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Old European satellite plunges harmlessly through the atmosphere over the Pacific

Satellite plunges to earth

An old Earth-observing satellite fell out of orbit Wednesday and harmlessly broke apart over the Pacific.

The European Remote Sensing 2 satellite reentered halfway between Hawaii and Alaska. The European Space Agency confirmed the demise of the 5,000-pound (2,300-kilogram) spacecraft, known as ERS-2.

No damage or injuries were reported. Experts had expected most of the satellite to burn up.

Launched in 1995, the spacecraft was retired in 2011. Flight controllers quickly lowered its orbit to avoid hitting other satellites, using up all the fuel, and natural orbital decay took care of the rest. Its entry was uncontrolled, and so the precise location could not be predicted.

“Gone, but not forgotten,” ESA said on X, formerly Twitter. “ERS-2 left a remarkable legacy of data that still continue to advance science.”

Its predecessor, ERS-1, which failed and stopped working decades ago, remains in orbit.



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Drunk driver who struck and killed an NYPD detective sentenced to more than 20 years in prison

Drunk driver gets 20 years

A woman who struck and killed a New York City police detective after speeding through an NYPD roadblock while driving drunk was sentenced Wednesday to more than 20 years in prison.

A jury convicted Jessica Beauvais, 35, of Hempstead of aggravated manslaughter and other charges in October. She was arrested in April 2021 following the death of 43-year-old Anastasios Tsakos.

Tsakos, a father of two and 14-year veteran of the police department, was struck and killed around 2 a.m. on April 27, 2021, while assisting officers at the scene of another fatal crash on the Long Island Expressway in Queens.

Beauvais had a blood alcohol content that was nearly twice the legal limit for driving two hours after the accident, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said, and she also was without a valid license.

“Her license had been suspended, she was drunk and had smoked marijuana," Katz said in a news release Wednesday. “For everyone’s safety and wellbeing, including her own, the defendant should not have been behind the wheel of a car.”

A Supreme Court justice sentenced Beauvais to consecutive sentences of 20 years in prison for aggravated manslaughter and 2 1/3 years to 7 years for leaving the scene of an incident.



A young man dies as clashes erupt between police and protesting farmers in India

1 dead as clashes erupt

Clashes between farmers and police in India left one protester dead Wednesday as the farmers resumed their march to the capital after talks with the government failed to end an impasse over their demands for guaranteed crop prices.

Indian farmers began their protest march last week but were stopped some 200 kilometers (125 miles) from New Delhi as police fired rounds of tear gas.

The 21-year-old farmer, identified as Subhkaran Singh, succumbed to a head injury, medical superintendent H S Rekhi at Rajindra Hospital in nearby Punjab state, told the Press Trust of India news agency. He said two others who got injured were in stable condition. Singh died after clashes between security forces and farmers erupted in Khanauri, a town in the state of Punjab, reported PTI.

Punjab's shared borders with the state of Haryana have become protest sites for the farmers attempting to reach New Delhi. The majority of the protesting farmers are from the two states.

Haryana police in a post on X, formerly Twitter, said 12 officers were injured after protesters attacked them with sticks and pelted them with stones. The post added that protesters used chili powder to set stubble on fire, making it difficult for the officers to breathe.

Last week, the farmers paused their protest and hunkered down near the town of Shambhu, close to the border between Punjab and Haryana, as their unions engaged in discussions with government ministers. They rejected a proposal offering them five-year contracts of guaranteed prices on a set of certain crops, including maize, grain legumes and cotton, and decided to resume their march on Wednesday.

Authorities are set on containing the demonstration, which has renewed the movement from over two years ago when tens of thousands of farmers camped out on the outskirts of the city for over a year, forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal new agriculture laws in a major reversal for his government.

Last week, authorities barricaded highways leading to New Delhi with cement blocks, metal containers, barbed wire and iron spikes to prevent the farmers from entering. On Wednesday, the farmers arrived at the barricades with bulldozers and excavators to try and push through.

Jagjit Singh Dallewal, one of the farmers leading the march, said they did not want any violence, but condemned the federal government over the massive security measures.

“We want to reach New Delhi in a peaceful manner. The government should remove the barricades,” he said.

The protest organizers say the farmers are seeking new legislation that would guarantee minimum prices for 23 crops. The farmers believe this would help stabilize their income. They are also pressing the government to follow through on promises to waive loans and withdraw legal cases brought against them during the earlier 2021 protests.

The government protects agricultural producers against sharp falls in farm prices by setting a minimum purchase price for certain essential crops, a system that was introduced in the 1960s to help shore up food reserves and prevent shortages. The system can apply up to 23 crops, but the government usually offers the minimum price only for rice and wheat.

Several talks so far have failed to break the deadlock. But Arjun Munda, one of the ministers negotiating with the farmers, said they were willing to hold another round of discussions and that the government wanted to maintain peace.

The protests come at a crucial time for India, which is gearing up for national election in the coming months, with Modi’s ruling party widely expected to secure a third successive term.

“It is the prime minister’s responsibility, who has been elected with majority votes, to handle the situation and accept our demands,” Sarwan Singh Pandher, a farm leader, told PTI.

The farmers are an influential voting bloc and particularly important to Modi’s base — especially in Northern Haryana and several other states with a substantial farming population, where his Bharatiya Janata Party enjoys wide support.



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Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

Private craft orbits moon

A private U.S. lunar lander reached the moon and eased into a low orbit Wednesday, a day before it will attempt an even greater feat — landing on the gray, dusty surface.

A smooth touchdown would put the U.S. back in business on the moon for the first time since NASA astronauts closed out the Apollo program in 1972. The company, if successful, also would become the first private outfit to ace a moon landing.

Launched last week, Intuitive Machines’ lander fired its engine on the back side of the moon while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company’s Houston headquarters had to wait until the spacecraft emerged to learn whether the lander was in orbit or hurtling aimlessly away.

Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients. The lander is part of a NASA program to kickstart the lunar economy; the space agency is paying $118 million to get its experiments on the moon on this mission.

On Thursday, controllers will lower the orbit from just under 60 miles (92 kilometers) to 6 miles (10 kilometers) — a crucial maneuver occurring again on the moon’s far side — before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole. It’s a dicey place to land with all the craters and cliffs, but deemed prime real estate for astronauts since the permanently shadowed craters are believed to hold frozen water.

The moon is littered with wreckage from failed landings. Some missions never even got that far. Another U.S. company — Astrobotic Technology — tried to send a lander to the moon last month, but it didn't get there because of a fuel leak.



Syria says an Israeli strike that hit a Damascus residential area killed 2 people

Syria claims Israeli strikes

Israeli strikes hit a neighborhood of the Syrian capital on Wednesday morning, killing two people and causing material damage, Syria's state TV said. There was no confirmation of the strikes from Israel.

The Syrian state TV reported that several missiles hit the western neighborhood of Kfar Sousseh but did not elaborate or say who were the people killed. The pro-government Sham FM radio station said the strike hit a building near an Iranian school.

Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition war monitor, said the two killed were inside an apartment but did not give any clues about their identities.

He added that the strike was similar to last month's killing in Beirut of Saleh Arouri, a top official with the militant Palestinian Hamas group.

The strike damaged the fourth floor of a 10-story building, shattered window glass on nearby buildings and also damaged dozens of cars parked in the area. An empty parked bus for the nearby Al-Bawader Private School was also damaged and people were seen rushing to the school to take their children.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of war-torn Syria in recent years.

Israel rarely acknowledges its actions in Syria, but it has said that it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Last month, an Israeli strike on the Syrian capital’s western neighborhood of Mazzeh destroyed a building used by the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, killing at least five Iranians.

In December, an Israeli airstrike on a suburb of Damascus killed Iranian general Seyed Razi Mousavi, a longtime adviser of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in Syria. Israel has also targeted Palestinian and Lebanese operatives in Syria over the past years.



YouTube mom Ruby Franke apologizes at sentencing in child abuse case

YouTube mom sentenced

Ruby Franke, a Utah mother of six who gave parenting advice to millions via a once-popular a YouTube channel, shared a tearful apology to her children for physically and emotionally abusing them before a judge delivered a sentence that could put her in prison for years, if not decades.

Franke also claimed that she had been “manipulated” by her fellow YouTuber and business partner.

Franke told the judge that she would not argue for a shorter sentence before she stood to thank local police officers, doctors and social workers for being the “angels” who saved her children from her at a time when she says she was under the influence of her business partner, Jodi Hildebrandt. The Utah mental health counselor, who had been hired to work with Franke's youngest son before going into business with her, also received four consecutive prison sentences of one to 15 years.

However, the women will only serve up to 30 years in prison due to a Utah state law that caps the sentence duration for consecutive penalties. The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole will consider their behavior while incarcerated and determine how much of that time each will spend behind bars.

“I’ll never stop crying for hurting your tender souls,” Franke said to her children, who were not present at the sentencing hearing in St. George. “My willingness to sacrifice all for you was masterfully manipulated into something very ugly. I took from you all that was soft and safe and good.”

Franke, 42, and Hildebrandt, 54, had each pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child abuse for trying to convince Franke’s two youngest children that they were evil, possessed and needed to be punished to repent. The women were arrested at Hildebrandt's house in the southern Utah city of Ivins last August after Franke’s 12-year-old son escaped through a window and asked a neighbor to call the police, according to a 911 call released by the St. George Police Department.

The boy was thin, covered in wounds and had duct tape around his ankles and wrists. He told investigators that Hildebrandt had put ropes on his limbs and used cayenne pepper and honey to dress his cuts, according to a search warrant.

State prosecuting attorney Eric Clarke described the environment in which Franke and Hildebrandt had kept the kids as “a concentration camp-like setting," a term most strongly associated with the camps established by the Nazis to starve, overwork and execute Jewish people and other minorities across Europe during the Holocaust.

While Franke has shown remorse and cooperated with attorneys, Clarke said, Hildebrandt has not and continues to place blame on the children. Hildebrandt's attorney, Douglas Terry, said during the livestreamed hearing that his client is not the remorseless woman she has been portrayed to be and accepts responsibility for her actions.

In a brief statement, Hildebrandt stopped short of apologizing but said she loves the children and wants them to heal. She reminded Judge John J. Walton that she accepted her plea deal instead of going to trial because she did not want the children to have to relive their trauma by testifying.

The mental health counselor pleaded guilty in December to four of her six counts of aggravated child abuse, and two counts were dismissed as part of her plea deal. Franke also pleaded guilty to four of her six charges and not guilty to two.

Franke and her husband, Kevin Franke, launched “8 Passengers” on YouTube in 2015 and amassed a large following as they documented their experiences raising six children. She later began working with Hildebrandt’s counseling company, ConneXions Classroom, offering parenting seminars, launching another YouTube channel and publishing content on their shared Instagram account, “Moms of Truth.”

Franke admitted in her plea deal to kicking her son while wearing boots, holding his head under water and closing off his mouth and nose with her hands. She and Hildebrandt said they also forced him into hours of physical labor in the summer heat without much food or water, causing dehydration and blistering sunburns. The boy was told that everything being done to him was an act of love, according to the plea agreements.

Hildebrandt also has admitted to coercing Franke’s youngest daughter, who was 9 at the time, to jump into a cactus multiple times and run barefoot on dirt roads until her feet blistered. The boy and girl were taken to the hospital after the arrests and placed in state custody along with two more of their siblings.

Prior to her 2023 arrest, Ruby Franke was already a divisive figure in the parent vlogging world. The Franke parents were criticized online for certain parenting decisions, including for banning their oldest son from his bedroom for seven months for pranking his younger brother. In other videos, Ruby Franke talked about refusing to take lunch to a kindergartener who forgot it at home and threatening to cut the head off a young girl’s stuffed toy to punish her for cutting things in the house.

The “8 Passengers” YouTube channel has since ended, and Kevin Franke has filed for divorce.

Both Franke and Hildebrandt have 30 days to appeal their sentences.



2 adults are charged with murder in the deadly shooting at Kansas City's Super Bowl celebration

Charges in parade shooting

Missouri prosecutors said Tuesday that two men have been charged with murder in last week’s shooting that killed one person and injured 22 others after the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade.

Both adults are charged with second-degree murder and other charges. They have been hospitalized since the shooting, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said during a news conference.

The new charges come after two juveniles were detained last week on gun-related and resisting arrest charges. Authorities said more charges are possible.

Police have said a dispute among several people led to the shooting, which happened even as 800 police officers patrolled the celebration.

The 22 people injured range in age from 8 to 47, according to police Chief Stacey Graves. Lisa Lopez-Galvan, a mother of two and the host of “Taste of Tejano,” was killed.

The shooting was the latest at a sports celebration in the U.S. A shooting wounded several people last year in Denver after the Nuggets’ NBA championship.

That led Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas to wonder whether it’s time to rethink championship celebrations, even as he promised last week that the city will continue to celebrate its victories. Next month’s St. Patrick’s Day parade will go on as scheduled. Lucas said.

The Kansas City shooting occurred in a state with few gun regulations and a city that has struggled with gun violence. In 2020, Kansas City was among nine cities chosen by the U.S. Justice Department in an effort to crack down on violent crime. In 2023, the city matched its record with 182 homicides, most of which involved guns.

On Monday, Missouri’s Republican-led House on a bipartisan vote passed a ban on celebratory gunfire in cities following debate that ranged from tearful to angry. A similar measure was passed last year as part of a sweeping crime-related bill, but GOP Gov. Mike Parson vetoed the legislation. He cited issues with other crime provisions in the bill unrelated to celebratory gunfire.



White House promises 'major sanctions' on Russia in response to Alexei Navalny's death

Promise of 'major sanctions'

The White House says it is preparing additional “major sanctions” on Russia in response to opposition leader Alexei Navalny's death in an Arctic penal colony.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the new package would be unveiled this Friday. He declined to detail the new actions, citing U.S. government policy, or share how they would expand on the already stiff sanctions the U.S. and its allies have put on Russia in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.

Kirby said only that the sanctions, which will coincide with the two year anniversary of Russia's invasion, will be "specifically supplemented with additional sanctions regarding Mr. Navalny's death.”

Kirby said the U.S. had not determined how Navalny had died, but insisted that the ultimate responsibility lies with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Regardless of the scientific answer, Putin’s responsible for it," he told reporters.



Nikki Haley hasn't yet won a GOP contest. But she's vowing to keep fighting Donald Trump

Haley to keep fighting

There are no wins on the horizon for Nikki Haley.

Those close to the former United Nations ambassador, the last major Republican candidate standing in Donald Trump's path to the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination, are privately bracing for a blowout loss in her home state's primary election in South Carolina on Saturday. And they cannot name a state where she is likely to beat Trump in the coming weeks.

But ahead of a major address on Tuesday, Haley told The Associated Press that she will not leave the Republican primary election regardless of Saturday's result. And backed by the strongest fundraising numbers of her political career, she vowed to stay in the fight against Trump at least until after Super Tuesday's slate of more than a dozen contests on March 5.

“Ten days after South Carolina, another 20 states vote. I mean, this isn’t Russia. We don’t want someone to go in and just get 99% of the vote,” Haley said. “What is the rush? Why is everybody so panicked about me having to get out of this race?"

In fact, some Republicans are encouraging Haley to stay in the campaign even if she continues to lose — potentially all the way to the Republican National Convention in July. Her continued presence could come in handy in the event that the 77-year-old former president, perhaps the most volatile major party front-runner in U.S. history, becomes a convicted felon or stumbles into another major scandal.

As Trump's “Make America Great Again” movement presses for her exit, a defiant Haley will outline her rationale for sticking in the race for the foreseeable future Tuesday afternoon in South Carolina. In an interview ahead of the speech, she highlighted Trump's legal exposure and criticized MAGA activists who say she's hurting Trump's chances against President Joe Biden in the general election by refusing to drop out.

“That’s about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. If I get out of the race today, it will be the longest general election in history,” Haley said.

She also pushed back when asked if there is any primary state where she can defeat Trump.

“Instead of asking me what states I'm gonna win, why don't we ask how he's gonna win a general election after spending a full year in a courtroom?”

Haley's hurdles

History would suggest Haley has no chance of stopping Trump. Never before has a Republican lost even the first two primary contests, as Haley has by an average of 21 points, and gone on the win the party's presidential nomination. Polls suggest she is a major underdog in her home state on Saturday and in the 16 Super Tuesday contests to follow. And since he announced his first presidential bid in 2015, every effort by a Republican to blunt Trump's rise has failed.

Yet she is leaning into the fight.

Lest anyone question her commitment, Haley's campaign is spending more than $500,000 on a new television advertising campaign set to begin running Wednesday in Michigan ahead of the state's Feb. 27 primary, according to spokesperson Olivia Perez-Cubas. At the same time, the AP has obtained Haley's post-South Carolina travel schedule that features 11 separate stops in seven days across Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, Utah, Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina and Massachusetts.

The schedule also includes at least 10 high-dollar private fundraising events.

Indeed, Haley's expansive base of big- and small-dollar donors is donating at an extraordinary pace despite her underwhelming performance at the polls. That's a reflection of persistent Republican fears about Trump's ability to win over independents and moderate voters in the general election and serious concerns about his turbulent leadership should he return to the White House.

“I’m going to support her up to the convention,” said Republican donor Eric Levine, who co-hosted a New York fundraiser for Haley earlier this month. “We’re not prepared to fold our tents and pray at the alter of Donald Trump.”

“There’s value in her sticking in and gathering delegates, because if and when he stumbles,” Levine continued, “who knows what happens.”

Levine is far from alone.

Haley's campaign raised $5 million in a fundraising swing after her second-place finish in New Hampshire that included stops in Texas, Florida, New York, and California, Perez-Cubas said. Her campaign raised $16.5 million in January alone — her best fundraising month ever — which includes $2 million in small-dollar donations online in the 48 hours after Trump threatened to “permanently bar” Haley supporters from his MAGA movement.

Haley raised another $1 million last week in the 24 hours after Trump attacked her husband, a military serviceman currently serving overseas.

The lone member of Congress who has endorsed Haley, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., insisted that she would stay in the race even if she is blown out in South Carolina, a state where she lives and served two terms as governor.

“Obviously, you want to win them all, but for those who say it’s going to embarrass her, or end her political career, I disagree. She’s willing to take that risk,” Norman said in an interview. “I think it’s a courageous thing she’s doing.”

Moving forward, Haley’s team is especially focused on several Super Tuesday states with open or semi-open Republican primaries that allows a broader collection of voters to participate — especially independents and moderates — instead of just hardcore conservatives.

Trump not happy

Trump, in recent days, has shown flashes of fury in response to Haley’s refusal to cede the nomination.

He called her “stupid” and “birdbrain” in a social media post over the weekend and his campaign released a memo ahead of her speech on Tuesday predicting that she would be forced out of the race after losing her home state on Saturday.

“The true ‘State’ of Nikki Haley’s campaign?” Trump’s campaign chiefs wrote. “Broken down, out of ideas, out of gas, and completely outperformed by every measure, by Donald Trump.”

Eager to pivot toward a general election matchup against Biden, the Republican former president is taking aggressive steps to assume control of the Republican National Committee, the GOP's nationwide political machine, which is supposed to stay neutral in presidential primary elections. Last week, Trump announced plans to install his campaign's senior adviser Chris LaCivita, as RNC's chief operating officer and daughter-in-law Lara Trump as the committee's co-chair.

And there is every expectation that current Chair Ronna McDaniel will step down after Trump wins South Carolina's primary and party officials will ultimately acquiesce to Trump's wishes. Privately, Haley's team concedes there is nothing it can do to stop the Trump takeover.

In the interview, Haley warned her party against letting Trump raid the RNC's coffers to pay for his legal fees while taking a short-term view of Trump's political prospects.

Trump's standing will fundamentally change if he is a convicted felon before Election Day, Haley said, acknowledging that such an outcome is a very real possibility as Trump navigates 91 felony charges across four separate criminal cases.

“People are not looking six months down the road when these court cases have taken place,” Haley said. “He’s going to be in a courtroom all of March, April, May and June. How in the world do you win a general election when these cases keep going and the judgments keep coming?”

As for her path forward, Haley said she's focused only on her plans through Super Tuesday. As for staying in the race through the July convention, she said she hasn't thought that far ahead.

Some voters wish she would.

Gil White, a 75-year-old Republican veteran from James Island, South Carolina, said he was a Trump loyalist until the former president criticized Haley’s husband, a military serviceman, last week.

“For him to disparage a military man in deployment is just too much,” White said while attending a Haley rally in Kiawah Island over the weekend.

He acknowledged concerns about Haley's chances against Trump, but said he wants her to stay in the race even if she continues to lose.

“I want the choice," he said.

 



Astronomers find what may be the universe's brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day

Devours a sun a day

Astronomers have discovered what may be the brightest object in the universe, a quasar with a black hole at its heart growing so fast that it swallows the equivalent of a sun a day.

The record-breaking quasar shines 500 trillion times brighter than our sun. The black hole powering this distant quasar is more than 17 billion times more immense than our sun, an Australian-led team reported Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

While the quasar resembles a mere dot in images, scientists envision a ferocious place.

The rotating disk around the quasar's black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from gobbled-up stars — is like a cosmic hurricane.

“This quasar is the most violent place that we know in the universe,” lead author Christian Wolf of Australian National University said in an email.

The European Southern Observatory spotted the object, J0529-4351, during a 1980 sky survey, but it was thought to be a star. It was not identified as a quasar — the extremely active and luminous core of a galaxy — until last year. Observations by telescopes in Australia and Chile’s Atacama Desert clinched it.

“The exciting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was misclassified as a star previously,” Yale University's Priyamvada Natarajan, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.

These later observations and computer modeling have determined that the quasar is gobbling up the equivalent of 370 suns a year — roughly one a day. Further analysis shows the mass of the black hole to be 17 to 19 billion times that of our sun, according to the team. More observations are needed to understand its growth rate.

The quasar is 12 billion light-years away and has been around since the early days of the universe. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.



Houthi rebels' attack severely damages a Belize-flagged ship in key strait leading to the Red Sea

Houthi attack damages ship

A missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels that damaged a Belize-flagged ship traveling through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden has forced the crew to abandon the ship, authorities said Monday. Another ship reportedly came twice under attack in the Gulf of Aden.

The Iran-backed Houthis also claimed they shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone, something not immediately acknowledged by U.S. forces in the region. However, the Houthis have downed U.S. drones before.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said it was conducting new airstrikes targeting the rebels, including one that targeted the first Houthi underwater drone seen since they began launching attacks on international shipping in November.

The ship targeted in the Houthi attack on Sunday reported sustaining damage after “an explosion in close proximity to the vessel,” the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center reported.

“Military authorities report crew have abandoned the vessel,” the UKMTO said. “Vessel at anchor and all crew are safe.”

Houthi Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree issued a statement claiming the attack, saying the vessel was “now at risk of potentially sinking.”

“The ship suffered catastrophic damages and came to a complete halt,” Saree said. “During the operation, we made sure that the ship’s crew exited safely.”

The private security firm Ambrey reported the British-registered, Lebanese-operated cargo ship had been on its way to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates.

Ship-tracking data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by The Associated Press identified the vessel targeted as the Rubymar. Its Beirut-based manager could not be reached for comment. The Houthis later also identified the ship as the Rubymar.

Ambrey described the ship as being partially laden with cargo, but it wasn't immediately clear what it had been carrying. The ship had turned off its Automatic Identification System tracker while in the Persian Gulf early this month.

Later Monday, the UKMTO and Ambrey said a second vessel came under attack in the Gulf of Aden. Ambrey described the vessel as a Greek-flagged, U.S.-owned bulk carrier bound for Aden, Yemen, and carrying grain from Argentina. The same ship then came under attack again, later in the day.

Those details, combined with ship-tracking data, identified the vessel as the Sea Champion. Its managers could not be immediately reached. The Houthis did not immediately claim the attack, though it often takes the rebels several hours to acknowledge one of their assaults.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over Israel’s war targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for trade among Asia, the Mideast and Europe. Those vessels have included at least one with cargo for Iran, its main benefactor.

In a separate attack, Saree also claimed that Houthi forces shot down an MQ-9 drone near Yemen's port city of Hodeida on the Red Sea. He offered no evidence for the claim.

The Houthi “air defenses were able to shoot down an American plane — MQ-9 — with a suitable missile while it was carrying out hostile missions against our country on behalf of the Zionist entity,” Saree said.

The U.S. military did not immediately confirm the loss of any drones in the region. However, the Houthis have surface-to-air missile systems capable of shooting down high-flying American drones. In November, the Pentagon acknowledged the loss of an MQ-9, shot down by the rebels over the Red Sea.

Since Yemen's Houthi rebels seized the country's north and its capital of Sanaa in 2014, the U.S. military has lost four drones to shootdowns by the rebels — in 2017, 2019 and this year.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military's Central Command reported it carried out five airstrikes targeting Houthi military equipment. Those strikes targeted mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, an explosive-carrying drone boat and an “unmanned underwater vessel,” Central Command said.

“This is the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began in Oct. 23,” Central Command said.



Gaza Health Ministry says over 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel-Hamas war

Death toll over 29,000

More than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, the territory's Health Ministry said Monday, marking another grim milestone in the deadliest round of violence in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until “total victory” against Hamas, raising fears that troops will soon move into the southernmost town of Rafah on the Egyptian border, where over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere.

The United States, Israel’s top ally, says it is still working with mediators Egypt and Qatar to try to broker another cease-fire and hostage release agreement. But those efforts appear to have stalled in recent days, and Netanyahu angered Qatar, which has hosted Hamas leaders, bycalling on it to pressure the militant group.

The Health Ministry said 107 bodies were brought to hospitals in the last 24 hours. That brings the total number of fatalities to 29,092 since the start of the war.

The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its records, but says around two-thirds of those killed were women and children. More than 69,000 Palestinians have been wounded, overwhelming the territory's hospitals, less than half of which are even partially functioning.

The Health Ministry is part of the Hamas-run government in Gaza but maintains detailed records of casualties. Its figures from previous wars in Gaza have largely matched those of U.N. agencies, independent experts and even Israel's own tallies.

The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage.

More than 100 captives were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November in exchange for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Militants still hold around 130, a fourth of them believed to be dead.

Israel responded to the attack by launching one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history on the besieged enclave, which has been ruled by Hamas since 2007.

Israel says it has killed over 10,000 Palestinian militants, without providing evidence. The military says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames the high death toll on Hamas because the militant group fights in dense residential neighborhoods. The military says 236 of its soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground offensive in late October.

The war, which shows no sign of ending, has driven around 80% of the Palestinians in Gaza from their homes and has left a quarter of the population starving, according to U.N. officials.

On Sunday, Benny Gantz, a retired general and a member of Netanyahu's three-man War Cabinet, warned that the offensive would expand to Rafah if the hostages are not freed by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin around March 10. The month of dawn-to-dusk fasting is often a time of heightened tensions in the region.

Israel has said it is developing plans to evacuate civilians from Rafah, but it's not clear where they would go in the devastated territory, large areas of which have been flattened. Egypt has sealed the border and warned that any mass influx of Palestinians could threaten its decades-old peace treaty with Israel.

The United States says it is still pushing for a truce and hostage-release, and that it would veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire because it conflicts with those efforts.

Hamas has said it won't release all of the remaining hostages until Israel ends the war and withdraws from Gaza. It is also demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including top militants.

Netanyahu has rejected those demands, calling them “delusional." In a speech before American Jewish leaders on Sunday, he said pressure should be applied on Qatar, which played a key role in mediating last year’s cease-fire and hostage release deal.

“Qatar can press Hamas as no one else can. They host Hamas leaders, Hamas is dependent on them financially," Netanyahu said. “I urge you to press Qatar to press Hamas because we want our hostages released.”

Qatar's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Majed al-Ansari, dismissed Netanyahu's remarks as “a new attempt to stall and prolong the war for reasons that have become obvious to everyone,” alluding to the Israeli leader's domestic political troubles.

Qatar denies funding Hamas and says its provision of aid to Gaza in recent years was carried out in full coordination with Israel, the U.S. and other parties.

“The Israeli prime minister knows very well that Qatar has been committed from day one to mediation efforts, ending the crisis and freeing the hostages,” al-Ansari said.

 



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