The D Brief: Russia opens new front; New US aid coming; Israel’s Rafah strikes; SOF-killing bodycam video; And a bit more…

The D Brief: Russia opens new front; New US aid coming; Israel’s Rafah strikes; SOF-killing bodycam video; And a bit more…

Russia is pushing into Ukraine’s Kharkiv border region, creating a new front in the invasion it launched 27 months ago. Reuters: “Russian forces launched an armoured ground attack on Friday near Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv in the northeast of the country and made small inroads, opening a new front in a war that has long been waged in the east and south.”

“At approximately 5 a.m. [Friday], there was an attempt by the enemy to break through our defensive line under the cover of armoured vehicles,” Defense Ministry officials said in a statement.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy “has said Russia could be preparing a big offensive push this spring or summer. Kyiv’s forces were prepared to meet Friday’s assault, but Moscow could send more troops to the area, he told reporters in Kyiv,” writes Reuters.

Zelenskiy: “As of now, these attacks have been repulsed; battles of varying intensity continue.” More, here.

US to announce $400M aid package to Ukraine today, Politico reports: “The package, which will involve transferring weapons already in U.S. stocks, includes new Patriot missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, Bradley fighting vehicles, mine-protected vehicles, Javelin anti-armor systems and other munitions”—all according to officials granted anonymity to speak ahead of the official announcement. More, here.

Ukraine: we’re still using Abrams tanks. In a video posted to its Army TV YouTube channel, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense offered a rebuttal to an April 26 Associated Press report that said Ukraine had pulled U.S. Abrams tanks from the front lines after the donated armor proved vulnerable to Russia’s drone-assisted attacks. 

“It all depends on the situation. You see, we don’t fight in a way that it’s purely tank-on-tank,” says a man, identified as Dmytro of the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade. Reports Business Insider: “Dmytro said his team had, in the last few days, deployed their Abrams to take out Russian infantry and equipment, including a T-62 tank that had been disabled by an exploding drone. It’s not immediately clear when the video was filmed.” Read on, here. 

The U.S. has donated 31 Abrams to Ukraine, “of which five were reportedly lost in combat,” Defense News adds.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1775, Ethan Allen and Gen. Benedict Arnold (yep, that Benedict Arnold) led American forces across Lake Champlain to capture the British Fort Ticonderoga in New York. The U.S. Navy has named eight ships after the battle.

Gaza latest

Israel steps up bombings of Rafah as expected ground push looms. Dozens have already died in air strikes, by the United Nations’s count, in the southern Gaza region contains the last major Hamas stronghold in Gaza — and more than 1 million civilians driven there by Israel’s attacks further north. And Israeli troops continued to exchange fire with Palestinian fighters near Rafah on Friday, according to both the Israeli military and Hamas. 

Israeli forces have captured the main road dividing the eastern and western halves of Rafah, effectively encircling the city’s eastern side, Reuters reports. 

UN: More than 100,000 people have fled the region since Israeli officials issued an evacuation warning earlier this week. On Friday, “people were packing up their tents and leaving the southern Gazan city and its surrounding areas where more than a million Palestinians had sought shelter in trucks, cars and donkey carts,” the New York Times reported.

Biden vows to withhold arms for a Rafah incursion. In a Wednesday interview with CNN, President Joe Biden said the U.S. would supply no arms that Israel could use for a ground incursion into Rafah. Biden said that the U.S. was still committed to Israel’s defense and would supply Iron Dome rocket interceptors and other defensive arms. More, here.

Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s response: “If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone. If we need to, we will fight with our fingernails.” (BBC)

Around the US

Bodycam footage shows deputy shooting airman. In the video (warning: graphic) released by the Okaloosa County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office, a deputy shouts, “Sheriff’s office! Open the door!” Senior Airman Roger Fortson answers the door with a gun in his hand and pointed at the floor, at which point the deputy shoots him several times. Fortson, 23, was a special-missions aviator assigned to the Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Air Force Times has a bit more, here.

Drones could guide every bit of an Army division’s firepower, 101st CO says. From mortars to missiles, the airborne unit is rethinking the use of uncrewed systems in the kill chain. Read Sam Skove’s report, here.

The Pentagon’s brewing a build-a-cloud program for defense agencies. Called DOD Olympus, the program will provide as kit agencies can use to create their own commercial cloud solutions, said Korie Seville, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s deputy chief technology officer for compute. D1’s Lauren C. Williams reports, here.

Check out the Army’s latest recruiting ads, which seek to woo applicants to the thousands of civilian jobs in the Department of the Army with a campaign called “Find Your Next Level.” Watch them over at Task & Purpose. 

Around DC: At noon today, Lt. Gen. Steven Basham, deputy commander of U.S. European Command, is to speak at  “Transatlantic Security After 75 Years of NATO,” a livestreamed Foundation for Defense of Democracies event.

Lastly today: This weekend may be your last chance to see a Harrier in flight. The U.S. Marine Corps, which is retiring its aging AV-8B attack jets in favor of the F-35B, says the venerable VSTOL will give its final public performances on Saturday and Sunday at the biennial MCAS Cherry Point Air Show in North Carolina. If you happen to be there, send us some photos. 

Have a good weekend, and we’ll see you on Monday.

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