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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Opinion | Why Biden Has a Narrower Path to the Presidency Than Trump, in 11 Maps - The New York Times

Why Biden Has a Narrower Path to the Presidency Than Trump, in 11 Maps

Illustration by Akshita Chandra/The New York Times; Images by, Yuji Sakai, and THEPALMER/Getty Images

By Doug Sosnik
Graphics by Quoctrung Bui

"Mr. Sosnik was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000 and has advised over 50 governors and U.S. senators.

While polls show the race for president is tightening, Joe Biden still has a narrower and more challenging path to winning the election than Donald Trump. The reason is the Electoral College: My analysis of voter history and polling shows a map that currently favors Mr. Trump, even though recent developments in Arizona improve Mr. Biden’s chances. The Biden campaign will need to decide this summer which states to contest hardest. Our Electoral College maps below lay out the best scenarios for him and Mr. Trump.

Seven states with close results determined who won both the 2020 and the 2016 presidential elections, and those same seven states will most likely play the same battleground role this fall: three industrial states – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – and four Sun Belt states – Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina.

The seven states that will most likely decide the 2024 presidential election

Mr. Biden’s declining popularity in the Sun Belt states is the main reason Mr. Trump has an edge right now. He is especially struggling with young and nonwhite voters there. Let’s take a closer look:

According to 2020 exit polls, Mr. Biden won 65 percent of Latino voters, who comprised roughly a fifth of voters in Arizona and Nevada. And Mr. Biden won 87 percent of Black voters, who made up 29 percent of the Georgia vote and 23 percent of the North Carolina vote. He also won 60 percent of voters aged 18 to 29. Now look at this year: A New York Times/Siena College poll released last weekend showed support for Mr. Biden had dropped 18 points with Black voters, 15 points with Latinos and 14 points with younger voters nationally.

Abortion could be a decisive issue in Mr. Biden stemming this erosion of support in Arizona and Nevada. The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling last week that largely bans abortions raises the stakes of a likely ballot initiative on the issue there in November. It also appears likely that there will be a similar ballot measure in Nevada.

Nevertheless, the key to Mr. Biden’s victory is to perform well in the three industrial states. If Mr. Trump is able to win one or more of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, Mr. Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes becomes even narrower.

If Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump remain ahead in the states where they are currently running strongest, the outcome of the election could come down to who wins Michigan and the two Sun Belt states where abortion will very likely be on the ballot, Arizona and Nevada.

Based on past voting, Mr. Trump will start out the general election with 219 electoral votes, compared to 226 votes for Mr. Biden, with 93 votes up for grabs.

Voter history and recent polling suggest that Mr. Trump is in a strong position to win North Carolina. Republicans have carried the state in every presidential election since 1976 except in 2008. In a Wall Street Journal battleground poll taken in March, Mr. Biden had only 37 percent job approval in the state. 

By winning North Carolina, Mr. Trump would have 235 electoral votes and two strong paths to 270.

The first path involves carrying Georgia, a state he lost by less than 12,000 votes in 2020. Before then, Republicans won Georgia in every election since 1992. If Mr. Trump carries North Carolina and Georgia, he would have a base of 251 electoral votes with four scenarios that get him to 270.

Scenario 1

Then all Mr. Trump needs is Pennsylvania 

Scenario 2

… or Michigan and Nevada 

Scenario 3

… or Michigan and Arizona 

Scenario 4

… or Arizona and Wisconsin.

The second and harder path for Mr. Trump would be if he carried only one Southern swing state – most likely North Carolina. He would have only 235 electoral votes and would need to win three of the six remaining battleground states.

Scenario 5

Then he would need to win Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin 

Scenario 6

… or Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

How Biden Can Win

It is difficult to see how Mr. Biden gets re-elected without doing well in the industrial battleground states – the so-called “Blue Wall” for Democrats. This is particularly true of Pennsylvania, given the state’s 19 electoral votes and Mr. Biden’s ties there and appeal to middle-class and blue-collar voters. That’s why he’s spending three days in Pennsylvania this week.

Mr. Biden will most likely need to win at least one other industrial battleground – with Wisconsin the most probable, since his polling numbers there are stronger than in the other battleground states.

A combination of factors have made winning Michigan much more challenging for Mr. Biden. Hamas’s attack on Israel and the war in Gaza have ripped apart the coalitions that enabled Democrats to do so well in the state since 2018. There are over 300,000 Arab Americans there, as well as a large Jewish population. Both groups were crucial to Mr. Biden’s success there in 2020.

In addition, Michigan voters’ perception of the economy is more negative compared with the other battleground states. In the Journal battleground poll, two-thirds of Michigan voters described the national economy negatively; more than half had a negative opinion of the state’s economy.

Now let’s look at Mr. Biden’s map.

Mr. Biden’s best strategy is based on winning Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which would give him 255 electoral votes (assuming that he carries the 2nd Congressional District in Nebraska). 

By carrying these states, Mr. Biden has several paths to 270, but the first three scenarios are his most viable.

Scenario 1

He just needs to win Michigan 

Scenario 2

… or  Arizona and Nevada 

Scenario 3

... or Georgia.

There are two other scenarios where Mr. Biden loses Wisconsin and keeps Pennsylvania. But that would mean winning states where Mr. Biden is polling much worse.

Scenario 4

They involve Mr. Biden winning Georgia and Arizona 

Scenario 5

… or Michigan and Georgia.

A Look Ahead

With over six months to go until Election Day, given the volatility in the world and the weaknesses of Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, it would be foolish to make firm predictions about specific results. And other electoral map scenarios are possible: Recent polling shows Mr. Biden with a narrow lead in Minnesota, a state that usually votes for Democrats for president. While it is mathematically possible for Mr. Biden to win without carrying Minnesota, it is unlikely he will be elected if he cannot carry this traditionally Democratic state.

For the third election cycle in a row, a small number of voters in a handful of states could determine the next president of the United States.

If the election remains close but Mr. Biden is unable to regain support from the core group of voters who propelled him to victory in 2020 — young and nonwhite voters — then we could be headed to a repeat of the 2016 election. The outcome of that election was decided by fewer than 80,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Last week’s abortion ruling in Arizona, and the likely abortion ballot initiatives in that state and Nevada, give Mr. Biden the possibility of being re-elected even if he loses Michigan. That’s why, if we have another close presidential election, I think Arizona, Michigan and Nevada will likely determine the outcome for Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump.

Based on my experience as Bill Clinton’s White House political director in his 1996 re-election campaign, I would take immediate advantage of Mr. Biden’s significant fund-raising advantage over Mr. Trump to focus on shoring up the president’s chances in Michigan and the must-win states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, while at the same time trying to keep Georgia and North Carolina in play. Mr. Biden does not need to win either of those Sun Belt states to get re-elected, but draining Mr. Trump’s resources there could help him in other battleground states.

Doug Sosnik was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 2000 and has advised over 50 governors and U.S. senators."

Opinion | Why Biden Has a Narrower Path to the Presidency Than Trump, in 11 Maps - The New York Times

Monday, April 15, 2024

A Show of Might in the Skies Over Israel

A Show of Might in the Skies Over Israel

“Iran’s retaliation for Israel’s killing of senior military leaders was a highly choreographed spectacle. But fears of a wider war still loom.

Streaks of light in a dark sky.
More than 300 drones and missiles hurtled toward Israel through Iraqi and Jordanian airspace on Saturday night.Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Iran’s much-anticipated retaliation for Israel’s killing of senior military leaders produced a fiery aerial display in the skies over Israel and the West Bank.

But in important ways, military analysts say, it was just that: a highly choreographed spectacle.

The more than 300 drones and missiles that hurtled through Iraqi and Jordanian airspace Saturday night before they were brought down seemed designed to create maximum drama while inflicting minimal damage, defense officials and military experts say. Just as they did back in 2020 when retaliating for the U.S. killing of Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iranian leaders this weekend gave plenty of warning that they were launching strikes.

Iran also sequenced the attack, a retaliation for airstrikes on an Iranian Embassy building in Syria on April 1, in such a way that both Israelis and Americans were able to adjust their aerial defenses once the Iranian missiles and drones were in the air.

The result: a lot of bang, but relatively little destruction on the ground.

Few of Iran’s drones and missiles found their intended targets, an inaccuracy level that military experts and defense officials say was probably by design.

Iran planned the attacks in a way that would send a warning to Israel and create deterrence but avoid sparking a war, according to two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said Iran gave countries in the region about 72 hours advance warning.

“I think Iran is very concerned about what comes next if they were too effective,” said Gen. Joseph L. Votel, a former leader of the U.S. military’s Central Command. “The early notification of what they were doing seems a little interesting to me.”

The repercussions of such an immense aerial attack could still push Israel, Iran and even the United States closer to the wider war that President Biden has been trying to avoid. It was Iran’s first direct attack on Israel after decades of a shadow war, and Israeli leaders were considering a possible response.

Mr. Biden has made clear to Israeli leaders that while the United States is committed to defending Israel, he has no interest in attacking Iran. In fact, the president and his team, hoping to avoid further escalation, are advising Israel that its successful defense against the Iranian airstrikes constituted a major strategic victory that might not require another round of retaliation, U.S. officials said.

In the space of five hours on Saturday night, Israel demonstrated that with the help of its allies, it could provide residents with solid protection from deadly airstrikes.

Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which became operational in 2011, intercepts rockets. But this weekend, Israel primarily used fighter jets and its Arrow 3 system, which is designed to intercept ballistic missiles outside the earth’s atmosphere, including those armed with nuclear and other nonconventional warheads, a defense official said.

Iron Dome’s interceptors are six inches wide and 10 feet long. They rely on sensors and computerized guidance to target short-range rockets. The Arrow system can fly longer distances to go after bigger threats.

Jacob Nagel, a former acting Israeli national security adviser, said Israel also used a system called David’s Sling, which shoots down drones, missiles and rockets, and interceptions from Israeli warplanes.

The strikes were proof of concept for the Arrow 3 system, which had mostly been used to take down the occasional incoming missile fired by Houthi militia forces in Yemen. During the Iranian assault, the long-range system saw “more use than during the rest of its time since its invention put together,” Mr. Nagel said. “And we saw that it works.”

“The achievement as a whole is surprising,” he added. “The Iranians never dreamed that we would intercept so many. They must have anticipated that a large chunk would be shot down, but they did not realize that 99 percent would be intercepted.”

Mr. Nagel strongly rebuffed the idea, however, that Iran had not sought to inflict damage on their targets in Israel. “Symbolism is when you fire three or four rockets, not 320” drones and missiles, he said. “They fired all the varieties in their arsenal.”

Israel got help from the United States, Britain and France. American officials said U.S. fighter jets shot down more than 70 exploding drones in the attack, while two Navy warships in the eastern Mediterranean destroyed four to six missiles, and an Army Patriot battery in Iraq knocked down at least one missile that passed overhead. The more than 300 drones and missiles Iran launched was on the high end of what U.S. analysts had expected, one official said.

Jordan, a critic of Israel’s war effort in Gaza, said that its military had shot down aircraft and missiles that entered its airspace during the attack.

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., a retired leader of Central Command, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Israel showed that it could defend its airspace, cities and people.

“So I think that Israel this morning is now much stronger than they were yesterday,” he said.

On the surface, that would suggest that Iran came out weaker and showed that it still had a long way to go before it could make good on its leaders’ frequent calls for the destruction of Israel.

But military analysts and defense officials cautioned about drawing firm conclusions about Iranian military capability from Saturday night’s display.

Iran demonstrated that weapons fired from its territory could reach Israel, and for a foe with demonstrated nuclear ambitions, that capability should worry Israeli military strategists, General Votel, who led Central Command from 2016 to 2019, said in an interview.

“They can launch missiles that can reach Israel, even though they were shot down outside Israeli airspace,” General Votel said. “It’s concerning, particularly for a country that is pursuing nuclear weapons capability.”

Afshon Ostovar, an expert on Iran’s military at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., said that Iran showcased a large part of its military capability, but not all of it.

Many of Iran’s drones were Shahed-136 “kamikazes,” the same type that Russia is using in Ukraine. These are slow-moving and fly low, he said.

Fabian Hinz, an expert on Iran’s military at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Berlin, examined footage of the drones and missile launches published by media outlets affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, as well as photos of debris published by Israel, to determine the types of weapons that Iran used in the attack. Mr. Ostovar analyzed the attack from a strategic point of view, taking into account the weapons that were used. 

Iran launched two types of long-range cruise and ballistic missiles, both developed by the Guards aerospace unit, both analysts said.

The cruise missile, called the Paveh, has a range of about 1,650 kilometers, or about 1,000 miles. It is the same type of missile that Iran has provided to the Houthi militia group in Yemen and to Shiite militant groups in Iraq. The ballistic missiles, they said, are called Emad and have a similar range.

Iran also used the Kheibar Shekan ballistic missile, one of its newest and most advanced. The precision-guided missile has a range of 1,450 kilometers, or about 900 miles. Iranian military officials have said its warhead can evade missile defense systems.

“The mix of weapons is what you would have expected in a substantial attack against Israel,” Mr. Hinz said. “They have basically used their sophisticated system to conduct these strikes. Launching over 100 ballistic missiles over a short period of time is quite something, and doing a combined attack with that many different weapons is really the upper tier of potential actions they could do.”

Farnaz Fassihi is the United Nations bureau chief for The Times, leading coverage of the organization, and also covers Iran and the shadow war between Iran and Israel. She is based in New York. More about Farnaz Fassihi

Eric Schmitt is a national security correspondent for The Times, focusing on U.S. military affairs and counterterrorism issues overseas, topics he has reported on for more than three decades. More about Eric Schmitt

Sunday, April 14, 2024

US to Israel: Don’t do something you’ll regret

US to Israel: Don’t do something you’ll regret

In private calls and public moves, President Joe Biden and his aides are pointing to reasons to look for an off-ramp.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) greets US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion.

“In a call after Iran launched the attack, Biden told Netanyahu that the U.S. would not join an offensive counter-strike on Iran, though he did not say the U.S. would oppose it, according to two of the people.

Iran and Israel have each carried out one major strike against the other now. But Iran’s attack was larger than many expected, and it came directly from Tehran as well as proxy militias elsewhere in the region. So although Israel was left with little damage, it could feel compelled to somehow return fire.

The senior administration official told reporters Sunday afternoon that Israeli officials let their U.S. counterparts know “they’re not looking for a significant escalation with Iran.” The official, asked by POLITICO if the U.S. did not want Israel to respond, said “this is a decision for them,” refusing to answer the question specifically.

Iranian leaders said Tehran’s retaliation against Israel was over — unless Israel struck back.

“At this point, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention of continuing defensive operations, but if necessary it will not hesitate to protect its legitimate interests against any new aggression,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stated on social media.

In what could be a thinly veiled signal from the White House, Sen. Chris Coons(D-Del.), a close Biden ally, said Sunday on CNN that Israel should “pause for the moment, consult with its close allies and partners, assess the damage and the activity, and then decide what is the most appropriate response.”

But Biden risks being painted as weak in urging caution — and Republicans could wield that criticism against him this election year.

“I think Israel should be looking at this as an opportunity to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which is the existential threat that Israel faces,” John Bolton, Donald Trump’s third national security adviser, said on CNN on Sunday. “If Joe Biden, as some press reports have it, is urging the Israelis not to retaliate at all, he is an embarrassment to the United States.”

Netanyahu has long agitated against Tehran. He and many other Israelis see it as partially responsible for the Gaza war because of Iran’s military support for Hamas. But Netanyahu also can be cautious in taking on an adversary such as Iran, often preferring more covert methods.“

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Israel Says Iran Launched Drones at Its Territory in Retaliatory Strike: Live Updates - The New York Times

Live Updates: Iran Launches Retaliatory Strike at Israeli Territory, Both Nations Say

"Israel’s air raid alert system issued dozens of warnings about possible incoming missiles and aircraft in the nation’s southern region, and in Jerusalem.

Current time in:

Tel Aviv April 14, 2:19 a.m.

Loud explosions were heard in the skies above Jerusalem early on Sunday morning, indicating air defenses were attempting to intercept missiles or aircraft. Sam Mednick/Associated Press


Iran launched a broad aerial attack on Israel from its territory on Saturday, in retaliation for a deadly Israeli airstrike in early April on the Iranian Embassy complex in Damascus, the Israeli military and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps said.

Just before 2 a.m. local time, air-raid sirens sounded across vast swaths of southern Israel, the West Bank and Golan Heights, indicating either missiles or enemy aircraft overhead. The government also sent out warnings about possible missiles arriving in the Negev Desert, where there are several military bases.

Aaron Boxerman
April 13, 2024, 7:08 p.m. ET

Israel’s emergency service, Magen David Adom, said there were no immediate reports of casualties following the Iranian attack, although a few Israelis were injured while rushing to fortified bomb shelters. 

Patrick Kingsley
April 13, 2024, 7:07 p.m. ET

Several booms were heard in the skies above Jerusalem in recent minutes, indicating that Israel’s air defense system has been intercepting incoming aircraft or missiles.

Eric Schmitt
April 13, 2024, 6:54 p.m. ET

British fighter jets and aerial refueling planes based in Cyprus have taken over much of the counterterrorism mission in the skies over Iraq and northeastern Syria, freeing up American warplanes normally operating there to help defend Israel against the Iranian drone attack on Saturday, a British official said.

Patrick Kingsley
April 13, 2024, 6:51 p.m. ET

Israel’s air raid alert system has sounded warnings across vast swaths of southern Israel and the Israeli-occupied territory of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed. The alarms indicated either missiles or enemy aircraft overhead.

Patrick Kingsley
April 13, 2024, 6:46 p.m. ET

Israel’s air raid alert system has issued dozens of warnings about possible incoming missiles or aircraft in the Negev Desert in southern Israel. There are several military bases in the area.

Aaron Boxerman
April 13, 2024, 6:48 p.m. ET

Loud booms and air raid sirens resound in Jerusalem. 

Farnaz Fassihi
April 13, 2024, 6:42 p.m. ET

Iran’s mission to the United Nations said in a statement on social media that Iran’s attack on Israel was in line with the U.N. charter of legitimate self-defense and suggested that the standoff with Israel could end with the tit-for-tat responses. “Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premise in Damascus. The matter can be deemed concluded. However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe.”

Aurelien Breeden
April 13, 2024, 6:28 p.m. ET

France on Saturday condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the Iranian strike on Israel. “By taking such an unprecedented action, Iran has crossed a new threshold in its destabilizing actions, and runs the risk of military escalation,” Stéphane Séjourné, France’s foreign minister, said on X.

Farnaz Fassihi
April 13, 2024, 6:14 p.m. ET

Iran’s defense minister, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, told state television that any country that allows its airspace to be used for attacks on Iran will be a target. “Any country that allows its airspace or soil to be used for Israel to attack Iran will receive a firm response from us.”

Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock
Euan Ward
April 13, 2024, 6:00 p.m. ET

Hezbollah announced in a statement just after midnight that it had fired dozens of rockets at an Israeli barracks in the Golan Heights. It was not immediately clear if the bombardment was connected to the Iranian attack. Lebanon’s state news agency earlier reported intense Israeli bombardment in southern Lebanon.

Euan Ward
April 13, 2024, 5:57 p.m. ET

The airspaces of Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon are all now closed, according to Flightradar24, a real-time aircraft flight tracking tool.

Patrick Kingsley
April 13, 2024, 5:53 p.m. ET

The Israeli military will hold a situational assessment at around 6 a.m. local time Sunday (11 p.m. Eastern time Saturday) to decide how to respond to the Iranian attack, according to an Israeli military official who briefed international journalists Saturday evening.

Tens of Israeli planes are flying across Israeli airspace, ready to shoot down Iranian aircraft, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comply with military protocol.

He added that Israel may try to shoot down incoming aircraft before they reach Israeli airspace and said that it is “absolutely possible” that Jordan may fire on any Iranian aircraft that enter its skies.

Ronen Bergman
April 13, 2024, 5:43 p.m. ET

Israeli intelligence has detected the launch of dozens of drones and cruise missiles from Iran and Iraq, according to two Israeli officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss military intelligence. The areas of impact are expected to be the Golan Heights and an Israeli air force base in the Negev Desert, the officials said.

Cassandra Vinograd
April 13, 2024, 5:26 p.m. ET

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is currently meeting with his war cabinet, according to a statement from his office.

Farnaz Fassihi
April 13, 2024, 5:25 p.m. ET

Ali Vaez, the Iran director of the International Crisis Group said in an interview, “Iran and Israel are taking the region into uncharted waters. It is difficult to overstate how perilous this moment is, and how disastrous its consequences could prove.”

Michael D. Shear
April 13, 2024, 5:12 p.m. ET

President Biden arrived back at the White House at 5:02 p.m. Eastern time and walked quickly into the Oval Office. Officials said he would meet with his National Security Council soon.

Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times
Farnaz Fassihi
April 13, 2024, 5:10 p.m. ET

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said in their statement that the attack on Israel was ordered by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and was under the guidance of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the senior military body that coordinates Iran’s armed forces. The statement said that details of the operation will soon be shared with the public.

Aaron Boxerman
April 13, 2024, 5:05 p.m. ET

Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, calls the Iranian attack “a severe and dangerous escalation.” 

“Our defensive and offensive capabilities are at the highest level of readiness ahead of this large-scale attack from Iran,” Hagari said.

Farnaz Fassihi
April 13, 2024, 4:53 p.m. ET

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said in a statement broadcast on state television that it had launched missile and drone attacks on Israel from Iran. “The aerospace unit of the Revolutionary Guards has attacked targets in Israel with dozens of drones and missiles in reaction to the Zionist regime’s crimes, including the attack on the consulate section of Iran’s embassy in Damascus and martyring our commanders and military advisers in Syria.”

Farnaz Fassihi
April 13, 2024, 4:44 p.m. ET

Iranian media affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, Tasnim, a semiofficial news agency, reported that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had launched attacks on Israel "from all directions." It said dozens of drones from Iran "were launched toward targets in occupied territories.”

Aaron Boxerman
April 13, 2024, 4:39 p.m. ET

Israel plans to close its airspace to international and domestic air traffic beginning at 12:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, the Israel Airports Authority said in a statement, as the country awaits the arrival of Iranian drones fired at its territory.

President Biden returned from his vacation home in Rehoboth, Del., to the White House on Saturday evening to consult with his national security team about events in the Middle East.Yuri Gripas for The New York Times

The spokeswoman for the National Security Council at the White House confirmed Saturday evening that Iran had launched what she called “an airborne attack” against Israel and vowed that the United States would help Israel defend itself.

“President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team and will meet with them this afternoon at the White House,” Adrienne Watson, the spokeswoman, said in a statement. 

A Palestinian woman injured in an Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat in central Gaza is brought into a hospital in Deir al-Balah on Saturday.Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Less than a week after withdrawing ground troops from southern Gaza, the Israeli military has shifted its focus to the central Gaza Strip, where its forces were operating for the third day on Saturday and residents and Palestinian media reported heavy bombardments and intense fighting.

The Israeli military announced on Thursday that it had begun a “precise operation” in the central Gaza Strip, saying it had carried out airstrikes ahead of its ground troops raiding the area. It added that the Israeli navy had conducted several strikes along the coastline to assist the ground troops.

Iranian forces seized a container ship with links to Israel in the Persian Gulf on Saturday, as leaders in the Middle East and beyond watched for a retaliatory strike by Iran against Israel.

MSC, a major shipping company, said on Saturday that the MSC Aries, which is registered in Portugal, had been boarded by “Iranian authorities” via helicopter as it passed the Strait of Hormuz.

A Palestinian man inspecting damage on Saturday after Israeli settlers attacked the village of Al Mughayir, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

An Israeli teenager whose disappearance had led to riots by Israeli settlers in the West Bank was found dead on Saturday, the Israeli authorities said, threatening to further inflame tensions in the Israeli-occupied territory.

Dozens of Israelis and Palestinians were wounded during clashes at several locations across the West Bank later on Saturday, the Israeli military said in a statement. Israeli extremists stormed at least two villages in the territory, attempting to burn Palestinian property and clashing with residents, according to Palestinian witnesses.

President Biden and his top aides have made it clear that their disagreement with Israel over the war in the Gaza Strip would not prevent the United States from defending Israel.Al Drago for The New York Times

President Biden told reporters on Friday that he expected Iran to launch an attack on Israel “sooner than later” as a response to Israel’s killing of several top Iranian generals in a bombing in Syria two weeks ago.

"Mr. Biden said he needed to be careful not to reveal classified information being collected by intelligence and military officials as they braced for an attack they believed was imminent. And he had a blunt, succinct answer when he was asked what his message to Iran was.

Israel Says Iran Launched Drones at Its Territory in Retaliatory Strike: Live Updates - The New York Times