NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

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1.   The Pentagon released new details Sunday about Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s continued hospitalization, saying he had a medical procedure Dec. 22, went home a day later and was admitted to intensive care Jan. 1 when he began experiencing severe pain. The latest information came as members of both parties in Congress expressed sharp concerns about the secrecy of Austin’s hospital stay and the fact that the president and other senior leaders were kept in the dark about it for days.

2.   North Korea again fired artillery shells near its tense sea boundary with the South on Sunday, as the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mocked the South’s ability to detect its weapons launches. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff dismissed Kim Yo Jong’s statement as “a comedy-like, vulgar propaganda” meant to undermine the South Korean people’s trust in the military and stoke divisions.

3.   Hezbollah has struck an air traffic control base in northern Israel, the Israeli military said Sunday, and warned of “another war” with the Iran-backed militant group. The increase in fighting across the border with Lebanon as Israel battles Hamas militants in Gaza gave new urgency to U.S. diplomatic efforts as Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepared to visit Israel on his latest Mideast tour.

4.   U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has opened his third day of meetings on an urgent Mideast diplomatic mission to prevent Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza from exploding into a broader regional conflict. Blinken was meeting Monday with United Arab Emirates leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed before traveling to Saudi Arabia for talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at enlisting the key Arab leaders in a push to not only keep the war contained but also prepare for post-conflict Gaza’s future.

5.      A new battalion of Ukrainian soldiers began training Sunday at the U.S. Army’s training grounds in Grafenwoehr, an effort that coincides with the arrival of a new contingent of American soldiers to lead the initiative. About 500 Ukrainian troops are taking part in the training, which will involve everything from combined-arms training at the squad level up to large-scale maneuvers that will culminate with a battalion force-on-force exercise, Col. Martin O’Donnell, U.S. Army Europe and Africa spokesman, said in a statement Saturday. On Friday, the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team from the Mississippi Army National Guard took command of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine mission in Germany.