glassware, incense holders, soap dishes, pillows and rugs. Furniture hunters are searching online for “squiggle” and “wiggle” exponentially more than they were last year, and made-to-order furniture stores are popping up in New York City, selling pricey, wavy pieces.
The look — bright, whimsical, even jarring — has its roots in the Ultrafragola, a rippling, pink, neon-lit mirror designed in the 1970s by Ettore Sottsass. The Ultrafragola (which means “ultimate strawberry” in Italian) prefigured the style of the Memphis Group, a playful, zany design collective founded by Sottsass that rejected the formality of midcentury modern Danish design — just as wiggles are ousting the sleek Scandinavian aesthetic that has held sway for years.
The Ultrafragola craze most likely started in fall 2019, when Lena Dunham posed with the object on the cover of Domino Magazine. The pandemic only accelerated the revolution. Lockdowns offered would-be influencers a lot more time to scroll, and stress sent people looking for lightheartedness.
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