Monday Briefing: Israel withdraws several troops from southern Gaza

The Israeli army announced yesterday that it had withdrawn a division of ground troops from southern Gaza. The move raised questions about the plan as the war reached the six-month mark. Israeli media reported that the withdrawal means there are no Israeli forces actively operating in southern Gaza.

It is unclear what the latest troop reductions mean for the prospects for an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city. Israel has significantly reduced the number of troops on the ground over the past few months. Only a small portion of the soldiers deployed to this territory at the beginning of the war remain.

Israel has routed Hamas in much of the Gaza Strip and fighting appears to be slowing. But the conflict has been protracted by Israel’s reluctance to hold on to the territory it has occupied or to cede control to an alternative Palestinian leadership.

The withdrawal came as international mediators were scheduled to meet in Cairo to resolve stalled negotiations over a temporary ceasefire and the release of hostages held in the enclave. At the same time, fears are growing that Iran will retaliate against Israel’s attack on Syria, which killed senior commanders of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

Mexico severed diplomatic relations with Ecuador on Friday after Ecuadorian police arrested Jorge Glas, an Ecuadorian politician who had been granted political asylum at the Mexican embassy in the capital Quito. The next day, Nicaragua also announced that it would suspend diplomatic relations with Ecuador, labeling the arrests as “neo-fascist political barbarism.”

The arrest, which Mexico described as a “violation” of its sovereignty, ended days of heightened tensions between the two countries. Ecuador considers former Vice President Glass a fugitive and said police were acting on a warrant for his arrest.

glass: He was convicted of bribery in two separate cases and faced additional embezzlement charges before fleeing to the embassy.

Rwanda is marking the 30th anniversary of the devastating genocide in the central African country. The massacre was a 100-day massacre in which extremists from the Hutu majority murdered 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis.

The day-long memorial event included a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the remains of more than 250,000 victims are kept. “Rwanda has been completely humbled by the magnitude of our losses. The lessons we have learned are etched in our blood,” said President Paul Kagame, who led Tutsi rebels during the genocide. I mentioned it yesterday.

context: Rwanda has made remarkable progress in maternal mortality, poverty, education and access to health care. But ethnic divisions persist under Kagame, the iron-fisted president who has ruled the country since the genocide. He is running for election this year and is expected to win another seven-year term.

Personal color diagnosis is popular on social media, and some people pay high sums of money for consultations. While the trend has its devoted fans, skeptics don’t think it’s worth nearly $500 for something that reportedly looks blue and pasty.

Australian letters: Everyone welcomes banh mi.

A total solar eclipse will cross North America today. The path of totality, the belt in which the moon completely obscures the sun, begins in Mazatlan, Mexico. It traverses more than a dozen U.S. states, from Texas to Maine, and ends in Newfoundland, Canada.

Millions of people will watch for several minutes as the moon completely blocks out the sun and darkness engulfs the light. (At least, that’s what they hope. Cloudy forecast adds to the anxiety.)

Some enthusiasts have booked hotel rooms years in advance, and many have taken time off from work to watch this awe-inspiring event. “This is a gift that reminds everyone on the same day that life can be magical,” her colleague Elizabeth Diaz wrote.

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