In The News Today.

Gaza Strikes

Violence between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip continued to escalate over the weekend, despite growing international calls for a cease-fire. At least 42 Palestinians were killed yesterday after Israeli airstrikes demolished three apartment buildings it said were home to Hamas officials. Residents said the attack came without warning, unlike earlier strikes.

Separately, Israel also targeted a building hosting international media outfits, including The Associated Press. Officials said it was also home to Hamas military intelligence.

The current strife was precipitated by the looming removal of a number of Palestinian families living inside Israel and clashes between police and protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque — one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Since last Monday, an estimated 197 Palestinians have been killed, including a reported 55 children. Eleven Israelis have been killed, including one child, amid more than 2,000 rockets fired by Hamas into Israel.

The fighting is the worst since 2014. Unlike the previous battles, Israel has seen a burst of fighting between Arab and Jewish civilians inside its borders. Arab-Israelis make up 20% of the country’s population.

See photos of the violence here (warning: sensitive content).

China Reaches Mars

Officials in China announced over the weekend the landing of the country’s Zhurong rover on Mars. The feat makes China the second country behind the US to successfully deliver a rover to the Martian surface.

Part of the Tianwen-1 mission, the rover deployed after orbiting the planet for more than three months, and will focus on studying the geology and climate of the planet. The spacecraft touched down in Utopia Planitia (interactive map), inside Mars’ largest impact crater — and the landing site of the 1976 American Viking 2 mission.

China is rapidly realizing its ambitions in space ($$, NYT). Separate from its Mars missions, the country successfully landed a lunar rover on the moon in December and launched the first part of its space station — meant to compete with the International Space Station — in April.

DarkSide Disbands

The Eastern European hacker collective known as DarkSide purportedly disbanded over the weekend, after the group claimed their servers and a stash of Bitcoin had been seized. The ransomware group was responsible for the nearly weeklong shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which provides almost half of the East Coast’s gas. It was not clear who or which country was responsible for the seizure.

Officials have pointed to the group as one of the most prominent in the rising phenomenon of ransomware-as-a-service, where hacker groups provide on-demand services to criminal groups or governments to take over IT systems of organizations around the globe. Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid DarkSide $5M to retrieve data and unlock its systems last week. Despite returning to full operations, gas shortages have lingered — more than 80% of stations were out of gas in the nation’s capital as of this morning.

Separately, Ireland was forced to take much of its health IT systems offline over the weekend after being hit with a broad-ranging cyberattack.

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> The late Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan among nine from 2020 class inducted into Basketball Hall of Fame (More) | Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh headline 2021 Hall of Fame class (More) | Long shot Rombauer wins 2021 Preakness Stakes; Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit finishes third (More)

> Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned 69th Miss Universe, Miss Brazil Julia Gama is runner-up; pageant had been postponed since last year due to COVID-19 (More)

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> Socio-political study links political polarization with an aversion to uncertainty; relationship holds regardless of type of political views (More)

> Study finds some mammals, including rats, mice, and pigs, are capable of breathing via their intestines when experiencing oxygen deprivation or respiratory failure (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets up Friday (S&P 500 +1.5%, Dow +1.1%, Nasdaq +2.3%) to close worst week since February (More)

> Sources say Microsoft’s board probed an alleged inappropriate relationship between Bill Gates and a female Microsoft employee (More)

> US retail sales see no growth in April, following 10.7% March surge (More) | US retailers including Walmart, Publix, Trader Joe’s, and others update mask policies following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Average new COVID-19 cases in the US dip below 34,000 per day, the lowest since June of last year (More) | About 60% of US adults have received at least one vaccine shot (More)

> Rep. Elise Stefanik (R, NY-21) elected as House GOP conference chair, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney (R, WY-At large); the 36-year-old ally of former President Donald Trump becomes the highest-ranking female House Republican (More)

> India grapples with flood of corpses washing up on the banks of the Ganges River; officials attempting to determine how many were COVID-19 deaths amid surge in cases (More)

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