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Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department has formally announced that the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington, D.C. will be closed due to Palestinian leadership's refusal to engage with the White House on its Middle East peace plan. 

Why it matters: This move further escalates the wave of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against the Palestinians over the last few months — after the Palestinians chose to cut ties after President Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This move is extremely severe because it wipes out any symbols of Palestinian sovereignty in Washington.

  • The State Department said the decision to close down the PLO office came because the PLO "has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.  To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise."
  • Their statement also said the decision was made due "Administration and Congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court."
  • Despite the harsh move, the State Department said that the U.S. "continues to believe that direct negotiations between the two parties are the only way forward" and that it is not retreating from the efforts to get an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

8 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.