A U.S. strike killed a militia commander
A U.S. Special Operations drone strike in Baghdad killed a senior leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, a militia that U.S. officials blame for recent attacks against American personnel, the Pentagon said.
A senior Kata’ib Hezbollah official and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps both said that two commanders had been killed in the strike. A spokesman for Iraq’s security services said that the strike “violated Iraqi sovereignty and risked dangerous repercussions in the region.”
Kata’ib Hezbollah, based in Iraq, is considered a proxy of Iran. The U.S. considers the group a terrorist organization. A drone attack that officials attributed to the group killed three U.S. service members in Jordan late in January, leading President Biden to begin a campaign of retaliation.
U.S. officials have said they are focused on whittling down militias’ arsenals and deterring attacks against U.S. troops, without starting a broader war in the Middle East.
Analysis: National security experts and officials say privately that to truly degrade the capability of Iran-backed militias, the U.S. would have to carry out a yearslong campaign similar to the six-year effort to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Related: Iraq has allowed both U.S. and Iran-backed forces to operate on its soil, striking a delicate balance that is growing shaky.
Democrats struggled to salvage aid for Ukraine and Israel
Republicans in the Senate blocked a bill to pair tens of billions of dollars in aid for Israel and Ukraine with stringent border security measures, torpedoing a compromise that they had demanded before Donald Trump vocally opposed the bill.
Democrats tried to salvage the aid by advancing a stand-alone foreign aid bill stripped of the immigration measures. But the vote was delayed as some Republican senators demanded border changes — only hours after voting to tank the aid package that contained them.
Despite the delay, there were glimmers of hope that the aid package would eventually move forward, a remarkable turnaround after months of stalemate. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the Senate majority leader, said the chamber would hold a vote today.
Quotable: “Republicans have said they can’t pass Ukraine without border. Now they say they can’t pass Ukraine with border. Today, I’m giving them a choice,” Schumer said, adding, “I urge Republicans to take yes for an answer.”
Analysis: Officials said that the collapse of U.S. support for Ukraine was a real possibility, but they were focused on passing a bipartisan aid package.
Netanyahu rejected Hamas’s cease-fire offer
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spurned a cease-fire proposal from Hamas, dashing hopes of a pause to the violence in Gaza.
He also said that Israel had directed its forces to prepare to operate in Rafah, a city on Gaza’s border with Egypt — and a refuge for more than one million Palestinians, more than half of the territory’s entire population.
According to a Lebanese daily newspaper with access to people familiar with the plan, Hamas’s proposal called for Israeli forces to eventually leave Gaza altogether and for Israel to release jailed Palestinians. In exchange, Hamas would free some of the roughly 100 hostages it still holds.
Israeli officials said that a key obstacle to Hamas’s plan was the demand that Israeli troops completely withdraw from Gaza.
“There is no solution besides total victory,” Mr. Netanyahu said.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
Should Israel be barred from Eurovision?
The Eurovision contest, in which singers representing dozens of countries compete before tens of millions of viewers, is not an obvious proxy for war. But as the civilian death toll in Gaza has mounted, there have been growing calls for Israel to be bared from this year’s competition.
Several prominent artist-led campaigns argue that recent decisions to exclude Russia and Belarus set a precedent and that Israel should be bared for human-rights violations. Eurovision officials reject those comparisons, but when Eden Golan, Israel’s 20-year-old entrant, competes, many voters are likely to consider more than just her singing.