The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.

Pentagon says US ‘on track’ to build Gaza aid pier in coming weeks, Israel to secure shore

US Army soldiers load an AC unit aboard the USAV Monterey at the pier of the Joint Base Langley-Eustis during a media preview of the 7th Transportation Brigade deployment in Hampton, Virginia, on March 12, 2024. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)
US Army soldiers load an AC unit aboard the USAV Monterey at the pier of the Joint Base Langley-Eustis during a media preview of the 7th Transportation Brigade deployment in Hampton, Virginia, on March 12, 2024. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)

WASHINGTON — The US military is on schedule to build a pier off the Gaza coast to expand humanitarian aid deliveries, the Defense Department says, even as other agencies have pulled back after Israel killed several aid workers.

The pier will be on line by the end of the month or early May, says Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary.

“Everything is on track, on schedule at this point,” Ryder says. He says Israel has agreed to provide security on the shore as aid is transferred and distributed, but details are still being worked out.

On Thursday, several of the Army boats carrying soldiers and equipment for the pier construction were docked in the Canary Islands for fuel and maintenance and are expected to continue on into the Mediterranean Sea. A ship operated by the Military Sealift Command, the USNS Benavidez is in the Mediterranean Sea, near Crete, carrying some of the larger equipment for the project.

Rocket sirens sound in farming towns near Lebanon border

Incoming rocket sirens are activated in Dishon and Malkia, a pair of northern farming communities near the border with Lebanon.

After PM speaks with Biden, ministers okay steps to swiftly ramp up aid flow to Gaza

File - Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, March 14, 2024. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)
File - Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, March 14, 2024. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

In the wake of the deadly strike on the World Central Kitchen convoy and the tense conversation with US President Joe Biden, the security cabinet decides to take immediate steps to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Israel is temporarily opening up Ashdod Port for humanitarian deliveries, and will open Erez Crossing in the northern Gaza Strip for the first time since it was significantly damaged on October 7.

Israel will also increase the amount of aid from Jordan moving through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

“The increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis,” says the PMO, “and is critical for ensuring the continuation of the fighting and achieving the war aims.”

Analysts tie fall in US stocks to headlines on potential Iran strike, US criticism on Gaza war

Wall Street stocks finish sharply lower today, reversing course on a rise in oil prices blamed on worries over the Middle East.

Analysts attribute the climb in crude to multi-month highs to headlines about Israel boosting its defenses against a potential Iran strike and sharper US criticism of Israel’s handling of the Gaza war.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finishes down 1.4 percent at 38,596.98, a drop of about 825 points from its session peak.

The broad-based S&P 500 falls 1.2% to 5,147.21, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index sinks 1.4% to 16,049.08.

Stocks had opened the day higher and appeared poised for a rebound after a sluggish start to the second quarter.

Losses were broad-based with all 11 sectors of the S&P 500 in the red.

An exception is defense-related stocks, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, which advance.

White House downplays reports US has been authorizing major weapons sales to Israel

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby aggressively downplays reports that the US has been approving major weapons sales to Israel, even as it says Jerusalem is failing to protect civilians in Gaza.

“With the exception of the immediate two months after the attack, we haven’t really sent emergency aid and military assistance to Israel,” Kirby says during a press briefing.

“What you’re seeing here is the result of a process of foreign military sales to Israel that takes years,” explaining that much of the reporting is framing these sales as new when they were often green-lit months, if not years ago.

Houthis say 37 killed, 30 wounded in hundreds of US, UK strikes on Yemen

File: Houthi supporters attend a rally against the US-led strikes against Yemen and in the support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Sanaa, Yemen, February 16, 2024, holding a photo of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)
File: Houthi supporters attend a rally against the US-led strikes against Yemen and in the support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Sanaa, Yemen, February 16, 2024, holding a photo of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi. (AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman)

Some 424 US and British airstrikes on targets in Yemen have killed 37 people and wounded 30, according to Abdul Malik al-Houthi, leader of Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Houthis, who control Yemen’s capital and most populous areas, have been attacking ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November in what they say is a campaign of solidarity with Palestinians during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, drawing US and British retaliatory strikes since February.

Al-Houthi, in a televised speech, says 90 ships had been targeted in the Red Sea and drone attacks had increased and expanded to additional regions.

He says 34 attacks had been launched in a month, using 125 ballistic missiles and drones.

The Houthi attacks have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to take longer and more expensive journeys around the southern tip of Africa.

The US and Britain carried out the strikes against Houthi targets in response to the attacks on shipping.

The Biden administration in January re-designated the Houthis as a terrorist organization, partially restoring sanctions it lifted three years ago on the Iran-backed militia group.

Spanish charity working with WCK suspends Gaza aid maritime mission after deadly strike

The Open Arms vessel which ferried food rations provided by aid group World Central Kitchen and slated for the Gaza Strip, is docked in the port of Larnaca on the southern coast of Cyprus on April 3, 2024. (Etienne Torbey/AFP)
The Open Arms vessel which ferried food rations provided by aid group World Central Kitchen and slated for the Gaza Strip, is docked in the port of Larnaca on the southern coast of Cyprus on April 3, 2024. (Etienne Torbey/AFP)

Spanish nongovernmental organization Open Arms says it is joining US charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) in suspending attempts to get aid to Gaza via sea after seven WCK workers were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Monday.

The two charities had worked together in launching a maritime corridor of humanitarian aid to Gaza from Cyprus in March, and had just completed unloading about a third of the shipped cargo when the convoy of WCK workers was hit on April 1.

“This attack, perpetrated by the Israeli Defense Forces last Monday, marks a painful turning point in our efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Open Arms says in a written statement.

About 240 metric tons of food returned to Cyprus yesterday in a ship convoy led by the Open Arms’s salvage ship after the offloading operation was halted in the wake of the killings.

“With the arrival yesterday of the Open Arms ship in Larnaca, Cyprus, the mission in alliance with WCK in the humanitarian corridor to the Gaza Strip is suspended,” Open Arms says.

It quotes Open Arms director Oscar Camps calling Gaza a “dystopian laboratory where people’s blood flows while war technologies are tested and perfected, directed by increasingly automated algorithms that allow all human responsibility to be diluted, using technology and trivializing evil.”

“Now states are rushing to extend their condolences to the families, but they are not showing the same rush to stop the shipment of weapons to this laboratory of destruction,” Camps says. “How much more humanity must be lost in this genocide?”

Israel on Tuesday acknowledged mistakenly carrying out the airstrike that killed seven WCK staff members who were unloading food brought by sea to the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing war there since Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

US expects Israel to take ‘immediate steps’ to protect Gaza aid workers

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby speaks during the daily press briefing in the White House in Washington, DC, April 4, 2024. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)
White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby speaks during the daily press briefing in the White House in Washington, DC, April 4, 2024. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)

The Biden administration expects Israel to take immediate steps to protect Gaza aid workers, even before it completes its investigation into the strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy earlier this week.

“We want to see that, even as the Israelis work their investigation, that they are willing and able to take practical, immediate steps to protect workers on the ground and to demonstrate that they have that civilian harm mitigation in place,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says during a press briefing, adding that “we expect to see some announcements of changes in coming hours and days.”

The White House readout on a call earlier today between Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the US president told the Israeli prime minister that he would determine Washington’s policy regarding the Gaza war based on Israel’s implementation of a series of steps to protect civilians in the Strip.

Kirby goes further with the threat, telling reporters that if Israel fails to boost aid and reduce violence against civilians in Gaza, “there will have to be changes from our side.”

“Absent any movement on a ceasefire that will allow hostages to get out and more aid to get in… [Biden] will have to have to reconsider his own policy choices with respect to Gaza,” Kirby added.

Asked what kinds of concrete steps the White House would like to see from Israel, Kirby says the opening of additional crossings and an increase in the number of aid trucks getting into Gaza, including from Jordan.

The White House spokesperson acknowledges that there has “been growing frustration” from Biden at Netanyahu for failing to heed the president’s warnings.

He says the roughly 30-minute call was “very direct” and “very businesslike,” adding that it was scheduled as a result of the WCK strike.

The leaders also discussed  “a very public and very viable real threat by Iran to Israel’s security and I will leave it at that,” Kirby said days after an alleged Israeli strike on an Iranian mission in Syria that killed a top IRGC official.

Kirby says US Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan were also patched into the Biden-Netanyahu call.

 

IDF: Rocket fired by Islamic Jihad in Gaza hits Sderot road, causing minor damage

The impact site of a rocket fired from Gaza in the southern city of Sderot, April 4, 2024. (Sderot Municipality)
The impact site of a rocket fired from Gaza in the southern city of Sderot, April 4, 2024. (Sderot Municipality)

Two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the southern city of Sderot a short while ago, according to the IDF.

One rocket struck a road in the city, causing slight damage, the municipality says.

The IDF says the second projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.

One more rocket was fired toward the coastal city of Ashkelon, which was also shot down, the IDF says.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

There are no reports of injuries.

Blinken warns: Israel risks becoming indistinguishable from Hamas if it doesn’t protect Gaza civilians

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a signing ceremony at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 4, 2024. (Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a signing ceremony at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 4, 2024. (Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warns that Israel risks becoming indistinguishable from Hamas if it continues to fail to protect civilians amid the Gaza war.

“What happened after October 7 could have ended immediately if Hamas had stopped hiding behind civilians, released the hostages and put down its weapons, but Israel is not Hamas. Israel is a democracy; Hamas, a terrorist organization. Democracies place the highest value on human life, every human life. As it has been said, whoever saves a life, saves the entire world,” Blinken says during a press conference in Brussels, quoting a Jewish proverb.

“That’s our strength. It’s what distinguishes us from terrorists like Hamas. If we lose that reverence for human life, we risk becoming indistinguishable from those we confront.”

“Right now, there is no higher priority in Gaza than protecting civilians, surging humanitarian assistance, and ensuring the security of those who provide it. Israel must meet this moment,” Blinken said.

He notes “important steps” Israel has taken to allow aid into Gaza, but clarifies that “the results on the ground are woefully insufficient and unacceptable,” with 100 percent of Gazans facing acute insecurity.

“This week’s horrific attack on the World Central Kitchen was not the first such incident. It must be the last,” the top US diplomat warns.

Blinken also says that during a call moments before the press conference, US President Joe Biden underscored to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “that an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians, and he urged the prime minister to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home.”

Asked whether this amounted to a shift in US policy away from the belief that a ceasefire can only come through a hostage deal, Blinken responded, “Our conviction remains that we need to see an immediate ceasefire to enable the release of hostages but also to enable a dramatic surge in humanitarian assistance.”

Pressed on when the US would like to see steps implemented by Israel to address the Gaza humanitarian crisis, Blinken says, “as soon as possible.”

Low-cost carrier Ryanair says it will resume flights to and from Israel on June 3

File: A Ryanair plane at Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv. March 2, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
File: A Ryanair plane at Ben Gurion International Airport, outside of Tel Aviv. March 2, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair says it will resume flights to and from Israel on June 3, following Ben Gurion International Airport’s decision to re-open Terminal 1, which is mainly used by low-cost airlines.

“It is great news that Ben Gurion Airport is re-opening Terminal 1, which has enabled Ryanair to resume our Tel Aviv operations with weekly flights to and from Cyprus, Germany, Greece and Italy,” a Ryanair spokesman says.

Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers announces that from June 3 it will operate 40 flights per week from Athens, Bari, Berlin, Budapest, Malta, Milan and Paphos to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

At the end of March, Israel’s Transportation Ministry announced plans to re-open Terminal 1 from June 1, after its closure as the war broke out with the shock Hamas-led October 7 onslaught in southern Israel and almost all major international airlines suspended flights to Tel Aviv.

Ryanair on February 27 re-suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv, a month after it resumed its operations in Israel with a reduced schedule. The low-cost carrier said that the closure of Terminal 1, which is mainly used by charter and budget airlines as well as for domestic air traffic, had forced it to use Terminal 3, which charges higher fees.

Liberman: Netanyahu refused opportunities to kill Haniyeh multiple times between 2016 and 2018

Israel Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman says there were multiple opportunities to assassinate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh during his term as defense minister between 2016 and 2018, but they were shot down by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There were enough opportunities. Every time Netanyahu prevented it, with one excuse or another,” he says during an interview with the Kan broadcaster.

Liberman also charges that the entire general staff had a “defeatist attitude” while he was pushing for a more aggressive approach.

Haniyeh has lived in Qatar, which hosts the terror group’s political bureau, since he was replaced by Yahya Sinwar as Hamas leader in Gaza in 2017.

Hamas appears to reject latest Gaza ceasefire proposal from Egypt

A senior Hamas leader says Egypt has put forward a ceasefire and hostage release proposal, but that it does not include anything new and that the terror group will not back down from any of its previous demands, days after an Israeli negotiating team returned from Cairo having drawn up the updated draft.

The unnamed official charges that the US and Egyptian mediators wanted to keep the ceasefire process alive despite their conviction that there was a wide gap between Israel and Hamas, but said that nevertheless, a new round of talks may be held in Cairo next week, ahead of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.

“The Hamas leadership informed the Egyptian and Qatari mediators that what is being offered cannot be accepted, as it is a continuation of the stubborn Israeli position,” he adds.

Earlier, Hamas politburo official Osama Hamdan said in a press conference from Beirut that there has been no progress in Gaza ceasefire talks despite the Palestinian terror group showing flexibility.

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

Rocket alert sirens sounding in Ashkelon, Gaza border communities

Sirens are sounding in the southern cities of Sderot and Ashkelon, following renewed rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The attack comes around an hour after rockets were fired on the southern city of Netivot.

Earlier today, rockets were launched from Gaza at other communities along the border.

 

Iron Dome intercepted 2 rockets fired from Gaza at Netivot – IDF

File: Smoke trails seen in the sky as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip target Ashdod, March 25, 2024. (X video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
File: Smoke trails seen in the sky as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip target Ashdod, March 25, 2024. (X video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The IDF says two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip toward the southern city of Netivot were intercepted by the Iron Dome.

There are no reports of injuries in the attacks, the first in the area since January 16.

Biden to Netanyahu: Immediate ceasefire needed to stabilize humanitarian situation, protect civilians

This combination photo shows US President Joe Biden, left, on March 8, 2024, in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, October 28, 2023. (AP Photo)
This combination photo shows US President Joe Biden, left, on March 8, 2024, in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, October 28, 2023. (AP Photo)

US President Joe Biden tells Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call that an immediate ceasefire is needed in Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas, sparked by the terror group’s October 7 onslaught.

Biden underscored “that an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians, and he urged the prime minister to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home,” according to a White House readout.

Biden also indicates to Netanyahu during the call that Washington’s policy regarding the war in Gaza will fundamentally change if Israel doesn’t implement a series of concrete steps to address the humanitarian crisis and protect aid workers.

Biden “made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers,” the White House readout added.

The call between the two leaders was the first since an IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy killed seven aid workers earlier this week.

“He made clear that US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps,” the White House says, adding that both recent Israeli strikes on aid workers along with the overall humanitarian situation in the Strip are “unacceptable.”

The line indicates a further step toward a US position that detaches its demand for an immediate ceasefire from its demand from Hamas to free the remaining hostages. Previous US statements have been more clear that the only way to secure a ceasefire is by Hamas agreeing to release the hostages.

The statement also points to US displeasure with Netanyahu’s handling of the hostage talks, suggesting that he has not been empowering Israel’s negotiating team to reach a deal with Hamas.

The US readout adds that “the two leaders also discussed public Iranian threats against Israel and the Israeli people. President Biden made clear that the United States strongly supports Israel in the face of those threats.”

Rocket alerts sound in Netivot, nearby communities for first time in almost 3 months

Incoming rocket sirens are sounding in the southern city of Netivot and nearby communities, for the first time in nearly three months.

Locals report seeing at least two Iron Dome interceptions in the area, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says there are no reports of injuries in the attack, aside from a handful of people who were slightly hurt after falling over while running to bomb shelters.

The last time rocket sirens sounded in Netivot was on January 16.

Hagari says IDF disrupting GPS signals in central Israel to ‘neutralize threats’

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari acknowledges that the military has disrupted GPS signals in central Israel, in what he says is part of efforts to “neutralize some threats.”

“Over the past day, we initiated GPS disruptions in order to neutralize threats. This effort assists in neutralizing some threats, therefore this method was used,” he says in a press conference.

“We are aware that these disruptions cause inconveniences, but it is a vital and necessary tool in our defensive capabilities,” Hagari adds.

The GPS disruptions have previously been widely reported in northern Israel or areas close to Gaza, but have been less common in central Israel. They come a day after the IDF said that it bolstered its air defense array and had called up reservists, as the country girded for a potential Iranian response to a strike in Syria earlier this week blamed on Israel in which several high-ranking Iranian military officials were killed.

Netanyahu on Iranian threats: ‘Those who harm us or plan to harm us, we will harm’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a security cabinet meeting, April 4, 2024. (Channel 12 screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a security cabinet meeting, April 4, 2024. (Channel 12 screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at a meeting of the security cabinet soon after his phone call with US President Joe Biden, relates to the threats emanating from Iran.

“Iran has been acting against us for years — directly and via proxies. And, therefore, Israel acts against Iran and its proxies — defensively and offensively,” he says.

Netanyahu adds: “We will know how to defend ourselves, and we will act according to the simple principle: that those who harm us or plan to harm us, we will harm.”

Foreign Ministry denies reports Israel shuttering embassies amid Iran revenge threats

The Foreign Ministry denies reports in Hebrew media that Jerusalem is shuttering embassies around the world amid threats from Iran to retaliate for a strike earlier this week on one of its consular buildings in Damascus that it blames on Israel.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson tells The Times of Israel no embassies have been evacuated and no evacuations are planned at this time.

An Israeli diplomat stationed abroad also denies the reports.

“I’m not aware of any evacuation plans,” the diplomat tells the Times of Israel on condition of anonymity.

While Israel has not claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, which killed Iran’s top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general in Syria along with his deputy and five other IRGC officers, Tehran has blamed Jerusalem and vowed revenge. The IRGC is a US-designated terror group.

Dr. Phil on Hamas’s October 7 atrocities: ‘I don’t give a damn why they did it — it’s wrong’

Dr. Phil calls on pro-Palestinian activists to condemn Hamas’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel, during an episode featuring Mosab Hassan Yousef, the disowned eldest son of the co-founder of Hamas.

“There are some things that are just fundamental human decency,” he says in response to one of the two activists who appeared on the show alongside Yousef.

“When I ask you if what happened on October 7th is something you condemn and you say well you have to look at that by looking at hundreds of years of conflict, no you don’t. That’s either right or it’s wrong, and it was wrong, and I don’t need a hundred years of conflict to know it was wrong.”

“Let me tell you something. When someone comes over a fence and goes into someone’s house and burns their infant in its crib, I don’t give a damn why they did it — it’s wrong,” he adds.

War erupted in Gaza after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Biden, Netanyahu speak in wake of deadly Israeli airstrike on aid workers

United States President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have completed a phone call widely expected to be difficult, with the president reported to be fuming over the Israeli attack that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza earlier this week.

The two leaders reportedly began speaking around 7 p.m. and talked for some 45 minutes.

The White House has described Biden, who has a close personal relationship with WCK founder Jose Andres, as heartbroken by the attack. Israel has called the incident a “grave mistake” and vowed an in-depth investigation into how it occurred.

Senior Democrat backs conditioning Israel aid if Rafah op launched sans provisions to protect civilians

A senior Democratic lawmaker, who is a close ally to US President Joe Biden and a longtime Israel backer, says he would support conditioning aid to Jerusalem for the first time if the IDF moves forward with a massive invasion of Rafah without ensuring that the nearly 1.5 million civilians sheltering there are protected.

“I think we’re at the point where President Biden has said and I have said… [that] if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to order the IDF into Rafah at scale, [if] they were to drop 1,000-pound bombs and send in a battalion to go after Hamas and make no provision for civilians or for humanitarian aid, that I would vote to condition aid to Israel,” Sen. Chris Coons tells CNN.

Israel has insisted that it will only move forward with the Rafah operation once it has cleared civilians from the southern Gaza city, but the US has expressed increased skepticism that the IDF will be able to pull off such a major evacuation, pointing to the already dire humanitarian situation in the enclave.

“I’ve never been here before. I’ve been a strong supporter of Israel the whole time,” he notes.

Coons points out that Congress just appropriated another $3.3 billion in support for Israel and wants to maintain a close relationship with the Jewish state.

“But the tactics by which the current prime minister is making these decisions don’t reflect the best values of Israel or of the United States,” he adds, clarifying that he would be able to support more targeted operations against Hamas.

“I think we can move forward if we see real seriousness about addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as well as the security crisis that Israel continues to face,” Coons says, highlighting northern Gaza as a particularly hard-struck area, which is largely under the IDF’s control.

France’s Macron says he has no doubt Russia will try to target Paris Olympics

French President Emmanuel Macron (C) and officials, surrounded by journalists, talk to children after their swimming performance during the inauguration of the Olympic aquatics centre (CAO), a multifunctional venue for the Paris 2024 Olympics, in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, on April 4, 2024. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron (C) and officials, surrounded by journalists, talk to children after their swimming performance during the inauguration of the Olympic aquatics centre (CAO), a multifunctional venue for the Paris 2024 Olympics, in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, on April 4, 2024. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool/AFP)

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron says he has no doubt Russia will malevolently target the Paris Olympics this summer, in comments that underline the fraught geopolitical backdrop to the games.

“I have no doubt whatsoever, including in terms of information,” Macron says in response to a reporter’s question about whether he thought that Russia would try to target the Olympics.

The Russian embassy in Paris does not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Macron’s remarks, delivered at an event in Paris for the inauguration of the new Olympics aquatic center, represent his most explicit acknowledgment to date of foreign threats to the security or smooth running of the games.

IDF: Probe into deadly strike on Gaza aid convoy complete, will be presented soon

People gather around the carcass of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen, that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. (AFP)
People gather around the carcass of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen, that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. (AFP)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says the military’s probe into a deadly strike on an aid convoy in Gaza earlier this week has been completed, and it will soon be presented to the public.

Responding to a question at a press conference, Hagari says the incident, in which seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen were killed, was investigated “thoroughly” by the General Staff Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism, an independent military body responsible for investigating unusual incidents amid the war.

He says the head of the mechanism, Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Har-Even, presented the findings to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi earlier today, and was due to present it to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well.

“I believe that after we present it to the ambassadors of the relevant countries, and to the people of WCK, we will publicize it in a clear transparent way, soon,” Hagari adds.

Gallant holds ‘multi-front situational assessment’ with top security officials

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant holds a situation assessment with top officials including IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the head of the Shin Bet Ronen Bar, Mossad Director David Barnea, the ministry's Director General Eyal Zamir, April 4, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant holds a situation assessment with top officials including IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the head of the Shin Bet Ronen Bar, Mossad Director David Barnea, the ministry's Director General Eyal Zamir, April 4, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held a “multi-front situational assessment” today with top defense and military officials, his office says.

Participating in the meeting were IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the head of the Shin Bet Ronen Bar; Mossad Director David Barnea; the ministry’s Director General Eyal Zamir; and other top IDF commanders and defense officials.

IDF spokesperson: Fighter jets are ready ‘for a variety of scenarios’

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in a press statement says Israel is taking every threat against it seriously, and that fighter jets are ready for “a variety of scenarios.”

“In the past six months, we have been in a multi-front war. We are on heightened alert in all the arenas. We are looking at the threats and foiling them all the time, on several fronts, and are at a high level of readiness for defense and offense. We are constantly carrying out assessments, and take seriously any statement and all enemies,” he says.

“We have strengthened alertness in combat units, bolstered [air] defense systems, and we have planes prepared for defense, and ready for attack,” Hagari says.

He says the IDF is deployed “at all of the borders” and is ready “for a variety of scenarios.”

“We must not be complacent, and at the same time, it’s important for me to emphasize that there is no change in the Home Front Command instructions,” Hagari continues.

“Your responsible behavior on the home front saves lives. My only recommendation is to be vigilant and stay tuned for updates,” he adds.

Iran officials: Retaliation for Damascus strike will be ‘limited, aimed at deterrence’

Two Iranian officials indicate Tehran will not veer from the approach it has adopted since October of avoiding direct conflict with Israel and the United States, while simultaneously backing allies who have hit Israel, US troops and Red Sea shipping in attacks they say aim to support Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing war.

The comments come after both Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah vowed retaliation against Israel for a Monday attack on Iran’s embassy in Damascus, in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ most senior official in Syria, along with his deputy, five other IRGC officers and at least one member of the Hezbollah terror group died.

One of the Iranian officials, a senior source, tells Reuters that Tehran was compelled to give a serious response to prevent Israel from repeating such attacks or escalating.

But the level of retaliation will be limited and aimed at deterrence, the official says, without elaborating.

The public relations office of the IRGC — a US-designated terrorist organization — declined to comment.

Israel has not publicly commented on or claimed responsibility for the attack.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Trump says he’s not ‘loving the way’ Israel is conducting war in Gaza

Former US president and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on April 2, 2024. (Alex Wroblewski/AFP)
Former US president and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Hyatt Regency in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on April 2, 2024. (Alex Wroblewski/AFP)

Former US president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump says he’s not “loving the way” Israel is prosecuting its war against Hamas in Gaza, again taking issue with what he says has been the IDF’s regular publication of clips showing buildings it has demolished in the enclave.

“What I said very plainly is get it over with, and let’s get back to peace and stop killing people,” Trump says in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt.

He clarifies that he wants Israel to secure a “victory,” but laments that “it’s taking a long time,” and advises Netanyahu to quickly wrap up the war.

Trump accuses Israel of “releasing the most heinous, most horrible tapes of buildings falling down. People are imagining there are a lot of people in those buildings… and they don’t like it… To me, it doesn’t make them look tough. They’re losing the PR war.”

“But they’ve got to finish what they started, and they’ve got to finish it fast, and we have to get on with life,” the former US president adds.

Health Ministry report highlights gaps in healthcare delivery in Arab sector

Inequalities in healthcare in Israel need to be reduced according to research the Health Ministry shares publicly today.

The ministry’s “Inequalities in the Healthcare System and How to Address Them” report, based on data from 2022, specifically highlights lacunae in healthcare delivery in the Arab sector and the difficulties the country’s growing population faces in scheduling appointments for medical services.

According to the report, the overall average life expectancy is now 82.7. The highest life expectancies are in the greater Tel Aviv area (84) and Judea and Samaria (83.9). Residents of the northern and southern regions of the country have the lowest life expectancy (81.3).

Jews and non-Arabs with the highest life expectancy live in the greater Tel Aviv area (84.3) and Jerusalem (84.1). The life expectancy among Arabs is lower and the highest life expectancy can be found among those living in the north (80.1) and Jerusalem (79.3).

Although newborn mortality rates in Israel have decreased by 20 percent in the last decade and are lower than the OECD average, there are still 5.1 deaths per 1,000 live births among Arabs and 2.1 per 1,000 among Jews. The report suggests that the gap can be attributed in part to culturally different attitudes toward prenatal genetic testing and inequalities in access to women’s and children’s health services.

The report indicates that there are significant inequalities in the number of doctors, including specialists and surgeons, in various areas of the country.

The number of hospital beds countrywide went down over the last 10 years, with the impact seen mostly in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. The north and south retained their number of beds, but inequalities between those regions and Israel’s larger cities have not been significantly reduced.

Finally, the data shows that visits to hospital emergency rooms are higher in areas categorized as lower on the socioeconomic scale. This holds for Jewish, Arab and mixed communities. This appears to be a result of insufficient community healthcare infrastructure in these communities.

Herzog on anti-government protests: ‘Violence is a red line that must not be crossed’

Police clash with demonstrators during an anti-government protest outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, April 2, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Police clash with demonstrators during an anti-government protest outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, April 2, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog says “violence is a red line that must not be crossed,” after an anti-government demonstration this week descended into what police described as an “unbridled riot.”

“It is clear to all of us that the right to demonstrate and protest is one of the fundamental rights in our democracy,” Herzog is quoted by Hebrew media as saying.

“But there is a way to argue and disagree and demonstrate. Violence is a red line that must not be crossed under any circumstances,” he says, adding that “internal division is a big incentive for our enemies.”

Herzog’s comments echo a warning yesterday from Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, who said that violent discourse both online and at Tuesday’s protest in Jerusalem “go beyond acceptable protest.”

Tuesday night’s demonstration, which began at the Knesset and ended near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence, descended into violence when demonstrators closed in on the premier’s home. Officers and demonstrators were treated for injuries sustained throughout the night, including one officer at whom a protester had lobbed a burning torch.

Poll: Squad’s NY Rep. Bowman down 17 points to challenger backed by pro-Israel groups

File - Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a New York Democrat, from left, speaks alongside Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, Rep. Jonathan Jackson, an Illinois Democrat, and Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, during a vigil with state legislators and faith leaders currently on hunger strike outside the White House to demand that US President Joe Biden call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, on November 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)
File - Rep. Jamaal Bowman, a New York Democrat, from left, speaks alongside Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, Rep. Jonathan Jackson, an Illinois Democrat, and Rep. Cori Bush, a Missouri Democrat, during a vigil with state legislators and faith leaders currently on hunger strike outside the White House to demand that US President Joe Biden call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, on November 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

A new poll indicates New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman — a member of the progressive “Squad” of lawmakers who has become increasingly critical of Israel — is down by 17 points to his challenger in the primary election, Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

The poll was commissioned by the Democratic Majority for Israel, which has endorsed Latimer in the race to represent New York’s 16th district. The more left-leaning Jewish Democratic Council of America is also backing Latimer.

The poll shows Latimer leading Bowman 52% to 35% among Democratic primary voters. That lead grows to 21% when only Democrats who voted in the last three of four primaries are surveyed. The poll was conducted by veteran Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who heads DMFI.

To be trailing this significantly more than two months ahead of the election is typically a bad sign for incumbents.

But Bowman’s campaign spokesman Bill Neidhart dismissed the survey as “junk,” noting that Mellman had incorrect polls in the 2020 race when Bowman ousted longtime pro-Israel stalwart Rep. Elliot Engel.

3 rockets fired from Gaza set off sirens in Kfar Aza; IDF: no injuries or damage

Three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip a short while ago, setting off sirens in the border community of Kfar Aza.

According to the IDF, all three projectiles hit open areas, causing no injuries or damage.

Hamas official: No progress in Gaza truce talks, Netanyahu ‘not interested’ in freeing hostages

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan says there has been no progress in Gaza truce talks despite the terror group showing flexibility.

Hamdan accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of placing obstacles hindering both parties from reaching an agreement, and says that the Israeli leader is “not interested” in securing the release of the hostages held by the terror group since the October 7 massacre in southern Israel.

“The occupation government is still evading, and negotiations are stuck in a vicious circle,” Hamdan says at a press conference held in Beirut.

The statement comes after the terror group’s Doha-based leader Ismail Haniyeh insisted that Hamas would not retreat from its demand for a permanent ceasefire in exchange for the release of the hostages. Hamas terrorists seized 253 people from Israel on October 7, of whom 130 are still in captivity in Gaza.

Israel has said that it will only agree to a temporary pause in fighting and that the war will not end until the terror group has been eliminated from Gaza in its entirety. It has rejected Hamas’s conditioning hostage releases on an end to the war and the withdrawal of IDF troops as “delusional.”

Amid GPS disruptions, IDF tells Israelis to set location manually on app for rocket alerts

The IDF recommends that Israelis manually set their location on the Home Front Command app to receive rocket alerts, amid reports of widespread disruptions to navigation apps such as Google Maps, Waze, and other systems that use global positioning system (GPS).

The GPS signal disruptions have been part of the IDF’s efforts to prevent attacks on Israel.

GPS disruptions have been happening for months, especially in northern Israel and areas close to Gaza, but have been less common in central Israel.

IDF says no change in guidelines for civilians even as Iran threatens retaliation: No need to ‘buy generators, stock up on food, withdraw cash’

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari delivers an English-language video statement, March 24, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari delivers an English-language video statement, March 24, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

With the IDF on high alert for a potential Iranian response to Israel’s alleged assassination of Iran’s top IRGC commander in Syria and with five other IRGC officers, the military says there is so far no change in instructions for civilians.

Instructions issued by the Home Front Command during the war remain unchanged, and the IDF says it will notify the public if any changes occur.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in a post on X says Israeli civilians do not need to “buy generators, stock up on food and withdraw money from ATMs.”

“The instructions of the Home Front Command remained unchanged,” he says.

“As we have done until today, we will immediately update on any change, in an official and orderly manner,” Hagari adds.

Amid the heightened alert, the IDF has called up reservists to bolster its air defense array.

Possible scenarios that the IDF is preparing for include missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen — all of which have been carried out amid the ongoing Gaza war — and ballistic missile attacks directly from Iran, a situation that Israel has not yet faced.

The IDF also has halted home leave for all combat troops over the weekend, as Friday is assessed to be a sensitive day amid Ramadan.

Bulgarian police uncover weapons cache linked to 4 Hamas suspects arrested in December

File - Two suspects are led from a helicopter to a car by police officers at a helipad in Karlsruhe, Germany, December 15, 2023. (Uli Deck/dpa via AP)
File - Two suspects are led from a helicopter to a car by police officers at a helipad in Karlsruhe, Germany, December 15, 2023. (Uli Deck/dpa via AP)

Bulgarian police have uncovered a stash of weapons linked to four suspected Hamas members arrested in Germany and the Netherlands in December, according to German media reports and AFP sources.

Three suspected members of the Palestinian terror group were arrested in Germany and one in the Netherlands on December 14 on suspicion of making preparations for an attack against Jewish targets in Europe.

German prosecutors said at the time that the four men had been gathering weapons to be “kept in a state of readiness in view of potential terrorist attacks against Jewish institutions in Europe.”

Der Spiegel magazine reported yesterday that police had found photos of pistols, ammunition and magazines on a mobile phone belonging to one of the men, which led investigators to a stash of weapons buried under a pine tree in southern Bulgaria.

German sources confirm to AFP that a stash of weapons has been found in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian prosecutors and the interior ministry decline to confirm the report.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in January that the suspects were part of a Hamas network of operatives in Europe commanded by terror leaders in Lebanon.

IDF carries out airstrikes on Hezbollah sites in south Lebanon

The IDF says it carried out airstrikes against Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon’s Yaroun, Aynata, and Maroun al-Ras a short while ago.

It publishes footage of the strikes.

House damaged as Hezbollah fires missiles at Western Galilee; IDF shells source of fire

Several projectiles were fired from Lebanon at the Western Galilee a short while ago.

One home is reportedly damaged in the border community of Shlomi.

Hezbollah claims responsibility, saying it fired missiles at an IDF position in the area.

The IDF says it is shelling the launch sites with artillery.

Poland to summon Israeli ambassador over ‘outrageous’ comment in wake of killing of aid worker

Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne pays his respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw on July 12, 2022. (Courtesy)
Israeli Ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne pays his respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw on July 12, 2022. (Courtesy)

A new diplomatic crisis between Poland and Israel has erupted following the death of a Polish aid worker in Gaza, with the Polish president denouncing a comment by the Israeli ambassador as “outrageous” and the Foreign Ministry in Warsaw saying it was summoning him for a meeting.

A 35-year-old Polish man was among seven people who were killed by a strike while delivering food to Palestinians with the charity World Central Kitchen. Israel has called the incident a “mistake” that followed a misidentification. The charity said its vehicles were clearly marked.

Amid shock in Poland over the death of the aid worker, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Yacov Livne, pushed back at what he said were attempts by the “extreme right and left in Poland” to accuse Israel of “intentional murder in the attack.”

He said on social media on Tuesday that “anti-Semites will always remain anti-Semites, and Israel will remain a democratic Jewish state that fights for its right to exist. Also for the good of the entire Western world.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda calls the comment “outrageous” and describes the ambassador as “the biggest problem for the state of Israel in relations with Poland.”

Duda says authorities in Israel have spoken about the tragedy “in a very subdued way,” but adds, “Unfortunately, their ambassador to Poland is not able to maintain such delicacy and sensitivity, which is unacceptable.”

Prime Minister Donald Tusk, while a political opponent of Duda’s, voices a similar position.

He says that the comment was unacceptable and had offended Poles, and that the ambassador should apologize.

The deputy foreign minister was quoted in the Polish media as saying that Livne was summoned to a meeting on Friday morning.

War cabinet to meet tonight on Iran tensions, Gaza aid

The war cabinet will meet tonight followed by a meeting of the larger security cabinet.

Among the issues they are expected to discuss are the tensions with Iran, which has threatened to retaliate for a strike in Damascus that killed several top IRGC generals, increasing aid to the Gaza Strip and the ongoing talks for a hostage release deal.

IDF intel chief tells troops Israel faces ‘complex days,’ not clear that worst is behind us

Military Intelligence Directorate chief Maj. Gen Aharon Haliva speaks at an intelligence officers' graduation ceremony, January 3, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Military Intelligence Directorate chief Maj. Gen Aharon Haliva speaks at an intelligence officers' graduation ceremony, January 3, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate tells subordinate officers that Israel is to face “complex days.”

“I have told you more than once that it is not certain that the worst is behind us, and we have complex days ahead of us,” Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva says in remarks released by the IDF.

Haliva’s comments are made during a talk with commanders in the directorate’s Research Department, after the unit’s commander Brig. Gen. Amit Saar, quit upon being diagnosed with cancer.

A former chief of the department, Brig. Gen. (res.) Itai Brun — who led the unit between 2011 and 2015 and has been in reserves since October 7 — will fill his place temporarily.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meanwhile appoints Col. “Aleph” — who can only be identified by his rank and first initial in Hebrew — to be the next head of the unit.

Aleph will be promoted to the rank of brigadier general and enter the role in the coming months. He previously was a senior commander in the directorate’s Unit 8200.

UN rights council votes to extend probe into Iran crackdown on protests by a year

Iranians protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, October 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Middle East Images, File)
Iranians protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, October 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Middle East Images, File)

The UN Human Rights Council prolongs by a year an independent international fact-finding mission investigating Iran’s deadly crackdown on protests that erupted in 2022.

The United Nations’ top rights body extended the mission, and the mandate of the council’s special rapporteur on Iran, Javaid Rehman, with 24 votes in favor, eight against and 15 abstentions in the 47-member chamber.

It says the extension for Rehman was necessary to “continue to monitor the ongoing situation of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.”

It also decides to keep up the fact-finding mission to allow it to complete its work, “including by ensuring that the large amount of evidence of human rights violations” relating to the protests, “especially with respect to women and children, is fully and effectively documented, verified, consolidated and preserved.”

Iran was rocked by widespread demonstrations sparked by the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who had been arrested for allegedly violating the strict dress rule for women based on Islamic sharia law.

Tehran does not cooperate with either Rehman or the fact-finding mission and they have not been allowed on Iranian soil.

Jerusalem hospital holds mass casualty drill as Iran tensions spike

Medical personnel take part in a mass casualty drill at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center on April 4, 2024 ( Shaare Zedek)
Medical personnel take part in a mass casualty drill at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center on April 4, 2024 ( Shaare Zedek)

Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem holds a mass casualty event drill today.

The simulation comes as the country is on edge and the IDF ramps up its air defenses following Iran’s threat to retaliate for a lethal airstrike on Damascus on Monday.

The attack, which Iran attributes to Israel, killed Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ most senior official in Syria, along with his deputy, five other IRGC officers, and at least one member of the Hezbollah terror group.

The mass casualty drill simulated the handling of an influx of 100 wounded as a result of missile or rocket attacks on Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

Around 100 hospital staff members participated in the exercise, which was coordinated with emergency and rescue services.

The participants practiced the triaging and treating of patients with a variety of possible injuries, the transfer of patients to other hospitals, and other situations that could arise.

“We do these drills routinely, but during the current period, it is obvious to everyone that this preparedness is more important than ever. We continue to be ready for any occurrence but hope for quiet,” says Shaare Zedek CEO Prof. Ofer Merin.

Rocket warning sirens sound in Western Galilee

Rocket warning sirens are sounding in the Western Galilee.

Sirens are sounding in the community of Betzet and in the Achziv industrial zone.

 

IDF says ultra-Orthodox battalion operating in Gaza, killed Hamas cell

Troops of the Netzah Yehuda Battalion operate in northern Gaza's Beit Hanoun, in a handout image published April 4, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Netzah Yehuda Battalion operate in northern Gaza's Beit Hanoun, in a handout image published April 4, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Over the past week, the IDF says, the Gaza Division’s Northern Brigade and the Kfir Brigade’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion operated in the Beit Hanoun area in the northern part of the Strip.

Amid the “targeted” operation, troops destroyed dozens of sites, including buildings, used by Hamas and other terror groups, according to the IDF.

The IDF says the Netzah Yehuda troops also encountered and killed a Hamas cell that came out of a tunnel in the Beit Hanoun area during the operation.

Among the gunmen that were killed was a Hamas company commander, the IDF says.

The Netzah Yehuda Battalion is made up of ultra-Orthodox and religious troops, and is normally deployed to the West Bank.

Lidor Levy, 34, dies of wounds from Gan Yavne terror stabbing attack

An undated photo of Lidor Levy, 34, who died on April 4, 2024 of wounds sustained in a Gan Yavne stabbing attack (Courtesy)
An undated photo of Lidor Levy, 34, who died on April 4, 2024 of wounds sustained in a Gan Yavne stabbing attack (Courtesy)

Lidor Levy, a victim of the terror attack in Gan Yavne on Sunday, died of his wounds at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv this morning.

Levy, a computer engineer, was 34. He leaves behind a pregnant wife, a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, parents, and a brother and sister.

Levy was seriously wounded on Sunday when the terrorist went on a stabbing spree at the local mall. Another man was also seriously injured and a teenager was moderately injured. All three were rushed to Assuta Medical Center in Ashdod, with Levy being later transferred to Ichilov for neurosurgery for a penetrative head injury.

The attacker, a 19-year-old Palestinian from Dura in the southern West Bank, was shot dead by security officers who responded to the scene.

Levy was seriously wounded in 2009 during his service with the IDF Combat Engineering Corps in Gaza. Despite his subsequent exemption from reserve military duty, he tried to get the army to call him up during the current war.

“Lidor was an exemplary father, spouse, brother and son. He was a person full of love, nobleness, and generosity…We are left with a huge hole in our hearts. We will continue to live our lives according to the values he inculcated in us as a way of memorializing him,” his family said in a statement issued by the hospital.

Human Rights Watch says Israeli strikes on Gaza building in October killed 106 civilians

Palestinians search for survivors in the rubble of a building in the Nuseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip on October 31, 2023 (Photo by Mahmud HAMS / AFP)
Palestinians search for survivors in the rubble of a building in the Nuseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip on October 31, 2023 (Photo by Mahmud HAMS / AFP)

Human Rights Watch says an Israeli strike on a Gaza apartment building in October killed at least 106 civilians, including 54 children.

The New York-based rights group says its investigation into the attack, published today, found no evidence of any military target, making it a war crime.

The attack was one of the deadliest since the start of the war nearly six months ago after Hamas invaded Israel, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and kidnapping 253.

Human Rights Watch says four separate strikes collapsed the Engineer’s Building in central Gaza’s Nuseirat, which was housing some 350 people, around a third of whom had fled their homes elsewhere in the territory.

Those killed included children playing soccer outside and residents charging phones in the first-floor grocery store.

The rights group says it interviewed 16 people, including relatives of those killed in the October 31 strike, and analyzed satellite imagery, 35 photographs and 45 videos of the aftermath. It was unable to visit the site because Israel heavily restricts access to Gaza.

Witnesses told the rights group there was no warning ahead of the attack. Human Rights Watch says Israeli authorities have not published any information about the purported target and did not respond to its requests for information.

The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press today.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas, which operates in dense, residential areas.

Lebanon’s billionaire PM denies allegations of money laundering in France

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets with France's foreign minister at the government palace in Beirut on February 6, 2024. (Joseph Eid/AFP)
Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets with France's foreign minister at the government palace in Beirut on February 6, 2024. (Joseph Eid/AFP)

Lebanon’s billionaire caretaker prime minister has denied all allegations of money laundering after a complaint was filed in France by two anti-corruption groups this week.

The complaint against Najib Mikati was formally filed Tuesday to France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s office by French anti-corruption non-governmental organization Sherpa and the Collective of Victims of Fraudulent and Criminal Practices.

In a statement, Sherpa said the objective is to “shed light on the conditions under which Lebanese political figures like Najib Mikati accumulated considerable wealth and on the role of financial intermediaries who facilitated these acquisitions.”

No details were immediately available about the sums of money involved.

The group said it drew the attention of French prosecutors to the conditions under which Mikati “has accumulated significant assets in France. The complaint also questions the origin of the funds that transited through the French banking system.”

Mikati said he and members of his family have always acted in accordance with the law, in a statement published by Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency. The statement defends the family’s “integrity” and said its business is characterized by “complete transparency.”

French prosecutors have yet to decide whether to launch an investigation.

One of the richest men in Lebanon, Mikati, 68, has served as prime minister since 2021.

Wanted Palestinian killed in West Bank raid — Border Police

Border Police officers killed a wanted Palestinian during an arrest raid in the Jenin area in the northern West Bank overnight, the military and police say.

Police say that during an attempt to arrest the wanted man, he fled. The officers opened fire, killing him.

The incident took place in the Jenin-area town of Yabed, according to Palestinian media.

He was named by Palestinian media as Asaad Issam al-Qaniri, 28. Reports said he was a former prisoner in Israel.

Another 20 wanted Palestinians were arrested by troops elsewhere in the West Bank during overnight raids, the IDF says.

Poland calls on Israel to pay compensation to family of aid worker killed in Gaza strike

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw on March 28, 2024 (Wojtek Radwanski / AFP)
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw on March 28, 2024 (Wojtek Radwanski / AFP)

Israel should apologize and pay compensation to the family of a Polish national who was among seven aid workers killed in an airstrike in Gaza, Poland’s prime minister says.

“We will expect… an immediate explanation of the circumstances and compensation for the victims’ relatives,” Donald Tusk says at a news conference.

Dozens of IDF orphans celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs at Western Wall

Families light memorial candles for their loved ones just before the bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies for children of fallen IDF soldiers at the Western Wall on April 3, 2024 (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)
Families light memorial candles for their loved ones just before the bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies for children of fallen IDF soldiers at the Western Wall on April 3, 2024 (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)

Dozens gather in the Western Wall plaza to celebrate the bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies of 52 children who have lost at least one parent in IDF military action.

The IDF Orphans and Widows Organization is hosting the celebration, which includes five children who lost parents in the current Israel-Hamas war.

Organizers expect at least 200 guests to arrive throughout the afternoon.

The festivities begin with a communal ceremony, after which the boys and girls will split up for separate smaller events.

There will also be a third section for non-Jewish children, primarily Druze and Bedouin, who are included in the initiative.

The main ceremony is being jointly conducted by the chief rabbi of the Kotel, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, and the chief rabbi of the IDF, Rabbi Eyal Moshe Krim.

Shin Bet says it foiled plot by Palestinians, Arab Israelis to carry out attacks, including killing Ben Gvir

The suspects arrested for an alleged plot to kill National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in a image released on April 4, 2024 (Shin Bet)
The suspects arrested for an alleged plot to kill National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in a image released on April 4, 2024 (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security agency says it has foiled plans by a cell of Palestinians and Arab Israelis who worked to carry out terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank, including against National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Seven Arab Israelis and four West Bank Palestinians were arrested over the plot.

According to the Shin Bet, the cell planned attacks against IDF bases and other sensitive sites, including Ben Gurion Airport and the government complex in Jerusalem.

The cell also planned to carry out an attack in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba. “Within this framework, there was even an intention to assassinate National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, by obtaining an RPG missile in order to carry out the attack,” the Shin Bet says.

The agency says the cell also sought to kidnap IDF soldiers.

According to the Shin Bet, the cell planned to rent a plot of land in southern Israel’s Rahat or an area in the West Bank to establish a factory with an underground complex where they would manufacture weapons and train.

The agency says the cell members worked to contact Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip to receive funding and instructions. At least one of the Palestinian detainees was in contact with a Hamas operative in Gaza, who offered funding for attacks in Israel, the Shin Bet says.

The Arab Israeli suspects are named as Bilal Nassara, the head of the cell, from Rahat; Wissam Siwati, from Rahat; Hamza Ghaith, from Rahat; Saud Abu Laban, from Rahat; Sameh al-Obra, from Rahat; Yousef Abu Hawli, from Lod; and Fahmi Kathani, from Ma’ale Iron.

The Palestinian suspects are named as Akram Ammer, responsible for recruitment, from Tulkarem; Muhammad Sabheh, from Tulkarem; Ahmed Atiq, from Jenin; and Ahmed Saleh, from Jenin.

Indictments were filed today at the Beersheba District Court against 10 of the suspects.

IDF details internal probes into October 7 failures, expects findings by June

A Palestinian stands on an Israeli tank at the border fence near the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip after some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst through the border and entered Israel, slaughtering some 1,200 people, October 7, 2023. (Yousef Mohammed/Flash90)
A Palestinian stands on an Israeli tank at the border fence near the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip after some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst through the border and entered Israel, slaughtering some 1,200 people, October 7, 2023. (Yousef Mohammed/Flash90)

The IDF is progressing with its internal investigations into the military’s failures in the lead-up to the Hamas terror group’s October 7 massacre, with new details now revealed on the subjects and periods each unit is investigating.

The findings are expected to be presented to IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi by the beginning of June, according to the military.

At the General Staff level, the probes are focusing on a timeframe starting from the March 2018 Hamas-led Gaza border riots and ending October 10, 2023, the point when Israeli troops re-established control of southern Israel following the onslaught.

The main subjects being investigated by the General Staff are: the development of the IDF’s perception of Gaza, with an emphasis on the border, starting in 2018; the IDF’s intelligence assessments of Hamas from 2018 until the outbreak of the war; the intelligence and decision-making process on the eve of October 7, as well as the days leading up to it; and the command and control, formations, and orders given during battles between October 7 and 10, when troops restored control over all communities and army bases in southern Israel that had been invaded by Hamas.

The IDF Southern Command has split its investigation into three main periods: before October 6, the night between October 6 and 7, and the fighting in southern Israel following the October 7 attack.

Each division commander involved in the fighting will probe its actions. The Southern Command has also appointed several colonels and lieutenant colonels to each probe a major battle or incident amid the October 7 massacre. Those probes will also place an emphasis on speaking to residents of southern towns who were victims of the onslaught, to get perspectives that are not solely military.

The Southern Command will also probe the battles that took place at the five Gaza border military outposts. Those incidents will be investigated by the commanders of the Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade and Northern Brigade commanders, alongside outside help from other parts of the military.

The Southern Command is also probing its maneuver in the Gaza Strip, from the beginning of the ground offensive until now. Those investigations are aimed at drawing conclusions for future operations by the six divisions that have participated in the ground operation: the 99th, 36th, 162nd, 98th, and 252nd and Gaza divisions.

Members of the IDF tactical unit of the Yamas patrol in Kibbutz Be’eri, near the Israeli-Gaza border, southern Israel, October 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The Military Intelligence Directorate will split its probes into different periods: a decade before the war, starting with the end of the 2014 Gaza war; the days before the war, from October 1 till October 7, with an emphasis on the 36 hours before the onslaught; and the war itself.

Each unit commander in Military Intelligence will probe its actions based on questions determined by the General Staff.

The Israeli Air Force will meanwhile focus its probes on finding conclusions that will help it improve readiness for a possible escalation in the north, amid daily attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanon.

The IAF has split its investigation into two main periods: October 7 itself, and the rest of the war.

The probe into all the IAF’s activities on October 7 will be led by a brigadier general who did not serve in any role during the onslaught.

The second section, focusing on the rest of the war, will also look into processes that took place before October 7 and had an effect on the functioning of the IAF during the war.

The Operations Directorate’s investigation will focus on the use of the IDF’s force, its readiness, operational instructions, and the deployment of troops. It will also investigate the Spokespersons Unit’s functioning amid the war, which is subordinate to the Operations Directorate.

The Navy will probe its battles on October 7, its intelligence on the eve of the onslaught, its operations amid the war, its assessments of the Gaza Strip ahead of the war, its readiness, and continued functioning amid the war. Most of the probes will be led by the chief of the Navy, Vice Adm. David Saar Salama.

The Home Front Command will probe its defense assessments, the battles in which it was involved on October 7 at the Zikim training base and Urim camp, other activities on October 7-10, changing from routine operations to an emergency, collecting and identifying bodies, and the evacuation of border towns.

Lastly, the Computer Service Directorate will probe its actions amid the war, including cyber defenses.

Security forces say they foiled ISIS-linked plot to carry out attacks in Jerusalem

Illustrative photo of Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium during an international soccer match, on October 10, 2015. (Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium during an international soccer match, on October 10, 2015. (Flash90)

Security forces foil a plot by three East Jerusalem men who had sworn allegiance to Islamic State to carry out terror attacks in the capital, the police and Shin Bet say in a statement.

Two of the men were plotting to place explosives and carry out a shooting attacks on a police station and at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.

They then joined with the third person who advised them on their planned attack and urged them to go overseas for military training, the statement says, noting that they were arrested before they could leave the country.

The three men, described as being in their 20s, were arrested last month.

Study shows population aging rapidly, life expectancy increasing in Israel

Illustrative: A carer walks with an elderly woman on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on July 2, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: A carer walks with an elderly woman on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem on July 2, 2023. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The population in Israel is aging rapidly and life expectancy is expected to continue to rise, a study shows, calling for a better-coordinated system for long-term care (LTC) benefits.

According to a study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel released today, the population aged 75 and up has grown on average by about 9,000 individuals per year, and life expectancy continues to rise. As of December 2023, about 346,000 elderly individuals were receiving LTC benefits from the National Insurance Institute (NII) as compared to about 180,000 in 2018.

By 2040 it is expected that there will be an annual increase of 20,000-30,000 people age 75 and older. Current life expectancy is 82 years for men and 85 years for women, which averages 83.5 for the sexes combined. In the year 2000, the combined sexes’ average was 79.

Israel has generally taken an “age-in-place” approach to supporting the elderly, funded by LTC benefits provided by the NII and private insurance companies.

However, there is no single coordinating body for the provision of these benefits, with different agencies each having complicated bureaucracies to navigate.

National expenditure on LTC totaled about NIS 23.6 billion ($7.1 billion) in 2022, which breaks down to NIS 16.7 billion ($4.3 billion) in public expenditure (about 71%) and about NIS 7 billion ($1.9 million) in private expenditure. Most of that was directed toward care provision in the community. The rest was divided between LTC hospitalization, retirement homes, and complex nursing hospitalization.

The Taub Center found that the number of individuals with individual private LTC insurance almost doubled between 2012 and 2022. However, there was a drop in the number of those with private insurance through group policies. This, together with the growing population, has led to a decline in private coverage from 69% in 2012 to 60% in 2022.

Taub Center researchers Nir Kaidar, Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, and Prof. Avi Weiss recommend compulsory saving for LTC, as well as making paying into health maintenance funds’ LTC programs compulsory for people of all ages.

Media group urges Israel to step back from plans to block Al Jazeera from operating in Israel

Illustrative: An employee of Al Jazeera walks past the channel's logo at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (AP/ Kamran Jebreili, File)
Illustrative: An employee of Al Jazeera walks past the channel's logo at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (AP/ Kamran Jebreili, File)

The Foreign Press Association calls on the Israeli government to halt its plan to temporarily bar the Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera from operating in Israel.

“This is a blatant attempt to stifle the media. Shuttering a media outlet is a step that is characteristic of some of the world’s most repressive governments,” says the group, which represents foreign news organizations operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

“It is a move that rejects democratic ideals. It also poses a dangerous precedent that could lead the government to shut down other foreign media outlets. We urge the government to step back from this dangerous move,” the FPA says in a statement.

The Knesset approved on Monday evening the so-called Al Jazeera law, giving the government temporary powers to prevent foreign news networks from operating in Israel if they are deemed by the security services to be harming national security.

Amid Iranian threats, IDF cancels home leave for all combat troops

IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo released on April 4, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo released on April 4, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says it has halted home leave for all combat troops, following a fresh assessment.

“The IDF is at war and the issue of the deployment of forces is constantly reviewed as needed,” the IDF notes.

The move comes amid heightened alert in Israel over a potential Iranian response to the alleged assassination by Israel of its top IRGC commander in Syria, along with five other IRGC officers.

Last night, the IDF said it was bolstering air defenses and calling up reservists, following an assessment.

Widespread GPS disruptions show Tel Aviv motorists in Beirut amid fears of Iran strike

The Waze navigation app shows Tel Aviv motorists as if they were in Beirut on April 4, 2024 (Screenshot/Times of Israel)
The Waze navigation app shows Tel Aviv motorists as if they were in Beirut on April 4, 2024 (Screenshot/Times of Israel)

Residents of central Israel report widespread disruptions to navigation apps like Google Maps, Waze and other systems that use GPS with many Tel Aviv motorists being shown that they were in Beirut.

The GPS disruptions have previously been widely reported in northern Israel or areas close to Gaza, but have been less common in central Israel. They have been blamed on the Israel Defense Forces blocking some global positioning system (GPS) signals amid the ongoing war with the Palestinian terror group Hamas in the Strip and deadly clashes with Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The disruptions in Tel Aviv come a day after the IDF said that it bolstered its air defense array and had called up reservists, as the country girded for a potential Iranian response to a strike in Syria earlier this week blamed on Israel in which several high-ranking Iranian military officials were killed.

There was no immediate IDF comment on the disruptions.

Both Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have vowed that Israel will not go unpunished for the Monday attack on a consular building next to Iran’s embassy in Damascus, which killed Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ most senior official in Syria, along with his deputy, five other IRGC officers, and at least one member of the Hezbollah terror group.

Apart from the navigation problems, delivery and transport apps like Wolt and Gett were also reported to be experiencing disruptions and warned customers of delays.

IDF airstrike hits Gaza terror cell as fighting continues

IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip in this undated picture released on April 4, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip in this undated picture released on April 4, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF publishes footage showing an airstrike on a cell of operatives in the central Gaza Strip, after they were spotted at a site known to be used by a terror group.

The site was located close to troops of the Nahal Brigade, who spotted the cell, the IDF says.

After tracking the gunmen for a short while, an airstrike was carried out against them. Minutes later, the structure where they had operated was struck by a fighter jet, the IDF says.

The IDF says fighting against Hamas also continues in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, in the al-Amal neighborhood and the Abasan area on the outskirts of the city.

Meanwhile, airstrikes were carried out against several targets across the Gaza Strip over the past day, including rocket launchers used in an attack last night on Sderot, the IDF adds.

Top IDF intelligence officer quits over illness

Brig. Gen. Amit Saar, head of the Military Intelligence research department, speaks at a Gazit conference in Tel Aviv, December 5, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90/File)
Brig. Gen. Amit Saar, head of the Military Intelligence research department, speaks at a Gazit conference in Tel Aviv, December 5, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90/File)

A senior Israeli intelligence officer has resigned from the military after he was diagnosed with cancer in recent days.

The head of the Military Intelligence Research Department, Brig. Gen. Amit Saar, was already expected to quit over the failures that led to Hamas’s October 7 onslaught.

In a missive to troops, Saar says that “in the last few months we have all experienced, and I especially, a deep shock. We did not live up to what was expected of us, what we expected of ourselves.”

“Even before we clarified the first detail, I made it clear that in the world of values ​​in which I live, I intend to take responsibility,” he writes.

Due to the sudden decision, with Saar requiring immediate treatment, a former chief of the research department, Brig. Gen. (res.) Itai Brun — who led the unit between 2011 and 2015 and has been in reserves since October 7 — will fill his place.

The IDF says Saar is “an officer full of merit, who contributed a lot to the security of the State of Israel, even amid the war.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi thanks Saar for “his many years of work in the IDF, and his work throughout his life for the security of the citizens of the State of Israel.”

WCK calls for independent probe into Israeli strike that killed seven of its staff

People gather around the remains of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day, in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. (AFP)
People gather around the remains of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day, in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. (AFP)

World Central Kitchen is calling for an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes that killed seven of its aid workers in Gaza.

In a statement, the international food charity says it has asked Australia, Canada, Poland, the United States and the United Kingdom, whose citizens were killed, to join them in demanding “an independent, third-party investigation into these attacks.”

“We asked the Israeli government to immediately preserve all documents, communications, video and/or audio recordings, and any other materials potentially relevant to the April 1 strikes,” the statement says.

Israel says it carried out the strikes by mistake and that it has launched its own investigation into the attack.

The military carried out multiple strikes on a convoy of three cars, at least one of which was clearly marked with the charity’s logo. World Central Kitchen says it coordinated the team’s movements with the army, which was “aware of their itinerary, route and humanitarian mission.”

The workers were delivering aid that had arrived by sea in a recently opened maritime corridor aimed at getting food to hundreds of thousands of hungry Palestinians in northern Gaza, which has been largely isolated by Israeli forces for months.

The attack interrupted those efforts, as World Central Kitchen and other charities suspended operations over the deteriorating security situation. The ships returned to Cyprus with an estimated 240 tons of undelivered humanitarian aid.

IDF hits Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon

The IDF says that overnight it struck a Hezbollah observation post in southern Lebanon’s Khiam and another site belonging to the terror group in Kafr Kila.

It publishes footage of the strikes.

5 Iranian security officers killed in attacks in country’s southeast

Suspected Sunni Muslim militants killed at least five Iranian security officers and wounded another 10 in two separate attacks on military installations in southeastern Iran, state media reports.

The attacks by militants from the Jaish al-Adl group took place overnight and targeted Iranian Revolutionary Guards headquarters in Rask and Chabahar, located in the Sistan and Baluchistan province, the reports say.

At least eight gunmen were killed during exchanges of fire with security forces, the media reports say.

Jaish al-Adl is an extremist Sunni Muslim group that operates in southeastern Iran and the western Pakistani province of Balochistan.

In January, Iran targeted two bases of the group in Pakistan with missiles, prompting a rapid military riposte from Islamabad targeting what it said were separatists in Iran.

Iran supreme leader says Israel will ‘be slapped’ for Damascus strike

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him meeting with politicians and government officials in Tehran on April 3, 2024. (Photo by KHAMENEI.IR / AFP)
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him meeting with politicians and government officials in Tehran on April 3, 2024. (Photo by KHAMENEI.IR / AFP)

Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says that Israel would “be slapped” after an air strike on the Iranian consular annex in Damascus killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.

“The defeat of the Zionist regime in Gaza will continue and this regime will be close to decline and dissolution,” Khamenei says in a speech to the country’s officials in Tehran.

“Desperate efforts like the one they committed in Syria will not save them from defeat. Of course, they will also be slapped for that action,” he adds.

Israel has not confirmed carrying out the strike.

Iranian state media said 13 people were killed in the strike in which, according to Tehran’s ambassador, Israeli F-35 jets fired six missiles that leveled the five-story consular building adjacent to the embassy.

Iran says the strike killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, including two commanders of the Quds Force — the Guards’ foreign operations arm — Brigadier Generals Mohammad Reza Zahedi and Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi.

Report: Dermer ‘yelled’ at US officials during meeting on Rafah op

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer walks into the Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington, DC on December 26, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)
Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer walks into the Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington, DC on December 26, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer became angry and “yelled” at senior US officials during an online meeting earlier this week to discuss Israel’s plans for a military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, NBC reports.

The report, citing two US officials and one former US official familiar with the meeting. says that after being told that Israel’s plans for the evacuation of some 1.4 million people sheltering in the city were unrealistic, Dermer “began yelling and waving his arms around as he defended the plan.”

The report says US officials in the meeting, including US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, remained calm during the incident.

However, the report also quotes the US officials as saying that “it’s long been routine for Dermer to become animated during meetings with US officials and described the meeting as no more contentious than other recent conversations between the two governments.”

An Israeli official who attended the meeting told NBC their description was wrong and “a misrepresentation of what occurred in the room. The meeting was constructive and respectful, even during disagreements. There was no yelling at any point.”

Israeli reports have previously painted the meeting as “difficult,” stating that it showed the US and Israel are on “completely different pages” when it comes to Israel’s planned operation in Rafah where Jerusalem says four Hamas battalions remain.

Pentagon chief to Gallant: Strike on WCK convoy ‘reinforced’ concerns over Rafah op

File: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant give a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)
File: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant give a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held a phone call with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant, with the Pentagon saying he “expressed his outrage” over an IDF strike in Gaza that killed seven staffers of World Central Kitchen.

A readout from the Defense Department says Austin called “to immediately take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza after repeated coordination failures with foreign aid groups.”

“Secretary Austin urged Minister Gallant to conduct a swift and transparent investigation, to share their conclusions publicly, and to hold those responsible to account,” it continues.

“Secretary Austin stated that this tragedy reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, specifically focusing on the need to ensure the evacuation of Palestinian civilians and the flow of humanitarian aid.”

The statement stresses Austin’s praise for WCK and says he told Austin “this tragedy makes it more difficult to flood the zone with humanitarian assistance, as Israeli officials have stated they seek to do.”

“Secretary Austin also raised the need to see a rapid increase of aid coming through all crossings in the coming days, particularly to communities in northern Gaza that are at risk of famine.”

A line at the end of the readout says “Secretary Austin reiterated US support for Israel’s defense against a range of regional threats,” without elaborating.

US military says it downed missile and drones launched by Houthis

WASHINGTON — The US military says that it destroyed one inbound anti-ship ballistic missile and two drones launched by Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen toward the Red Sea.

US Central Command says no injuries or damage was reported.

“Additionally, during this timeframe CENTCOM forces destroyed a mobile surface-to-air missile system in Houthi controlled territory,” it says in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Australian PM says Israeli explanation for deadly aid convoy strike ‘not good enough’

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addresses the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne, Australia, March 6, 2024. (Joel Carrett/Pool Photo via AP)
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addresses the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne, Australia, March 6, 2024. (Joel Carrett/Pool Photo via AP)

SYDNEY — Israel’s explanation for the deaths from an airstrike in Gaza of seven aid workers, including Australian woman Zomi Frankcom, was “not good enough,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says

“We need to have accountability for how it has occurred, and what is not good enough is the statements that have been made, including that this is just a product of war,” Albanese says during a press conference in Sydney.

Albanese seems to be referring to comments from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video message on Tuesday in which he said that “this happens in war” as the Israeli military promised an independent investigation.

Albanese says Frankcom was traveling in a vehicle clearly identified as an aid vehicle and it should not have been at risk. He demanded full accountability on a call with Netanyahu on Wednesday.

“They have committed to a full and proper investigation. I want that to be transparent and I want those findings to be made public so that we find out how exactly this can occur,” he says.

Trump spoke recently with Saudi leader MBS — report

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 20, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 20, 2017. (AP/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump recently spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, The New York Times reports, citing two people briefed on the discussion.

The newspaper reports that it’s unclear what Trump and the prince, known as MBS, discussed and whether this was their first conversation since Trump, who was president from 2017 to 2021, left office.

Due to a cracked rib, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan postponed plans to travel to Saudi Arabia this week to meet with the crown prince, who is considered the de facto Saudi leader.

Sullivan had been due to hold talks with the prince amid a US push for progress toward normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia was Trump’s first foreign trip when he took office in 2017.

Jill Biden said privately pushing for end to civilian casualties in Gaza war

US First Lady Jill Biden speaks as President Joe Biden looks on at the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US First Lady Jill Biden speaks as President Joe Biden looks on at the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Among those closest to US President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden is privately one of the loudest in calling for an end to civilian casualties in Gaza, according to The New York Times.

Quoting a participant at a Ramadan event that Biden held Tuesday, the newspaper reports another attendee said his wife wasn’t happy he was there due to the president’s backing for Israel. Biden reportedly said he understood and that his wife has been urging him to “stop it, stop it now.”

In response, White House officials quoted in the report say there’s no difference between the president and first lady, and that they are equally upset about civilian casualties. They also deny she was calling for Israel to end its military offensive against Hamas.

The report is titled “Jill Biden Privately Urges an End to Conflict in Gaza,” but does not definitively quote her making such a demand of her husband.

Rocket sirens activated in Golan Heights town

Incoming rocket sirens are activated in the Golan Heights community of Keshet.

Israeli probe into strike on aid workers progressing, officials say

The Israeli investigation into the deadly IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy in Gaza on Tuesday is progressing, Israeli officials tell The Times of Israel.

The Southern Command has completed its probe, which it presented to IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi. Halevi’s part of the probe was expected to be completed Wednesday, before being passed up the chain to the political leadership to sign off on the findings and fill any possible holes.

The war cabinet is convened virtually Wednesday to hear an update on the IDF investigation, says one of the officials.

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