Early Edition: May 20, 2024 (2024)

by Beatrice Yahia

May 20, 2024

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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the weekend. Here’s today’s news:


Iran’s president and foreign minister died in a helicopter crash yesterday, Iranian state media reported. Ebrahim Raisi and Hossein Amir Abdollahian were traveling from Iran’s border with Azerbaijan after inaugurating a dam project when their helicopter went down in a mountainous area near the city of Jolfa. There were no survivors. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there would be “no disruption” to the government’s work, and that Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, will become acting president, adding that he must organize elections for a new president within 50 days. Farnaz Fassihi and Matthew Mpoke Bigg report for the New York Times; the Washington Post reports.

International reactions are pouring in after the crash. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers issued statements today mourning the deaths of Raisi and Amir Abdollahian. China, Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela offered their condolences and praise of Raisi, and Lebanon and Pakistan both declared official days of mourning. AP News reports; Mithil Aggarwal reports for NBC News.


The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said today in a statement he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a statement, Karim Khan said he was also seeking arrest warrants for Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant, as well as two other top Hamas leaders. The ICC expert panel published their report today on the legalities of the arrest warrants. Readers may also be interested in this timeline at Just Security of the ICC arrest warrant applications and what comes next in the process. Louisa Loveluck reports for the Washington Post.

Israel intends to broaden its military operation in Rafah, defense minister Yoav Gallant told U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan today. A statement from Gallant’s office said he “presented to (National Security) Adviser Sullivan the provisions Israel implemented for evacuating the population from the Rafah area and for setting up the appropriate humanitarian response.” Reuters reports.

Two senior Hamas operatives were killed by airstrikes in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said today. The two killed were Zaher Huli and Rami Khalil Faki, both from Hamas’s Military Wing and Hamas Police, the IDF said. Yesterday, an airstrike that hit the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza killed at least 35 people, including seven children and nine women, according to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. It was not clear whether the civilian casualties reported were caused by the targeting of Faki, who worked for Hamas Police’s office there. CNN reports.

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz threatened on Saturday to resign if the government does not adopt a new plan for the Gaza war within three weeks. Gantz presented a six-point plan that includes the return of hostages, ending Hamas’s rule, demilitarizing the Gaza Strip, establishing an international administration of civilian affairs, and normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia. Gantz said that if the plan is not adopted by June 8, he will quit the government. CBS News reports; Wafaa Shurafa, Jack Jeffrey, and Joe Krauss report for AP News.

The IDF has recovered the bodies of four hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. The bodies were found in a Hamas tunnel on Thursday during a major operation that Israeli forces conducted in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, an IDF spokesperson said. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.


President Biden called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza while delivering a commencement address yesterday at Morehouse College in Atlanta. “It’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. That’s why I’ve called for an immediate ceasefire — an immediate ceasefire to stop the fighting and bring the hostages home,” Biden said. Michael Williams reports for CNN.

Netanyahu has banned his intelligence and security chiefs from meeting with U.S. officials several times since the Gaza war erupted, three U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios. Netanyahu seems to be trying to control what U.S. politicians and diplomats hear from Israel, at a time when his government is deeply divided over his war strategy, the officials said. Barak Ravid reports.

Jake Sullivan yesterday urged Netanyahu to connect the war in Gaza to a “political strategy” to ensure a lasting defeat of Hamas, a complete hostage release, and a better future for the enclave. Meeting with Netanyahu in Israel after holding talks in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Sullivan also proposed “a series of concrete measures” to ensure more aid enters Gaza. BBC News reports; The Washington Post reports.


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal against his extradition to the United States on espionage charges, London High Court ruled today. Brian Melley reports for AP News.

Georgia’s president vetoed a controversial “foreign agent” law that has sparked weeks of mass protests. In a televised address broadcast on Saturday, President Zourabichvili said her veto was “legally justified.” Vicky Wong reports for BBC News.

The United States has reached an agreement with Niger to withdraw its military forces and equipment from the country by September 15. Oren Liebermann and AnneClaire Stapleton report for CNN; Nick Robertson reports for The Hill.

Taiwan today inaugurated Lai Ching-te as its new leader, in an unprecedented third consecutive presidential term for the Democratic Progressive Party. After being sworn in, Ching-te urged Beijing to replace confrontation with dialogue, and said Taiwan would never back down in the face of intimidation from China. China responded by saying, “Taiwan independence is a dead end.” Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Vic Chiang, and Christian Shepherd report for the Washington Post; Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports for BBC News.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s military said yesterday that it had foiled a coup attempt involving foreigners. An army spokesperson told The Associated Press that three Americans were among the perpetrators, and the U.S. ambassador to Congo publicly acknowledged that U.S. citizens may have been involved, writing on X that Washington will cooperate “to the fullest extent” with the Congolese authorities. Declan Walsh reports for the New York Times; Mbelechi Msoshi and Danai Nesta Kupemba report for BBC News.


The man who attacked the husband of former House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was sentenced to 30 years in prison. David DePape also faces life imprisonment on separate state charges stemming from the attack, including burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, and attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Bernd Debusmann Jr reports for BBC News.


Former President Trump’s criminal hush money trial resumes today. Defense lawyers say they expect to complete their cross-examination of Michael Cohen today, and prosecutors will then use their second chance to question Cohen in their redirect examination. Stephen Collinson reports for CNN.

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