Friday Briefing: Aid trickles through Gaza pier

Also, China holds ‘punishment’ drills around Taiwan
Morning Briefing: Asia Pacific Edition

May 24, 2024

Good morning. We’re covering a stumbling U.S. aid effort in Gaza and the latest Chinese military drills around Taiwan.

Plus, why gardening is good for the body and the soul.

A crowd of people climbing on top of a truck stopped on a dusty hill.
Palestinians stormed trucks carrying humanitarian aid last week.  Abdel Kareem Hana/Associated Press

A U.S. aid project has brought little relief to Gaza

The U.S. predicted that a floating pier off Gaza built by its military would allow for a steady stream of humanitarian aid. But little relief has reached Palestinians in the strip, officials said this week.

Several trucks were looted as they made their way to a warehouse and operations were suspended for two days. The U.N. World Food Program has warned that the pier project could fail if Israel does not do more to ensure the safe distribution of the aid.

The relief effort faltered as Israeli forces pushed deeper into Rafah, in southern Gaza. Israel’s military said yesterday that its forces were fighting near the center of Rafah. Around 815,000 people have left the city as a result.

The assault came in a week when Israel has faced mounting diplomatic and legal pressure over its war effort. Today, the International Court of Justice in The Hague is set to respond to a South African petition for an immediate halt to the ground assault in Rafah.

Cease-fire: The C.I.A. director plans to travel to Europe this weekend for talks with his Israeli counterpart to try to revive the stalled talks.

Hostages: The families of several Israeli female soldiers released a video of their abduction by Hamas fighters on Oct. 7. They hope to pressure the Israeli government to restart the negotiations that pave the way for the captives’ release.

A map of Taiwan, with red marks in the sea showing current exercise areas in the sea as compared to 2022 exercise areas. The current ones appear closer.
Pablo Robles

China holds ‘punishment’ drills around Taiwan

China launched two days of military drills around Taiwan yesterday, its first substantive response to the swearing-in of President Lai Ching-te, whom Beijing dislikes.

Taiwanese officials and military experts had been expecting China to make a show of military force after Lai’s inauguration. In his inaugural speech, he pledged to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty.

A Chinese military spokesman described the exercises as a “strong punishment” for “Taiwan independence forces,” according to state media. He also called them “a stern warning against the interference and provocation by external forces,” a reference to the U.S.

Stakes: The exercises could teach China’s military lessons about how to impose a possible blockade around Taiwan. Many experts believe that if China tries to force Taiwan to accept unification, it may first try using military forces to restrict air and sea access to the island.

Smoke rising from a partially collapsed apartment building.
Damage from what Russia said was a Ukrainian attack on Belgorod, Russia, earlier this month. Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

U.S. considers allowing Ukraine to shoot into Russia

The Biden administration is debating whether to allow Ukraine to use U.S. weapons to hit missile and artillery launch sites just inside Russia.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is urging President Biden to lift the restrictions after a trip to Kyiv last week. The proposal has not yet been formally presented to Biden, who has opposed such a step. But Blinken shifted his stance after the Russians opened a new front in the Kharkiv region, with devastating results.

Russia has placed weapons right across the border from northeastern Ukraine, and aimed them at Kharkiv. President Volodymyr Zelensky told The Times that the inability to fire U.S. missiles and other weaponry at the military targets gave Russia a “huge advantage.”

MORE TOP NEWS

A woman looking for a missing relative embraces a police officer.
A woman looking for her missing relative embraces a police officer in Mexico. Daniel Becerril/Reuters
  • Mexico: Strong wind caused a stage to collapse at a campaign rally, killing at least nine people and injuring at least 70 others.
  • New Caledonia: On a visit to the French territory, Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, said a state of emergency would be lifted, only if protesters removed their barricades and calm returned.
  • Iran: President Ebrahim Raisi was laid to rest at a shrine in his hometown, the northeastern city of Mashhad.
  • Kenya: President Biden welcomed President William Ruto and said he intended to designate the East African country as a “major non-NATO ally.”
  • Lawsuit: The U.S. sued to break up Live Nation Entertainment, which owns Ticketmaster, claiming that it illegally maintained a monopoly over concert tickets.
  • India: The opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi is finding some traction as voting enters the final stretch.
  • Britain: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the government would not put asylum seekers on one-way flights to Rwanda until after the July 4 election.
  • Russia: A top defense official was jailed on suspicion of bribery, the fourth high-profile arrest in a month.
  • Congress: The leaders of three U.S. universities denied that their campuses have become “hotbeds of antisemitism,” as one House Republican described them.

MORNING READ

Ms. Payton walking alone along a wooded trail.
Justine Payton craved transcendence, which brought her to the Hare Krishna movement. Travis Dove for The New York Times

Justine Payton was drawn to a Hare Krishna ashram for its cheap yoga and volunteer work. Her experience, she says, devolved into emotional and spiritual abuse — by the end, she was 28 years old and had $72 to her name.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

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ARTS AND IDEAS

A hand reaches to touch a small green tomato hanging from a vine.
Ike Edeani for The New York Times

Why gardening is so good for you

Gardening can be a workout, a meditation and an opportunity to socialize.

It gets you moving: Shoveling mulch and pulling weeds can count as moderate-intensity physical activities. Gardeners tend to report higher levels of physical activity overall, and there’s evidence that they have better cardio-metabolic health.

It also does wonders for your mental well-being. Some studies report that gardening lowers people’s scores on anxiety and depression measures; other research has found increased confidence and self-esteem.

Read more about how gardening can have real benefits.

RECOMMENDATIONS

a plate of cold soba noodles with lime and radishes and herbs shot from above
Chris Simpson for The New York Times.

Mix: Soba noodles are ideal for salads because they taste particularly great when served cold.

Watch: Hit Man” is one of the year’s funniest, sexiest, most enjoyable movies.

Scour: Your grill needs a scrub.

Play: Spelling Bee, the Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku. Find all our games here.

P.S. Masha Gessen is joining The Times as an opinion columnist.

Have a nice weekend. I’ll be off next week. See you in June! — Amelia

Email us at briefing@nytimes.com.

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