U.S. Ships Depart for Gaza

Happy Wednesday! In another unwelcome blast from the past, mysterious monoliths are back! A big metal pillar—similar to those placed around the world in 2020—was found in the middle of nowhere in Powys, Wales, yesterday. So far this year has brought us reruns of the Super Bowl matchup, the presidential race, and these strange structures. What’s next?

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Department of Defense announced Tuesday that the U.S. would send a $300 million military aid package—including ammunition, artillery rounds, anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-tank weapons—to Ukraine, the first such delivery since December, when federal funding for Ukraine aid ran out. The package will be funded with savings Pentagon accountants were able to redesignate from contracts that came in under-budget—though senior defense officials told reporters Tuesday the replenishment fund is $10 billion overdrawn. A supplemental bill for Ukraine funding remains stalled in Congress. Meanwhile, Ukraine launched a wave of drone attacks in Russia overnight Monday, hitting Russian energy infrastructure as Ukraine-backed Russian exiles crossed the border into southern Russia and engaged in skirmishes in the region, as they have done in the past
  • Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned late Monday, saying he and his government will serve as caretakers until a transitional council is established. The announcement from Henry—who is in Puerto Rico after being prevented from returning to his country by mounting gang violence—follows a meeting of regional leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Jamaica. Blinken on Monday pledged an additional $100 million to the international police effort headed by Kenya, bringing the total U.S. contribution to $300 million. Kenyan officials said Tuesday that the international mission will not proceed until a new government forms in Haiti.
  • Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday launched a bid to become the next secretary-general of NATO, joining outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the race to replace Jens Stoltenberg as the leader of the defensive alliance when his term expires later this year. The 32 NATO member nations will have to come to a consensus to choose the next leader.
  • Former special counsel Robert Hur, who oversaw the investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Hur defended both his decision not to charge the former president with any crime and his assertion in the final report that the president is a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” In his testimony, during which he faced pressure from Republicans and Democrats, Hur denied that his report “exonerated” Biden while also refusing to characterize the president as “senile.”
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday that the consumer price index—a measure of inflation—ticked up in February, increasing 0.4 percent from the previous month and 3.2 percent year-over-year, compared to the 3.1 percent increase in prices in the year that ended in January. The higher-than-expected figure follows the Federal Reserve’s decision to delay cutting interest rates at its last meeting. 
  • The New York Times reported on Monday that a six-week Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) audit of production on Boeing’s 737 Max jet—initiated after a door plug in the fuselage of one Alaska Airlines jet blew out mid-flight in early January—revealed almost 100 instances of non-compliance with quality control requirements. Of the 89 product audits, which examine the production process, the company reportedly failed 33. 
  • GOP Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado announced on Tuesday that he would be retiring early from Congress, vacating his seat at the end of next week rather than serving the rest of his term. Buck had already said he did not plan to run for reelection, and his early departure will reduce the Republican majority in the House to only two seats.
  • Both Biden and former President Donald Trump clinched their parties’ nominations Tuesday night after securing the requisite number of delegates. Their respective victories—which came after each won primary elections in Georgia, Mississippi, and Washington—sets up a rematch of the 2020 election.

Pier One

U.S. Army soldiers stand near a flag as the USAV Wilson Wharf sails away from the pier of the Joint Base Langley-Eustis during a media preview of the 7th Transportation Brigade deployment in Hampton, Virginia, on March 12, 2024. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. Army soldiers stand near a flag as the USAV Wilson Wharf sails away from the pier of the Joint Base Langley-Eustis during a media preview of the 7th Transportation Brigade deployment in Hampton, Virginia, on March 12, 2024. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)

Four ships loaded with construction materials and roughly 100 U.S. troops departed Virginia’s Joint Base Langley-Eustis Tuesday, en route to the Gaza Strip. As the vessels pulled away, headed to build a temporary pier on the coast of the war-torn enclave, John Williams’ “Imperial March” blared over one ship’s loudspeakers.

The mission to build a temporary pier on Gaza’s Mediterranean shore began just days after President Joe Biden announced the plan during Thursday’s State of the Union address. The administration estimated that nearly 2 million meals could be delivered to Palestinian civilians per day as part of an effort to dramatically increase the inflow of humanitarian aid. But despite promises from the president that the operation would require no U.S. boots on the ground, concerns persist that this mission could put American troops in harm’s way—and escalate an already tense situation.

Five months of war in Gaza have led to a humanitarian crisis in the territory. The United Nations said in February that famine was “imminent” in the region barring changes, and a spokesperson for the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry on Wednesday said that at least 20 people have died of starvation. Though Israel is allowing aid into the region, there have been delays and difficulties in distributing those supplies to civilians. In late February, dozens of Palestinians were killed as a convoy of trucks attempted to deliver materials in northern Gaza. Israel reported that the majority of the civilians were killed in a stampede or run over by fleeing aid truck drivers, while Hamas officials said that Israeli soldiers opened fire on the crowd.

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