One story will continue to preoccupy newsrooms in the coming days. Israel’s government says that an invasion of the northern part of Gaza Strip is looming, once civilians–around 1m people–have fled southwards. Supposedly the goal is to eradicate Hamas, the group that runs the territory and conducted attacks that killed so many Israelis, mostly civilians, last week. No doubt the Israel Defence Forces can damage Hamas’s infrastructure. But the risks of urban fighting are high, and the chances of wiping out the group, I suspect, are slim indeed.
So many factors complicate what will come next. I had expected that, by now, there would have been more attention paid to the Israeli and other hostages who were kidnapped and taken into the strip. It may be that Israel has held its forces back as it makes efforts to find some of them. For the people in Gaza the risk of humanitarian calamity is growing. Food, water, electricity and other necessities are in short supply. Gazans are crowding into small urban areas in the south. With borders closed, civilians are trapped inside the territory. Might America prevail on Egypt to open up? Antony Blinken was in Egypt today, presumably making the case for it. In Israel, meanwhile, the risk of throwing military force into Gaza is magnified by dangers of an uprising in the West Bank or a renewed conflict with Hizbullah in Lebanon. Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister and defence minister, has harsh words for Binyamin Netanyahu and advice on how Israel should now prosecute its war against Hamas.
We have brought together all of our coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict into a dedicated page. I’d urge you to bookmark it. There you’ll find our analysis of the latest developments, eyewitness reports published by our sister publication 1843, guest essays, video explainers charts and maps and much more. Look out, too, for our War Room newsletter, sent to subscribers every Monday, which contains our analysis of military matters in Ukraine, Israel and anywhere else. (You can sign up for it here.)
Still, the rest of the world does not stop even when a big crisis blows up. Today voters in Poland are taking part in a knife-edge election. The right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party is poised to take the largest share of the vote, but whether it can form a government is not yet clear. We’ll serve up our analysis of the outcome shortly. And in that other huge conflict under way, we have reported on efforts by Russia’s army to push Ukrainian forces back in a small town in eastern Ukraine, Avdiivka. If it falls, that will be a blow, at least symbolically, to Ukraine’s defending forces. But the Russian counter-counter-offensive is coming at great cost to Russia in terms of lost soldiers, equipment and other material.
If you want some relief from the heavier stories, I’d point you to two excellent lighter ones. First, some news you really can use next time you’re asked to toss a coin. New research suggests that there is, in fact, more than a 50-50 chance for a coin that is heads up before you flip to land heads up. We explain why (hint: it’s to do with wobbly tossing). And, in case you’re off to a cinema (remember those?), be warned that films are getting ridiculously long. My colleagues have analysed the data and built a fabulous interactive that shows the trend and lets you look up almost every popular film since the 1930s.
Thanks again for your comments in response to Patrick Lane’s question last week, related to the horrors in Israel and Gaza. Nevil Hall, from Britain, agrees that Mr Netanyahu’s policy does “lie in tatters” but expects to see an ever “hardened attitude towards Palestinian ambitions” as a result of Hamas’s initial attack. “Surely Hamas don’t think this is the way to change minds?” Paul Merrick, in France, worries that there are no leaders on either side strong enough to bring an end to the confrontation: “who could possibly emerge from this mayhem to lead Israel and the Palestinians to a lasting and permanent peace?”
My question for you: as the world now pays close attention to the agonies in Israel and Gaza, what important matters do we risk missing that are happening elsewhere? You can reach us at email@example.com.