Friday Briefing – The New York Times

Biden administration officials want Israel to end its large-scale campaign in the Gaza Strip within weeks and to transition to a more targeted phase in its war against Hamas, American officials said.

The new phase would involve smaller groups of elite forces that would move in and out of population centers in Gaza, carrying out more precise missions to find and kill Hamas leaders, rescue hostages and destroy tunnels.

It comes as conditions in Gaza grow ever more catastrophic. Desperate Gazans driven by acute hunger after two months of siege are stopping U.N. trucks, taking food off them and devouring it on the spot, a top U.N. official said. For more on the situation there, we spoke with Raja Abdulrahim, a Middle East correspondent for The Times. Read the full interview here.

What are you hearing from Gaza right now?

Life is terrible for Palestinians in Gaza. As journalists, when we talk to them, it’s so hard for us to even know what to say anymore. But what people are telling me these days is that they’re just clinging to life. Some people have told me that they would rather just have a nuclear bomb come and take them all out because the situation has gotten so desperate, and they don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. So it’s just an incredibly grim place.

They also feel like the entire world has abandoned them. Even people who seemed to have had hope and were very strong early on — it’s just worn them down because people have been displaced time and time again, and nowhere is safe. And that just keeps being more true.

How are Gazans thinking about the future?

There’s huge fear of a permanent displacement. Particularly because the vast majority of Gazans either fled their homes in 1948 when the state of Israel was established, or are the descendants of those who fled their homes and haven’t been allowed to go back.

And this fear is twofold. Gazans are afraid that they will be permanently displaced inside Gaza, as they are being corralled into a smaller, smaller area. And there have been things said by Israeli leaders, military commanders and former leaders that they do plan to essentially shrink Gaza — in other words, take over some land. So that fear of not being allowed home is definitely a real one.

Hungary prevented the E.U. from approving a financial aid package for Ukraine, hours after E.U. leaders agreed to officially open negotiations for Ukraine to join the bloc. Such talks normally take a decade or longer and involve major reforms to bring the country into alignment with E.U. rules and standards.

For Ukraine, a more immediate hurdle will be to secure 50 billion euros — about $52 billion — in proposed aid. Hungary’s objection thwarted an agreement on that package, despite talks that continued until early this morning. E.U. leaders will reconvene next year to try to secure unanimity, which is required for this decision, an official said.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has just returned from a bruising visit to the U.S., where he pleaded for desperately needed aid — also being held up by political divisions (within Congress, in this case).

Vladimir Putin: In a four-hour news conference, the Russian leader appeared determined to outlast Ukraine and the West. He reiterated that he was open to peace talks but offered no hint of a willingness to compromise. And he boasted that Ukraine’s Western support was running dry.

A manager at Germany’s foreign intelligence agency has been accused of selling highly classified material to Russia’s secret service, with a globe-trotting diamond dealer as a go-between. Both men face charges of high treason, carrying potential sentences of life imprisonment.

Their trial began this week in Berlin’s highest criminal court. The case, scheduled to last into the summer, caps one of the gravest espionage scandals in recent German history.

Ahead of our Christmas special edition later this month, we’re asking readers to send in favorite holiday memories — moments that always make you smile to look back on or that may hold special significance. Let us know at this link.

Giorgia Lupi first got Covid in March 2020. Her case was mild, and she experienced what felt like a bad flu. But a few weeks later, strange symptoms emerged that persist years later: extreme fatigue, frequent low-grade fevers, general temperature dysregulation, chills, heart palpitations and more.

“Every morning, I wake up in my Brooklyn apartment, and for two seconds, I can remember the old me,” she writes, for our Opinion section. “The me without pain, the me with energy, the me who could do whatever she wanted.”

Micah Hamilton: From ball boy to Champions League goal scorer.

‘Sunderland ’Til I Die’: Revisiting the Netflix series, five years later.

Exploiting a loophole: The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani contract seems to follow Chelsea’s blueprint.

Golf: The PGA Tour is just weeks from a deadline to complete a contentious deal with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

The matter of onscreen sex has been a continuing source of anxiety for audiences, critics and filmmakers lately. Some feel that desire has been shunted offscreen in a puritanical shift, while others feel the portrayal of sex has been complicated by the #MeToo movement — or are simply happier not seeing it at all.

But a wave of new movies and television shows aims to bring back sex as sex — gratifying, provocative and, at base, erotic. That includes raucous throwbacks to raunchy comedies like “Bottoms” and “No Hard Feelings” and sexual bildungsromans like “Poor Things” and HBO’s lurid “The Idol.” These films want to depict sex in a broadly appealing way while retaining an awareness of recent shifts in the cultural conversation.

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