First Thing: Israel launches deadly airstrike on Syria

<span>Smoke caused by an Israeli strike is seen in Baalbek, Lebanon, during an earlier incident on 26 March. </span><span>Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Smoke caused by an Israeli strike is seen in Baalbek, Lebanon, during an earlier incident on 26 March. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Good morning.

At least 36 Syrian soldiers were killed in an Israeli airstrike on an area near Hezbollah weapons depots in Syria’s Aleppo province, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said.

The Syrian defense ministry is saying civilians were among the dead, while Reuters is reporting that the strike killed five Hezbollah members.

“The aggression resulted in the martyrdom and injury of a number of civilians and military personnel and caused material losses to public and private property,” the Syrian defense ministry said in a statement.

  • Why is Israel attacking Syria? Since civil war began in Syria in 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes on targets there as it seeks to cut off the Hamas ally Hezbollah’s supply routes to Lebanon. The frequency of these strikes has increased since Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza began after the 7 October attacks. While Iran-backed Hezbollah is Lebanese, it has sent militants into Syria to support its ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

  • What has Israel done to combat Hezbollah in Lebanon? Israel has exchanged near-daily, cross-border fire with Hezbollah in Lebanon since the Gaza war began, creating fears of a major regional conflagration. An Agence France-Presse tally estimates that at least 346 people have been killed in Lebanon – mostly Hezbollah fighters, but also including at least 68 civilians – in clashes with Israel over the past six months.

Russian police detain journalist who filmed last video of Alexei Navalny alive

The journalist Antonina Favorskaya filmed the last video of the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny before he died in a Russian prison. Russian authorities have since detained Favorskaya, accusing her of taking part in an “extremist organization” by posting on the social media platforms of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. However, Favorskaya did not publish anything on the foundation’s platforms, Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, said, suggesting that Russian authorities targeted her because she was doing her job as a journalist.

Favorskaya was one of six journalists across Russia held this month, the media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders said.

In other news …

  • The US National Park Service is being sued over its plan to remove Puerto Rico’s famous stray cats from a historic district in the US territory.

  • A Texas appeals court has thrown out a Texas woman’s five-year prison sentence for trying to cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election that was rejected.

  • The Biden campaign raised a $25m “money bomb” at a star-studded event featuring Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

  • Bolivian Indigenous groups are objecting to Colombia’s plans to recover the remains of an 18th-century galleon believed to be carrying gold, silver and emeralds worth billions.

  • A federal court has ruled to allow South Carolina Republicans to use their discriminatory congressional map for the 2024 election, despite an earlier finding that the same plan discriminates against Black voters.

Stat of the day: Cocoa prices rose to all-time highs on commodity exchanges

Cocoa prices on commodity exchanges in London and New York reached more than $10,000 a tonne for the first time this week, the result of the third consecutive poor harvest in west Africa. Extreme weather in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which together produce more than half of the global cacao crop, has led to a global shortage of cacao.

“Cocoa prices have tripled over the last year. While we have only passed on a fraction of the price increase to consumers in 2023 … we may need to make responsible adjustments to pricing in the future given the persistently high cocoa prices,” a Nestlé spokesperson told the Guardian.

Don’t miss this: The one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of US journalist Evan Gershkovich in Russia

One year ago, masked Russian officers grabbed the American journalist Evan Gershkovich at a steakhouse in Ekaterinburg, on spying charges that are entirely unsupported by evidence. The Wall Street Journal reporter has been behind bars ever since, held in the infamous Lefortovo prison on the outskirts of Moscow where the Soviet author Alexander Solzhenitsyn was once detained.

… or this: The forced contraception of Greenlandic women

Between 1966 and 1970, it is estimated that 4,500 women and girls in Greenland were forcibly fitted with intrauterine devices (IUDs) in an attempt to reduce the population of the former Danish colony, with many more procedures carried out without consent in subsequent decades. Today, 143 Greenlandic women are suing the government of Denmark for what they describe as a violation of their human rights. “I was only a child,” said one woman, Bula Larsen. “I was only 14.”

Climate check: Ecocide in Gaza

The human cost of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, launched after the Hamas attack on 7 October, is being compounded by an environmental crisis. Analysis of satellite imagery provided to the Guardian shows the destruction of about 38-48% of tree cover and farmland, with olive groves and farms reduced to packed earth. Soil and groundwater has been contaminated by munitions and toxins and the air polluted by smoke and particulate matter. The sea is choked with sewage and waste.

“What’s left is devastation,” said Samaneh Moafi, Forensic Architecture’s assistant director of research. “An area that is no longer livable.”

Last Thing: Ukraine’s Antarctic scientists

As Russia’s war on Ukraine rages through its second year, Ukrainian scientists in Antarctica are fighting in another war at the country’s Vernadsky base: taking on the climate crisis through their research and studies. This does not exempt them from serving in the war at home. When news of the Russian invasion reached Vernadsky, the marine biologist Andrii Zotov hitched a lift on a yacht to Argentina, took a bus to Chile, flew to Poland and within two weeks was with an army unit on the frontline in Ukraine.

“He took five bullets and was too heavily injured to fight more,” said Vadym Tkachenko, a biologist who recently completed his second Antarctic winter at Ukraine’s Vernadsky base. “He returned to work on phytoplankton at the National Antarctic Scientific Centre in Kyiv. He will be back here for the handover.”

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