Where things stand six months into the Israel-Hamas war

Six months ago, armed terrorists burst across the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel and unleashed a devastating massacre, during which 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were taken hostage by Hamas. What followed has been a war that on some level everybody appears to be losing.

Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip has killed more than 33,000 people, most of them women and children, according to the Palestinian enclave’s health ministry. Israel says it has two primary aims: to free the remaining 130 mostly Israeli hostages; and to destroy the Hamas militant group that led the attack on Oct. 7, a goal that critics say is too ambitious or impossible.

An Israeli soldier moves atop a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border on April 4.Leo Correa / AP

On Sunday, the Israeli military said it has reduced the number of ground troops in the southern Gaza Strip following the conclusion of its monthslong operation in the city of Khan Younis.

The IDF said it was pulling its 98th commando division “to recuperate and prepare for future operations,” though it was not clear if the move signaled a turning point in Israel’s strategy.

Israel has become increasingly isolated internationally, with even its closest ally, the United States, demanding that it do more to help protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza, where more than 1 million people are now thought to be on the brink of famine.

The killing of seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen has further stoked tensions, with aid agencies citing systemic failings in the IDF’s approach to protecting humanitarian workers in the Gaza Strip.

Election 2024: Ohio troubles and mail-in ballot fears

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have been raising millions for their presidential campaigns. And with seven months to go until Election Day, a letter from the top election official in one state got significant attention over the weekend.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose wrote to state Democratic Party Chairwoman Liz Walters that the Democratic National Convention may take place too late for Biden to appear on the general election ballot in the state.

Joe Biden
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

LaRose said Democrats can either move up their nominating convention or get the Ohio state Legislature to create an exemption by May 9 in accordance with state law.

And beyond Ohio, there’s a big question looming over the 2024 election: the Electoral College, and how big a margin Biden would have to win the popular vote by to get the 270-plus Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.

Meanwhile, reports of widespread slowdowns in mail and package delivery by the U.S. Postal Service have raised concerns within Congress about what impact the disruptions could have on mail-in ballots this fall.

Caitlin Clark’s college career ends without a title

NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament - National Championship
Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts after losing to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday.Steph Chambers / Getty Images

The undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks kept their winning streak going to take home their third national championship title, beating Iowa 87-75.

It was the final game in the college career of Iowa Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark, who broke Division I scoring records for both women and men, and who is going to the WNBA draft.

“I want to personally thank Caitlin Clark for lifting up our sport. She carried a heavy load for her sport, and it just is not going to stop here on a collegiate tour, but when she is the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, she is gonna lift that league up as well,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said following her team’s win. “Caitlin Clark, if you’re out there, you are one of the GOATs of our game, and I appreciate you.”

Meanwhile, the men’s championship will see No. 1 seeds UConn and Purdue square off Monday night in Phoenix. The Huskies and Boilermakers defeated No. 4 seed Alabama and No. 11 seed N.C. State, respectively, on Saturday in the Final Four.

Engine cover of Southwest Airlines plane comes off during takeoff

The engine cowling hanging from the wing of a Southwest Airlines flight
The engine cowling hanging from the wing of Southwest Airlines Flight 3695 on Sunday.Cooper Glass

The Federal Aviation Administration will launch an investigation after the engine cowling of a Southwest Airlines plane fell off during takeoff in Denver Sunday. The cowling is the protective cover over the plane’s engine. The plane was headed to William P. Hobby Airport in Houston.

This is the second incident in recent days involving a reported malfunctioning of equipment on a Southwest Airlines flight. The FAA is investigating a reported engine fire before takeoff at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport on Thursday.

FAFSA chaos pushes students to make tough decisions

Photo Illustrations: Collegiate pennants that read "Delayed," "Community College," "Shifting Savings," "Safety School" and "Loans"
Justine Goode / NBC News

Millions of current and prospective college students are still waiting on their FAFSA applications to process after the system went through a series of glitches and formula errors.

But as big deadlines approach, some students are being forced into making tough choices quickly to lock in campus housing and spots on sports teams without knowing how much aid they’re going to get.

“I feel like we’re agreeing to buy a car or a house without knowing how much it costs,” said Natalie Alvarado, whose son committed to attending MidAmerica Nazarene University in March to secure his spot on the soccer team.

Politics in brief

  • Out of the spotlight: Nicole Shanahan, who leaped into the political spotlight when independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. named her as his running mate two weeks ago, has barely been seen since she left the stage.
  • Push for a delay: Lawyers for Trump and his co-defendants in the classified documents case are arguing that a potential trial date should continue to be pushed back.
  • GOP congressman slams colleagues: Rep. Mike Turner said Sunday that Russian propaganda has taken hold among some of his House Republican colleagues.
  • Arson arrest: A suspect was arrested Sunday in connection with a fire at Sen. Bernie Sanders Vermont office that is being investigated as arson, the DOJ said.

Former N.J. officer alleges discrimination

William Pepe
William Pepe, center, alleges he was subjected to a hostile and retaliatory work environment.Courtesy William Pepe

William Pepe says the problems had existed for at least a year when the chief of police ordered Pepe into his office to scold him for not writing enough traffic tickets. Pepe, who was the Pompton Lakes Police Department’s only Black officer at the time, said the meeting was part of a pattern of disparate treatment he endured on the job and at the hands of Chief Derek Clark.

It is one of several allegations Pepe, 41, made in a legal notice announcing that he intends to sue the borough, its council and police department, alleging that his career trajectory “came to a grinding halt” after he expressed concerns to his union about his supervisors’ conduct.

“The race and disability discrimination and harassment were so severe, and the ongoing retaliation was so intense, that he had no option but to quit,” his attorney said in the legal filing, known as a notice of tort claim.

Pepe, who under New Jersey law has to wait six months after sending the notice to file the suit, plans to seek at least $2.5 million in damages.

The total solar eclipse is coming

This composite image of thirteen photographs shows the progression of a total solar eclipse
Aubrey Gemignani / NASA

total solar eclipse will grace the skies over North America on Monday. During this hotly anticipated sky-watching event, 15 U.S. states will have the chance to see the moon temporarily block the sun’s light.

The eclipse will look different depending on where you plan to watch it from. In some states, you might see a partial eclipse, with the moon just covering a portion of the sun. Those along the “path of totality” could see the skies darken for a few minutes as the moon fully covers the sun. But be warned: Clouds and storms may potentially obstruct the view in some places.

Taking a picture of the rare event can be a bit tricky, but using eclipse glasses over the camera lens and finding the right exposure can help.

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