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Wednesday Briefing


The extent of the atrocities visited on civilians by the militant group Hamas has come into focus in recent days: More than 1,000 Israelis, including children, were slain; houses were ransacked or burned down; dozens of people have been held hostage. Hamas gunmen attacked Israeli civilians at rest and at leisure, at an outdoor festival and in their homes, on familiar roads and in the middle of town.

Israel continued to hammer Gaza with airstrikes yesterday, reducing some buildings to rubble. Officials in Gaza said hospitals and schools were hit, and that 900 Palestinians have been killed, including 260 children.

In Washington, President Biden bristled with anger as he characterized the acts as “pure unadulterated evil” and vowed unequivocally to stand with Israel against terrorism. Victims, he said, had been “butchered” and “slaughtered,” and he decried the “bloodthirstiness” of the assailants.

Quotable: “It’s not a war or a battlefield; it’s a massacre,” one Israeli commander said.

Go deeper: Satellite imagery and drone videos show damage to infrastructure, including communications towers, along the Gaza border shortly after the assault began.

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, accused Russia of wanting to precipitate conflict in the Middle East to undermine international support for Ukraine, in comments that reflect concern that the war between Israel and Hamas could distract attention from Kyiv’s fight.

Zelensky, who has repeatedly expressed support for Israel, also appeared to seek to rally support for his country at a time when Ukraine is facing stiff Russian resistance on the battlefield and amid signs of wavering support among allies, including the U.S., Slovakia and Poland.

Quotable: “Russia is interested in triggering a war in the Middle East, so that a new source of pain and suffering could undermine world unity, increase discord and contradictions and thus help Russia destroy freedom in Europe,” he said.

At the conference of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, its leader, brushed off an unexpected — and glittery — onstage protest to make a pitch that his party could rebuild the country after 13 years of Conservative rule.

“What is broken can be repaired; what is ruined can be rebuilt; wounds do heal,” he told a cheering crowd in Liverpool, England. “Today we turn the page, answer the question ‘why Labour?’ with a plan” for what he proclaimed a “decade of national renewal.” He offered no new announcements but suggested that Labour would build homes, add police officers and overhaul the health service.

The shape of our jeans dates from the 1990s or the 2000s. The furniture we buy is often simply a replica of European antiques. Pop music on the radio is all but impossible to tie to the here and now.

This century might be the least culturally innovative century in the past 500 years, Jason Farago, a critic for The Times, writes. Our culture remains capable of endless production — and excellence — but is far less capable of change. But if cultural production no longer progresses in time as it once did, is a static position such a bad thing?

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