Happy Monday! Friday was longtime Dispatch staffer (and onetime TMD co-author) Andrew Egger’s last day at the company, as he is returning to The Bulwark this week to be their White House correspondent.
We’d like to thank him for all his work getting The Dispatch off the ground these last four-and-a-half years, and we wish him nothing but the best. He will be missed—but not at this morning’s editorial meeting, where he’d probably be bleating about his Kansas City Chiefs’ back-to-back Super Bowl wins.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday to produce plans to evacuate the civilian population in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza along the border with Egypt, and destroy the remaining Hamas battalions located there. It also executed an overnight raid in the city on Monday, rescuing two Israeli hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 in an operation that reportedly killed dozens of Palestinians. Rafah’s population has ballooned to more than a million as approximately half of the population of Gaza has fled to the city. U.S. officials have publicly opposed an invasion of Rafah, and President Joe Biden told Netanyahu on a call Sunday that an operation shouldn’t proceed without a plan to keep civilians safe. Netanyahu, however, defended the plans on Sunday, telling ABC News, “Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying, ‘Lose the war. Keep Hamas there.’” Egypt has reportedly threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if the IDF deploys ground forces in Rafah.
- The IDF announced on Saturday the discovery of a Hamas communications and intelligence center in a tunnel underneath the United Nations Relief Works Agency’s (UNRWA) headquarters in Gaza City. The center appeared to be using electricity from the UNRWA building, according to the IDF. Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner-general, said Saturday that the agency “did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza” and that when there’s no active conflict, UNRWA inspects its facilities every quarter. The last inspection was in September 2023, according to Lazzarini.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continued to reshuffle military leadership over the weekend, appointing Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Pavliuk as commander of Ukraine’s ground forces on Sunday. Pavliuk took over from Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, whom Zelensky promoted to commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces last week, replacing Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi following months of speculation. Meanwhile, Russian forces launched a barrage of drone attacks in cities and regions throughout Ukraine over the weekend. One strike in the city of Kharkiv hit an oil depot, starting a fire that killed seven people including two parents and their three children, according to local officials.
- Supporters of Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan protested throughout Pakistan over the weekend, claiming last week’s elections were rigged. Independent candidates aligned with Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party won the most seats in the country’s parliament, but no party secured a majority—though PTI officials claimed that some seats had been “falsely changed.” Khan, who’s currently in jail, also claimed victory in a speech that used an AI version of his voice. The other two major parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party, held meetings over the weekend on potentially forming a coalition government.
- Venezuela has deployed additional military forces and equipment close to its border with Guyana, according to satellite images released on Friday. The move escalates the risk of war between the two countries over Essequibo, a disputed region claimed by Venezuela but administered by Guyana, and oil-rich waters off Essequibo’s coast.
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin—who was diagnosed with prostate cancer late last year—was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday afternoon for symptoms related to an “emergent bladder issue.” By Sunday evening, the Pentagon announced that Austin had transferred the duties of the office to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. Austin faced sharp criticism last month for not notifying the Biden administration—or the president himself—of his previous hospitalizations in December or January.
- Rep. Matt Rosendale, a Montana Republican, launched a bid on Friday to unseat Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, joining Tim Sheehy in the state’s Republican primary scheduled for June. Sheehy, a wealthy veteran backed by the Republican Senatorial Committee, was also endorsed by former President Donald Trump on Friday.
- Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, announced a bid on Friday for the U.S. Senate seat soon to be vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. Hogan is popular in Maryland and a vocal Trump critic, making him a strong candidate for the GOP in the blue state. “I am running for the United States Senate—not to serve one party—but to stand up to both parties, fight for Maryland, and fix our nation’s broken politics,” Hogan said on Friday. He stepped down as a co-chair of No Labels—the group exploring an independent run for president—last month.
- Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, announced on Friday that he won’t seek reelection in November. The 39-year-old is currently serving his fourth term and chairs the House committee on competition with China. “When I first ran for Congress, I promised to treat my time in office as a high-intensity deployment,” Gallagher said in a statement on Saturday. “Congress is no place to grow old.” He was one of four House Republicans to vote against the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week, and he joins a wave of lawmakers not seeking reelection this cycle. A pro-Trump Republican political consultant had reportedly been mulling a primary challenge to Gallagher.
- The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII last night, squeaking out a 25-22 win in overtime and marking a team’s first back-to-back NFL championship victories since the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named Super Bowl MVP.
Zelensky’s Mid-War Changes
In a tweet Thursday announcing the firing of Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s top army general, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shared a picture in which he and Zaluzhnyi were shaking hands and smiling amicably. “I met with General Valerii Zaluzhnyi,” Zelensky wrote. “I thanked him for the two years of defending Ukraine. […] I proposed to General Zaluzhnyi to remain part of the team.”
Though it’s not yet clear whether the man who’s led Ukraine’s armed forces since the beginning of Russia’s invasion almost two years ago will, in fact, “remain part of the team,” the reshuffling was a long time coming as Kyiv reaches yet another turning point in the war. In the capital, the country’s political leadership is grappling with tense civil-military relations and considering a new conscription bill. On the battlefield, amid diminishing manpower and crippling ammunition shortages caused by dwindling U.S. aid, Ukraine’s forces seem on the cusp of losing the battle for a town that has resisted Russian occupation for almost a decade. Despite a glimmer of hope provided by renewed European support, Ukraine’s outlook remains bleak as it returns to a defensive posture.