Tuesday Briefing – The New York Times

Israeli special operations forces freed two hostages in the Gazan city of Rafah, the military said, as Israeli attacks killed dozens of Palestinians in the city, according to the Gazan health ministry.

The rescue prompted elation in Israel, where the fate of more than 100 people kidnapped during the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7 had become a national priority. But the raid fueled mourning and panic among more than a million Palestinians who had crowded into Rafah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said that Israeli ground forces are preparing to enter Rafah to eliminate Hamas battalions there. The prospect of ground battles in the city has created worldwide alarm over the risks to civilians who want to flee.

The intensity and death toll of the operation made clear Netanyahu’s determination to press ahead with the southern offensive despite criticism from the U.S. and other allies.

The hostages, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, both dual citizens of Israel and Argentina, were in good condition.

A survivor’s story: Dareen al-Bayaa, 11, spoke in a video with The Times about her grief and recovery after losing many family members in an airstrike in Gaza.

One judge could schedule the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president, as early as next month — raising the possibility that Trump could wind up behind bars.

Another judge is expected to deliver a ruling that could threaten his family business. The judge, who is overseeing Trump’s civil fraud trial, is determining whether to penalize Trump hundreds of millions of dollars and remove him from the company he ran for decades.

The second ruling would drain the former president’s coffers, and the first could ultimately leave him a felon, sending America’s already bitter politics into uncharted realms.

Many cases: Trump faces 91 felony counts across four criminal cases, and he owes $83.3 million from a recent defamation case, separate from the upcoming fraud ruling.

Finland’s president-elect, Alexander Stubb, seemed perfectly poised to stand up to Russian aggression as the leader of the newest nation in NATO. Instead, he will enter office next month at a time when U.S. politics, specifically comments made by Trump on the campaign trail, has thrown the durability of the trans-Atlantic alliance into question.

Trump’s comments that he would allow Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to “delinquent” NATO countries is hardly what Finland wanted to hear. The Nordic country’s border with Russia is the longest in NATO.

Stubb kept his cool and urged Finns to take the unsettling comments as a reminder that Europe needs to develop its own defense, without counting on Washington, regardless of who ends up in the Oval Office.

In the U.S., Trump’s comments have been a boon for Biden, who was facing unwelcome questions about his age.

Solar panels are essential to a clean energy future, but they require a lot of space, which often involves building in critical areas for wildlife.

The question of whether humans can build necessary solar infrastructure without harming nature is playing out in the grasslands of the American West, prime locations for solar farms and home to animals like pronghorn. Measures that can make the farms safer for wildlife often go unused in the U.S. because of a dearth of regulations and lack of research.

Lives lived: Kelvin Kiptum shattered the marathon world record in Chicago last year. He died in a car crash at 24.

African Cup final: A fairy-tale finish sealed glory for Ivory Coast.

Title-defining games: What we learned from Europe’s big soccer matches.

In Slovakia, the Love Bank, which has a vault where 7,000 people have deposited keepsakes of their affection, will be closed this Valentine’s Day.

The bank’s medieval building in Banska Stiavnica almost burned down last March — the result, apparently, of an electrical fault, not rapture run amok.

But the vault, and the text of a 19th-century love poem certified by the World Record Academy as the world’s longest, remain intact. The poem’s author wrote it for the woman he adored, who lived in the building the Love Bank occupies and, alas, married someone else.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thank you for spending part of your morning with us, and see you tomorrow. — Dan

P.S. Vivek Shankar will run our Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand coverage.

You can reach Dan and the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

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