Your Friday Briefing
The aftermath of an operation by U.S. forces early Thursday in Atmeh, Syria.Credit…Yahya Nemah/EPA, via Shutterstock
ISIS leader dead in U.S. raid
President Biden announced that the leader of ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, had died during an assault in Syria carried out by about two dozen American commandos. Rescue workers said women and children were among at least 13 people killed during the raid in Atmeh, a town close to the border with Turkey in rebel-held Idlib Province.
Witnesses described the raid to The Times. One bystander said that U.S. forces issued demands of surrender by loudspeaker to a woman apparently in the house with children, and that he thought missiles were later fired at the house amid hails of gunfire.
U.S. officials, however, said that al-Qurayshi perished by detonating a bomb. Little is known about the ISIS leader, who died as he lived most of his life: off the grid in the jihadist underworld.
Context: The raid came days after a battle over a Syrian prison where ISIS fighters were held, the largest U.S. combat involvement with the Islamic State since the end of the caliphate three years ago.
A Russian effort to fabricate a premise to invade
Officials in the U.S. said Russia was planning to use a fake video showing an attack by Ukrainians on Russian territory or against Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, designed to fabricate pretext for an invasion of the country.
U.S. officials would not release any direct evidence of the Russian plan or specify how they learned of it, saying to do so would compromise their sources and methods. But a recent Russian disinformation campaign lent credence to the intelligence.
The Kremlin said yesterday that the U.S. plan to send 3,000 additional troops to Eastern Europe over concerns about Ukraine was intended to “stir up tensions.” Its spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, described the U.S. deployment to Poland and Romania as a threatening act “in the vicinity of our borders.”
Turkey backs Ukraine: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, agreed to expand Ukraine’s supplies of a long-range, Turkish-made armed drone whose use in combat for the first time in Ukraine last fall infuriated Russian officials.
International relations: Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, will meet Xi Jinping, China’s leader, in Beijing today in a highly choreographed display of unity.
Related: As Russia squeezes natural gas supplies, a parade of tankers carrying liquefied natural gas is coming to Europe’s rescue.
Learning to ‘live with the virus’ in Australia
Australia, the government says, is ready to “live with the virus” after nearly 95 percent of adults there have been vaccinated. But many people don’t feel ready to seesaw from an 18-month approach of snuffing out every case to one in which the floodgates are wide open.
When one state announced that it was ending intensive contact tracing, people began to do their own via a Facebook group. After Australia’s prime minister declared lockdowns a thing of the past, so many residents of Melbourne and Sydney stayed at home as Omicron cases spiked that it was labeled a “shadow lockdown.” And despite borders reopening, the travel-loving nation has mostly stayed put.
Asia-Pacific nations are not eager to emulate what Australia has done, with Japan, South Korea and Thailand pausing or rolling back reopenings. New Zealand is taking a more cautious approach, gradually reopening to travelers from abroad over the next nine months.
The numbers: The Omicron tide peaked at 150,000 new daily cases on Jan. 13. Before this wave, Australia had never reached 3,000 cases in a day. And last Friday, the country had its deadliest day of the pandemic, reporting 98 deaths.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
Austria’s sweeping Covid vaccine mandate, which encompasses almost the entire adult population, is becoming law.
Sweden will join Denmark and Norway in lifting most Covid restrictions next week. New cases continue to soar in Europe.
For the past year, scientists have been looking for the source of strange coronavirus sequences that have appeared in New York City’s wastewater.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the World
A sprawling winter storm dropped freezing rain and snow from Texas to New York. Airlines canceled more than 5,000 flights.
The Peruvian government has vowed to “defend the sea” after a leak at a refinery tarred miles of Pacific Coast beaches.
Malaysians obsessed with thrift shopping have found a global market for high-end secondhand clothing.
Other Big Stories
An exodus of aides from 10 Downing Street yesterday deepened the crisis engulfing Boris Johnson, the prime minister, as he fought to retain power in the wake of a scandal over boozy parties held in lockdown.
An Olympic rule and warnings from the Chinese government have made it risky for athletes to speak out at the Winter Games.
Apple’s new privacy features will cost other tech giants billions this year. Meta’s stock dropped sharply, erasing more than $230 billion in the company’s value and causing markets to tumble.
What Else Is Happening
A new superyacht commissioned by Jeff Bezos is so large that a bridge in the Netherlands, where the ship is being built, may have to be dismantled so it can pass through for its passage to sea.
A college student said Elon Musk offered him $5,000 to take down a bot-driven account that monitors public information about the movement of his private, or not-so-private, jet.
Supply chain challenges and poor weather conditions have led to a global shortage of fresh flowers, especially the kinds grown for events like weddings.
A Morning Read
The story of Britain’s Pakistani community, the country’s largest Muslim community, begins in 1947. Postwar, British Pakistanis played a critical role in salvaging the country’s moth-eaten economy. More recently, Pakistani doctors helped to fill a staffing crisis in the National Health Service.
But the aftermath of Sept. 11 opened a Pandora’s box for British Muslims, including British Pakistanis, with a rise in Islamophobic attacks. Through a series of essays and photographs, The Times asks: Who are British Pakistanis today? And what does it mean to straddle the hyphen between “British” and “Pakistani”?
Jean-Jacques Beineix, the French film director often credited with starting the genre known as the cinéma du look, died last month at 75.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee
Seventy years ago this Sunday, a front-page story in The Times marked the end of one age and the start of another: The 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth became queen on Feb. 6, 1952, after her father, King George VI, died in his sleep at 56. “For the first time in 115 years, a woman ascended the world’s most exalted and stable throne,” The Times reported.
At 95, Queen Elizabeth II is the world’s longest-reigning monarch and the only British monarch ever to celebrate a platinum jubilee. Her 70-year reign has encompassed profound changes, including the shrinking of the country’s empire, with many historians seeing the Hong Kong handover in 1997 as its last gasp.
Throughout it all, Elizabeth has remained a stalwart of British royal traditions, never relinquishing the formality and pageantry of the role. Yet the actions of her descendants have ushered the royal family into a new chapter, often characterized by more time in the spotlight — and a sometimes difficult relationship with the media.
Many will remember the image of the queen grieving alone last year at a physically distanced funeral for Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years. But in her Christmas speech, Elizabeth expressed a hope that her platinum jubilee would “be an opportunity for people everywhere to enjoy a sense of togetherness.” Celebrations are planned all over the world.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Treat yourself to lemon ricotta pancakes this weekend.
What to Watch
Set in Oslo, “The Worst Person in the World” is the funny-sad story of a woman on the verge of figuring herself out.
What to Read
“The Books of Jacob,” the new novel by the Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk, is her magnum opus, our critic writes.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Competes in a Winter Olympic sport (five letters).
And here is the Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha
P.S. Francesca Barber is our International desk’s new director of operations and strategy.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is about ISIS.
You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].