Tuesday Briefing: Biden Weighs a Visit to Israel

President Biden is considering a trip to Israel in the coming days to demonstrate American solidarity. The trip would be a remarkable gamble and could tie Biden and the U.S. to bloodshed in Gaza.

The extraordinary invitation to Biden from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came as Israelis learned more about the attacks by Hamas that killed more than 1,400 people on Oct. 7. The Israeli military now believes the group took 199 people hostage, it said, nearly 50 more than previously thought.

“This will be a long war,” Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said after meeting with Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, in Tel Aviv. “The price will be high, but we are going to win for Israel, for the Jewish people and for the values that both countries believe in.”

Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes, which continued yesterday ahead of a widely expected ground assault. The strikes are exacting a growing toll on Gaza, where two million people are facing dwindling supplies of food, water, medical supplies and fuel.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry said that no water had reached the enclave in 10 days, despite remarks from the White House on Sunday that Israel had agreed to restore water to the southern part of the strip. The enclave’s ministry of health said yesterday that 2,808 people had been killed and 10,850 wounded.

Lebanon: Amid concerns that the conflict could spread, Israel’s military said it would evacuate people who live near the border with Lebanon. Clashes have broken out there in recent days between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed group that dominates southern Lebanon.

A warning: The Biden administration cautioned Iran against escalation through back-channel messages with intermediaries in Qatar, Oman and China. The Pentagon dispatched a second aircraft carrier to the region over the weekend along with additional warplanes.

Social media: Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, said it would enact temporary measures to push down extreme or graphic imagery coming out of Israel and Gaza. As a result, many users say their pro-Palestinian posts have been suppressed.

Leaders from dozens of countries are gathering in Beijing starting today for the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s signature infrastructure campaign, which has doled out an estimated $1 trillion in loans and grants around the world.

A decade on, China’s overseas development projects are facing criticism for costly and poor-quality construction that has left borrower nations awash in debt. Among them is a new airport that Nepal hoped would catapult Pokhara, its second-largest city, into a global tourist destination.

A Times investigation found that the China-owned construction company in charge of the project repeatedly dictated business terms to maximize profits and protect its interests, while dismantling Nepali oversight of its work. This has left Nepal on the hook for an international airport built at an inflated price, without the necessary passengers to repay loans to its Chinese lender.

In China, officials have tried to put a floor under falling real estate sales in recent weeks but so far to little effect. China is now paying a price for its decades-long dependence on real estate to drive economic growth.

More than a week after an earthquake devastated his village in northwest Afghanistan, Noor Ahmad is on a harrowing hunt to find his 5-year-old son, Sardar. Ahmad found his wife and his five young daughters — all crushed to death. But there was no sign of Sardar.

Ahmad’s son is one of hundreds still missing. The series of earthquakes, the deadliest in Afghanistan in decades, killed roughly 1,300 people and injured 1,700 more, most of whom lived in only a few villages tucked in a stretch of desert along the Iran border.

About 99 percent of the world’s salmon farming takes place in open net-pens in the ocean, a system criticized for spreading pollution, diseases and pests like sea lice, which result in the use of antibiotics and pesticides. Warming oceans mean their days are likely numbered.

Land-based salmon farms in the U.S. are rising as an alternative — one that’s cleaner, more ecologically responsible and potentially has a lower carbon footprint.

Lives lived: Martti Ahtisaari, a Finnish statesman whose quests to end conflict took him from the deserts of Namibia to secret arms caches in Ireland, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize, died at 86.

In his book, “Determined: A Science of Life Without Free Will,” Robert Sapolsky, a biologist and neurologist at Stanford University, refutes the biological and philosophical arguments for free will. He contends that we are not free agents, but that biology, hormones, childhood and life circumstances coalesce to produce actions that we merely feel are ours to choose.

“I want to wean people off the knee-jerk reaction to the notion that without free will, we will run amok because we can’t be held responsible for things,” Sapolsky said. Read the full conversation about his book.

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