Jerusalem, Sergei Skripal, Italy: Your Tuesday Briefing


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Good morning.

Convulsion in Gaza, revelations about a former Russian spy and protests in Georgia. Here’s the latest:

A mass attempt by Palestinians to breach the border fence between Israel and Gaza, above, took a violent turn as Israeli forces killed at least 55 Palestinians and wounded 2,700 others, Gaza officials said. The Israeli military said some protesters planted or hurled explosives. Our live briefing has the latest.

Barely 40 miles away, in Jerusalem, Ivanka Trump and other American officials celebrated President Trump’s formal relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv. It was a surreal contrast of pomp and chaos between the two sites. Another contradiction: Two American evangelical pastors who took part in the opening ceremony have made inflammatory comments about Jews.

The White House dismissed the violence as “unfortunate propaganda” by the Palestinians, but said the clashes would not hinder its efforts to push forward a plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Today, on the 70th anniversary of its declaration of independence, Israel has arguably never been more powerful, militarily or economically. But it remains estranged from its Arab neighbors, with a prime minister ensnared in corruption scandals and a future wrapped in uncertainty.

• Our reporters have uncovered new details in the case of the aging Russian spy who was nearly poisoned to death in Britain this year.

The episode set off an angry confrontation between Moscow and the West. Britain accused Russia of trying to assassinate the spy, Sergei Skripal, and portrayed him as a victim who was living quietly in semiretirement.

But European officials told us that in the years before the poisoning, he traveled widely and met secretly with European intelligence officers — meetings that were almost certainly approved and possibly facilitated by the British authorities. Above, Mr. Skripal at a hearing in Moscow in 2006.

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President Trump appears to be taking a moderate tack on China, looking to strike a deal to avoid a trade war. His first step: Throwing a lifeline to a beleaguered Chinese telecom company.

Mr. Trump’s about-face yesterday on the company, ZTE, which was on the brink of collapse after the U.S. penalized it for breaking American sanctions, was greeted warmly in Beijing and could help him strike deals on thorny issues like trade and North Korea. Above, ZTE’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China.

• In Catalonia, the regional Parliament narrowly elected a new president, Quim Torra, a separatist who has pledged his commitment to an independent Catalan republic.

The vote may ease the region’s political deadlock with the central government in Madrid, but is unlikely to resolve the standoff. Mr. Torra, above, will replace Carles Puigdemont, the former separatist leader who is now fighting extradition from Germany after refusing to be prosecuted in Spain on charges of rebellion.

Separately, expectations that Italy’s top populist political parties were close to forming a government faltered as the two sides continued to haggle over a common political agenda and differences on immigration and other issues.

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• Demonstrators rallied in Tbilisi, Georgia, with a demand new to street protests in former Soviet countries: legalize recreational drug use.

The mass protests, above, set off by recent drug raids and led by an activist group called White Noise, prompted the government to both negotiate and counter with water cannons and riot police.

Meanwhile, two weeks before a historic referendum on Ireland’s strict abortion laws, fashion designers in Dublin are turning the runway into a platform for women seeking to legalize the procedure.

Oops: A Pablo Picasso painting, above, valued at $70 million was “accidentally damaged” during a presale exhibition at Christie’s auction house. “These things happen,” Christie’s chief executive said with a resigned smile. [The New York Times]

A German court rejected the asylum claim of a Togolese man whose case drew international attention after police officers were attacked at a refugee center by migrants trying to prevent his deportation. [Deutsche Welle]

The E.U. warned Poland that it could face sanctions for failing to undo controversial legal changes that threaten the country’s judicial independence. [The Guardian]

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s leading role in the midterm congressional elections has unsettled allies of President Trump, who are worried that he could pose an electoral threat in 2020. [The New York Times]

The World Health Organization called for the elimination by 2023 of artery-clogging trans fats that have been linked to millions of deaths. [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

“Little Tokyo on the Rhine”: A neighborhood in Düsseldorf, Germany, above, has one of the largest Japanese populations in Europe, and cuisine to match.

The end of old ice: This winter, the Arctic Ocean hit a record low for ice older than five years. Scientists fear summers there may be ice-free in the future.

Meet James Harrison, a prolific blood donor with a rare antibody that has saved millions of babies. Now, at 81, he’s given his final donation.

Back Story

“Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” reads the sign, but Sin City wasn’t always known as the home of extravagance and gambling.

Las Vegas (“The Meadows”) was officially founded on this day in 1905, although people had settled there long before. Its only draw at the time was as a railroad town.

Six years later, The Times reported on a proposal that would have established a “divorce colony” in “a town hitherto devoid of large fame.” It was the start of a long history of reinvention, which its casinos and hotels continue today.

With Nevada’s liberal laws, the city started offering “quickie divorces” in 1931. Despite its history as an easy place to end a marriage, Las Vegas remains equally popular for starting one: Clark County, which includes the city, issued more than 78,000 marriage licenses last year.

The city attracts more than 42 million visitors annually and is home to some of the largest hotels in the world: The Venetian and MGM Grand occupy the No. 2 and 3 spots in the current rankings.

Las Vegas has grown so much in 113 years that its attractions can be seen even from space: Astronauts on the International Space Station have labeled the Vegas Strip the brightest spot on Earth.

Anna Schaverien wrote today’s Back Story.

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Follow Dan Levin on Twitter: @globaldan.



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