Wednesday Briefing

Faces of hostages taken by Hamas were projected on a wall in Jerusalem.Credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Israel approves a cease-fire with Hamas

After weeks of negotiations, the Israeli government said it would uphold a cease-fire of at least four days in Gaza if Hamas freed 50 of the hostages it captured last month. In return, Israel would exchange roughly 150 Palestinian prisoners. Hamas and Qatar, the lead mediators of the deal, did not immediately comment.

The Israeli government said it was “committed to the return of all abductees home,” adding: “The release of every 10 additional abductees will result in an additional day of respite.” The deal cannot be enacted until tomorrow at the earliest, to allow time for Israeli judges to review potential legal challenges to the prisoner release, Israeli officials said.

During the proposed cease-fire, fighting would halt, Israeli troops would remain in their current positions, and Israel would refrain from flying surveillance aircraft over Gaza for six hours a day, the officials said. Civilians currently in southern Gaza would not be allowed to return to the north.

Background: Hamas and its allies in Gaza killed around 1,200 people and captured about 240 hostages during their raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials. Israel has responded with attacks on the ground and from the air, killing roughly 13,000 people, according to Gazan health officials.

In other news from the war:

  • Israel released a notable Palestinian poet two days after its military detained him as he fled to southern Gaza. A family friend said that he had been beaten.

  • The U.S. conducted a second round of airstrikes in Iraq, destroying two facilities used by Iranian proxies, U.S. military officials said.

  • BRICS nations took divergent positions on the war in Gaza at a virtual summit.

  • Satellite imagery showed a vessel that Yemen’s Houthi militants seized in the Red Sea anchored outside a Yemeni port.

Experts have warned that Omicron could become a permanent part of life.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Omicron isn’t done with us

Two years after its emergence, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus remains the dominant strain — not only staggeringly infectious, but an evolutionary marvel, giving rise to an impressive number of descendants.

Researchers are now trying to make sense of the past two years in order to prepare for the future. It’s possible that Omicron will become a permanent part of life, steadily mutating like seasonal influenza. But researchers warn that the virus still has the capacity to surprise, especially if people stop paying close attention.

Immunization: Vaccine makers have tried to keep up with Omicron’s rapid evolution. But over time, other variants have emerged, adept at evading immunity and finding new victims.

Early voting in the Netherlands on Wednesday.Credit…Ramon Van Flymen/EPA, via Shutterstock

An unpredictable election in the Netherlands

Dutch voters will cast their votes today in a general election that is one of the most significant in years, and in which no party is expected to win an outright majority. The election is being held two years ahead of schedule, after Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government collapsed in July, when he and his coalition partners failed to reach an agreement on migration policy.

One key contender: Pieter Omtzigt, the founder of a new party and a longtime legislator, who is seeking to overhaul the Dutch political system from the political center — appealing to voters increasingly disillusioned with the establishment, yet wary of extremes.

Analysis: “It’s a protest party in the political middle,” Tom Louwerse, a political scientist at Leiden University, said.


Around the World

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times
  • For many children in Ukraine with special educational needs, the trauma of the war has caused regressions in development.

  • Two million migrants in the U.S. are waiting for decisions on their asylum applications. Fewer than 1,500 officials can rule on the claims.

  • North Korea launched a rocket with a spy satellite for the first time, with help from Russia.

  • Signal jamming and spoofing in the Middle East and Ukraine have diverted flights and caused inaccurate onboard alerts far from the battlefield.

  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain must call the country’s next general election by January 2025. Some are pushing for an earlier timetable.

Other Big Stories

Credit…Ore Huiying for The New York Times
  • The chief executive of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, will step down and plead guilty to breaking money laundering rules.

  • The German government said it would immediately halt all new spending as the country grapples with a budget crisis.

  • The U.S. and a handful of other nations are developing lethal A.I.-controlled drones that could reshape warfare.

What Else Is Happening

  • An American humane society shipped hundreds of rabbits, guinea pigs and rats to Arizona to be adopted as pets. Instead, most appeared to have been sold for reptile food.

  • Jeff Zucker, the former president of CNN, is poised to take control of two British news outlets, The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, and may expand them into America.

  • The BBC will halt production of “Top Gear” after a host was seriously injured in a crash during filming.

  • Experiments on mucus-covered jellyfish suggested that sediment from deep-sea mining could be harmful to marine life.

A Morning Read

Credit…Ormond Gigli

Is “Girls in the Windows,” a 1960 shot by Ormond Gigli, the world’s highest-grossing photograph?

“The reason it’s successful is that there is product for people to own,” Ogden Gigli, the photographer’s son, said. “And they’re not worried that there are hundreds out there. They’re thinking that $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 isn’t a lot for one of the world’s best images.”


A takeover that changed English soccer: British government emails discussed the Premier League settling differences with the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

Barcelona’s crisis: The Spanish soccer giant’s nimbleness has salvaged a financial plight so dire that even Lionel Messi became a problem.


Credit…Aidan Monaghan/Apple Original and Columbia Pictures

A plant-based hat for Napoleon Bonaparte

Joaquin Phoenix, the actor who plays the titular character in the director Ridley Scott’s epic “Napoleon,” is vegan and doesn’t wear any animal products. For David Crossman, the film’s costume designer, the limitations presented a problem: How would he make that iconic bicorn hat without using traditional wool felt?

A fabric constructed from tree bark originating in Uganda offered a solution. “I was just so worried it was going to be some polyester synthetic thing,” Crossman said. “But what it actually gave us, as well, was a lot of lovely surface texture on the hat.” Read more about the film’s hats.


Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times

Cook: Make a golden and glorious mash-up of potato gratin and Hasselback potatoes.

Read: Work your way through our 100 notable books of 2023.

Watch: Hayao Miyazaki’s new film, “The Boy and the Heron,” tells the tale of a boy growing up in the shadow of World War II.

Listen: Wirecutter tested over-the-counter hearing aids for two years. These are the best.

Play the Spelling Bee. And here are today’s Mini Crossword and Wordle. You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Natasha

P.S. Here is a look at how The Times designed its audio app.

You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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