Israel and Hamas Appear to Be Near Hostage Deal, Officials Say

Wednesday Briefing: A Gaza Hostage Deal Appears Close

Israel and Hamas appeared to be edging close to a deal that would allow the release of some of the 240 captives held in Gaza in exchange for some Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The exchange would take place during what would be a brief pause in the war.

Here’s the latest.

The Israeli government said yesterday afternoon that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would hold an unusually intense sequence of meetings with cabinet ministers in the coming hours “in light of developments on the issue of the release of our hostages.” Netanyahu added that he hoped “we will have good news soon.” President Biden echoed that optimism, saying, “We’re now very close, very close.”

An Israeli official, speaking anonymously in order to discuss a sensitive matter, said the ministers were expected to vote on whether to approve a brief cease-fire that would allow for an exchange.

If a deal is approved, the hostages may not be released until tomorrow to allow for a 24-hour period for judicial review, Israeli officials said. And until an exchange of captives begins, the situation is likely to remain fluid.

Details: People familiar with the hostage negotiations, which have been brokered mainly by Qatar, said they centered on Hamas releasing roughly 50 children and women in exchange for about 150 Palestinian women and teenagers jailed by Israel, as well as a pause in fighting that would last about five days.

Changpeng Zhao, the founder of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, agreed to plead guilty to money laundering violations in the U.S.

As part of his guilty plea, Zhao will pay a $50 million fine and step down from his role as chief executive — a stunning blow to the most powerful and influential figure in the global crypto industry. The company also agreed to plead guilty and pay $4.3 billion in fines and restitution, and accept the appointment of a monitor, according to court documents.

Takeaway: For the relatively young and fast-growing crypto world, the proceedings were a monumental development, given Binance’s global reach and Zhao’s prominent role as a leader in the industry. At times, Binance has processed two-thirds of all digital currency trades.

North Korea launched a rocket in what South Korea​ said was an effort by the North to put its first military reconnaissance satellite in orbit.

It was the North’s third attempt this year to place a satellite into orbit with the goal of allowing the country to better monitor U.S. and South Korean military movements​ and improve its nuclear-attack capabilities. Its previous attempts in May and August failed, but this time it received technological assistance from Russia, according to South Korea.

Background: Moscow’s aid was part of a package of incentives that North Korea had been expected to receive from Russia in return for​ providing munitions to Russia for its war in Ukraine​, South Korean officials said.

Each year, the staff of The New York Times Book Review reads thousands of new books, seeking out the best novels, memoirs, poetry collections and more. Here are 100 standouts of 2023.

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, much as the director did. Miyazaki’s family fled Tokyo for the countryside in 1944, when he was 3, and his earliest memories, he has said in interviews, involve war and fear.

Elements of the film will be familiar to Miyazaki devotees: a lonely child, the threat of violence and a bevy of fantastical, only sometimes cuddly creatures that externalize some part of the protagonist’s desires. But even by Miyazaki’s standards, our new movie critic Alissa Wilkinson writes, the film is enigmatic, and more an exercise in contemplation than storytelling. “With Miyazaki, the draw is subliminal,” she writes, “tapping an unsettling emotional well that seals over as we age.”

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