His jab did not sit well with critics including many former service members

The first half of the TikTok video shows a muscular Russian man with a shaved head doing push-ups, jumping out of a plane, and staring down the scope of a rifle. The second half shows a brightly animated U.S. Army ad telling the true story of Cpl. Emma Malonelord, a soldier who enlisted after being raised by two mothers in California and graduating at the top of her high school class.

The U.S. Army said its ad showcases the “the deeply emotional and diverse” backgrounds of its soldiers. But to Sen. Ted Cruz, who retweeted the TikTok on Thursday, the contrast with Russia’s campaign instead made American soldiers “into pansies.”

Army recruitment ad: Emma Malonelord’s story
The United States Army’s animated ad focused on soldier diversity drew condemnation from some conservative lawmakers in May. (GoArmy)
“Holy crap,” Cruz said in his viral tweet. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea …”

His jab did not sit well with critics, including many former service members, veterans groups and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who is a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel.

Israeli security forces used stun grenades and rubber bullets against Palestinians outside the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, where thousands of worshipers had been attending Friday prayers, puncturing a half-day of calm brought on by a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

A CNN journalist at the mosque compound said dozens of Israeli officers hit journalists with batons and tried to point rifles at them, calling them “liars” when they showed them their press cards.
The officers moved on to the compound as thousands of worshipers chanted in solidarity with Gaza and with Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where some Palestinian families are facing eviction.

Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshipers clash in the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on Friday.
Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshipers clash in the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on Friday.
An Israeli police spokesperson said the officers were responding to a riot by hundreds of young Palestinians that included the throwing of stones at police forces.

CNN witnessed people, including screaming children, fleeing the scene to the sound of stun grenade blasts. The Palestinian Red Crescent said it treated 20 injuries following clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the compound. Two people were taken to hospital, while the rest were treated in the field, the aid group said.

The mosque and evictions have been flashpoints in the recent conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which according to the Hamas-run health ministry, left 243 Palestinians in Gaza dead, including 66 children, and 12 in Israel — including two children — who died from militant fire, according to the IDF and Israel’s emergency service.

A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas at 2 a.m. and the streets of Jerusalem and Gaza had been peaceful, albeit lively, for hours, with Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel celebrating the end of the worst conflict in years.

Palestinians celebrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, after the ceasefire was agreed.

Palestinians celebrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, after the ceasefire was agreed.

Crowds in Gaza waved Palestinian flags and shot fireworks, also celebrating Eid al Fitr belatedly as the conflict with Israel forced Muslims to delay their celebrations marking the end of Ramadan.
Hundreds of people drove around historically Arab east Jerusalem honking their car horns in celebration, and video footage from social media and television showed similar scenes in other cities, including Umm al-Fahm in Israel and Ramallah in the West Bank.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out a massive aerial bombardment of Gaza, while Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel during the 11 days of violence.

An Israeli soldier sits on top of a tank at a staging ground near the border with Gaza on Friday following the ceasefire agreement.
An Israeli soldier sits on top of a tank at a staging ground near the border with Gaza on Friday following the ceasefire agreement.
Hamas’ infrastructure was pummelled by the Israeli Air Force, which took out huge sections of its tunnel network and buildings that the IDF said housed Hamas commanders or were used to store weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the Israeli operation in Gaza was a success, saying in a televised address Friday that “Hamas can’t hide any more.”

“We hit Hamas more than their leaders ever could have imagined. We changed the rules of the game with this operation,” Netanyahu said.
The political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, also sought to declare victory in a speech on Friday afternoon, saying “the resistance is much stronger today.”

“Gaza victory is for the sake of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and the West Bank,” Haniya said. “All the blood that was shed in this battle and the battles that preceded it is the resistance on the road to Jerusalem.”

US President Joe Biden welcomed the truce overnight after facing a barrage of criticism from within his own party that he was not doing enough to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the country’s airstrikes in Gaza.
“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said. “My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that end.”

Biden, staring down first Mideast crisis, touts ceasefire
Biden, staring down first Mideast crisis, touts ceasefire
Biden, who has had a working relationship with Netanyahu over four decades, sought to deflect criticism that his administration had not been active enough in what has become the President’s biggest foreign policy challenge since he took office in January.

“We’ve held intensive high-level discussions, hour-by-hour, literally, (with) Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and other Middle Eastern countries with an aim of avoiding the sort of prolonged conflict we’ve seen in previous years when the hostilities have broken out,” Biden said in evening remarks on Thursday.

Now the US’ attention will turn to the enormous task of rebuilding Gaza, where many civilians, their homes and services were caught up in strikes aimed at Hamas.

In northern Gaza’s Beit Hanoun, residents from a blown-out building were seen sorting through the rubble, using heavy machinery to clear the worst of the debris, as a boy stood amid the destruction, his hands covering his face in disbelief.

“Holy crap,” Duckworth tweeted Thursday, mimicking Cruz’s words. “Perhaps a U.S. Senator shouldn’t suggest that the *Russian* military is better than the American military that protected him from an insurrection he helped foment?”

In the hours after Cruz’s quip, #emasculaTED trended on Twitter.

Commander of Space Force unit fired after accusing the military of pushing an agenda ‘rooted in Marxism’

“Ted Cruz attacks a US Army soldier for telling her story, says he prefers Russians,” VoteVets, a liberal political group that advocates for veterans running for office, said in a tweet responding to Cruz. “Because Ted Cruz is a sedition-loving traitor.”

The unedited Army recruitment video also picked up steam in the last week on YouTube and Facebook, where the U.S. Army posted it on May 6. The ad shows illustrations of Malonelord growing up, marching with her moms to protest for LGBTQ rights, attending her mothers’ wedding, and, ultimately, putting on the Army uniform.

“I like to think I’ve been defending freedom from an early age,” Malonelord said in the ad.

But the original video received so much negative backlash on YouTube over the last week that the account disabled comments, the Army Times reported Thursday.

“The comments violated our social media policy and were not aligned with Army values,” Laura DeFrancisco, a spokeswoman for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office, told Army Times. “Out of respect for the safety and well-being of our soldiers and their families, we have disabled the comments.”

Conservative ire over changes in the U.S. military is not new. Many have opposed proposals to allow women to serve in combat roles, including Cruz, who called the idea “nuts” while campaigning for president in 2016. Last week, the commander of a Space Force unit was fired after claiming that the Pentagon was pushing an agenda “rooted in Marxism” for promoting diversity and trying to address extremism within military ranks.

The origins of the spliced TikTok video that Cruz shared on Thursday are murky — an account with the handle @thoughtcrimes_ originally posted it but has since been deactivated and its videos have been removed from the app. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

Alexander Reid Ross, a doctoral fellow for the U.K.-based Center for Analysis of the Radical Right, told The Washington Post that the video surfaced on Twitter when a Dutch user who frequently posts far-right content shared it. A real estate agent from Dallas shared the video from the Dutch user’s post, and Cruz retweeted her.

But Ross said he had been tracking versions of the video on extremist Telegram channels earlier this week. He said the clip popped up repeatedly in channels that promote fascist and anti-Semitic beliefs.

“Ted Cruz is obviously sharing this video that I’ve seen bouncing around some of the most violent and anti-American Telegram accounts that I monitor,” he said. “It just struck me as odd.”

Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry late Thursday about whether the senator vetted the source of the video before sharing it.

But Cruz was not alone in panning the Army’s new recruitment ads.

John Noonan, who is an adviser on military and defense affairs for Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), retweeted the same TikTok video with the comment “We are going to be the most tolerant military in history ever to lose a war.”

Cruz replied, “yep.”

Noonan went on to say that he didn’t believe the ad was real.

“It can’t be,” he said. “I just can’t envision someone in the army hierarchy approving it.”

Despite the backlash, Cruz refused to take back his disdain for the video.

“I’m enjoying lefty blue checkmarks losing their minds over this tweet, dishonestly claiming that I’m ‘attacking the military,’ ” he said in a follow-up tweet late Thursday. “Uh, no. We have the greatest military on earth, but Dem politicians & woke media are trying to turn them into pansies.”

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