Friday Briefing

The town of Naqoura, in southern Lebanon, on Thursday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Tensions are escalating in the Middle East

The Middle East is coming closer to the brink of a regional war, which the Biden administration has tried to stave off since Hamas’s deadly attacks against Israel on Oct. 7. Growing attacks have forced thousands from their homes at the border between Lebanon and Israel, while Israeli forces continue to pummel the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. See the latest updates.

In Lebanon, the killing of a Hamas leader in Beirut is raising fears of a wider conflict at the country’s border with Israel. Many southern villages have already emptied out as clashes between Israel and Hezbollah intensify. Israel has evacuated more than 80,000 people on its side of the border.

In southern Gaza, Israel’s military pressed on with its bombardment of areas that it has told civilians to evacuate to amid fierce fighting, Palestine Red Crescent and Gazan officials said. Dozens of people have died in the last three days, according to the Gazan officials. The U.N. said that Israel’s attacks had left nowhere for residents to seek shelter from the bombing.

Other news:

  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings that killed 84 people in Kerman, Iran.

  • Attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea by the Houthi rebels in Yemen have left oil tanker operators balancing the risks with losing business.

  • A U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed a top leader in a militant group linked to Iran. The Iraqi government condemned the attack.

  • A top adviser at the Education Department has resigned over President Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, the second official to do so.

Former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally last month.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Trump’s endorsement playbook

As of this week, every member of the House Republican leadership is formally backing Donald Trump’s campaign to recapture the White House. Trump pockets his endorsements through both fear and favor, cajoling fellow politicians by phone while firing off ominous social media posts about those who don’t fall in line.

The former president has a particular focus on gathering these formal endorsements. In recent weeks, his allies have told lawmakers that Trump will be closely watching who has and hasn’t endorsed him before the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15.

Test case: In October, Trump felled a top candidate for House speaker, Representative Tom Emmer, by posting that voting for him “would be a tragic mistake!” On Wednesday, Emmer capitulated and endorsed him.

‘An admission’: Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, said in a new ad that he had been wrong to endorse Trump in 2016. “I did it because I thought I could make him a better candidate and a better president,” he said. “Well, I was wrong. I made a mistake.”

Overseas transactions: Trump’s businesses received at least $7.8 million from foreign governments during his presidency, a new report by House Democrats found.

A Ukrainian soldier near Marinka, in August.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Evidence has grown that Russia controls Marinka

The Ukrainian military said yesterday that its troops were fighting “in the vicinities” of a village behind the eastern frontline town of Marinka. The town’s capture would be Russia’s most significant territorial advance since the fall of Bakhmut in May.

While its control is unlikely to turn the tide of the war, the loss of Marinka would be further evidence that Moscow has firmly seized the initiative on the battlefield after Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive stalled.


Around the World

Credit…KCNA, via Associated Press
  • South Korea’s intelligence agency said that Kim Ju-ae, the daughter of Kim Jong-un, “is seen as the most likely successor” to be North Korea’s leader.

  • The French supermarket chain Carrefour dropped PepsiCo products like Doritos, accusing the company of “unacceptably” high prices despite falling inflation.

  • Amid strong demand for train travel in Europe, governments and private investors are trying to catch up by adding routes.

  • Two subway trains collided in Manhattan, causing one of them to derail. Eight people were injured.

Other Big Stories

  • A sixth grader was killed and five other people were wounded in a shooting at a high school in Iowa. The gunman, a 17-year-old student, killed himself.

  • A surge in sightings of balloons from China flying over Taiwan has drawn the attention of the island’s military and struck some experts as a calculatedly ambiguous warning.

  • Covid deaths in the U.S. have risen to about 1,500 per week, and researchers are questioning why use of the medicine Paxlovid has remained low.

What Else Is Happening

  • A NASA mission designed to study Jupiter’s origins sent back dramatic new images of Io, a large and volcanically active moon.

  • Strikes next week are expected to shut down London’s underground Tube system for several days.

  • Meet Denmark’s next queen — a former Australian who wanted to be a veterinarian and who met her future husband, the crown prince, by chance at a pub in Sydney.

  • The rock band Rage Against the Machine announced, once again, that its touring days were over.

A Morning Read

Credit…Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

A library in a small mountain town in New York announced a one-time addition to its children’s lineup: Drag Queen Story Hour. Pandemonium broke loose — within months, someone had called in a bomb threat, a board meeting ended in thrown punches and a librarian was hospitalized with stress-induced vertigo.

The event never happened, but the library has now been closed for more than three months for the first time in its 53 years of operation.


An empty cabinet: The biggest English soccer club never to win a major trophy.

Knowing your worth: The rise of data and analytics in soccer contract negotiations.

‘Exposed flaws’: Rory McIlroy said that LIV Golf has identified shortcomings in the PGA Tour.


An oligarch v. Sotheby’s

In a trial set for next week, Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian oligarch, plans to take on the auction house Sotheby’s, a giant of the art world. Rybolovlev claims that the company helped a dealer to trick him into overpaying by millions for works like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi.”

Sotheby’s denies all wrongdoing. But whatever the trial’s result, it is expected to provide a rare window into the inner, often secretive workings of the art trade, where even buyers seldom know from whom they are purchasing art — or how much it is truly worth.

“This case is the granddaddy of them all,” said Nicholas O’Donnell, an art market lawyer, “when it comes to what do we do in the art market in terms of conflicting loyalties and transparency.”


Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times

Cook: End your week with Mongolian beef.

Age: How to add more good years to your life.

Bond: Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King on what makes their friendship work so well.

Read: Check out six recently published paperbacks.

Travel: Spend 36 hours in Zurich.

Play the Spelling Bee. And here are today’s Mini Crossword and Wordle. You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a restful weekend. — Natasha

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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