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Morning Headlines: 11/16/23

Al-Shifa Hospital

Israel Defense Forces said yesterday they had confirmed the presence of a Hamas command center inside northern Gaza's al-Shifa hospital, a revelation which came after soldiers carried out an overnight raid into the building. The facility had become a flashpoint in the war—at least 43 patients had died in the past week amid fighting outside, with more than 1,500 people trapped inside (see previous write-up).

Israeli officials said they had recovered materials suggesting the site was home to significant Hamas operations. As of this writing, the Israeli forces had published photos of some weapons recovered from the facility, saying that more evidence would be released shortly.

Separately, reports suggest Qatar is mediating a deal to potentially release 50 hostages kidnapped by Hamas during their initial Oct. 7 raid into Israel in exchange for a three-day cease-fire.

See updates on the war here.

A Sandy Planet

Observations made from the James Webb Space Telescope have uncovered details about the atmosphere and clouds of a Neptune-like planet 211 light-years away from Earth. European astronomers have discovered the atmosphere of exoplanet WASP-107b contains water vapor and sulfur dioxide and features silicate clouds that form raindrops of sand.

The findings, published yesterday, mark the first time scientists have identified the chemical composition of an exoplanet's clouds, revising their understanding of how planets form and evolve. The discovery of sulfur dioxide—known for smelling like burned matches—came as a surprise as previous models of the exoplanet predicted its absence. Observations also signaled no trace of the greenhouse gas methane, suggesting the exoplanet has a potentially warm interior.

WASP-107b (see overview), first discovered in 2017, is a giant hot gas exoplanet that is similar to Neptune in mass but closer to Jupiter in size. WASP-107b's atmosphere is "fluffier," or less dense, compared to other gas planets within Earth's solar system, allowing astronomers to look 50 times deeper into its atmosphere using the Webb telescope.

Explore NASA's exoplanet archive here.

UK's Rwanda Law Struck Down

The UK's Supreme Court struck down a 2022 immigration law sending all asylum-seekers to Rwanda while they awaited assessment, a major blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's legislative priorities. Sunak stated Wednesday the government would still try to start flights by next spring. The law, passed in April 2022, funded the transportation of refugees to Rwanda for $180M over five years, a policy designed to deter unauthorized migration (how it works). The inaugural deportation flight scheduled for June 2022 was paused by the courts amid legal challenges. Last year saw a record 45,775 refugees arrive via small boats on the southern shores of the UK, with over 27,000 arriving so far this year—at a cost to the UK of nearly $10M a day. The high court argued refugees would be at risk in Rwanda. The decision is particularly challenging for Sunak, who made clearing the refugee backlog one of his five stated priorities of his tenure as prime minister.

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