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

‘The closest we’ve been in months’: Cautious optimism reported as Gaza talks resume in Cairo

Demonstrators call for the release of hostages held in Gaza since Hamas's October 7 massacre, during a rally in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Demonstrators call for the release of hostages held in Gaza since Hamas's October 7 massacre, during a rally in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Sources quoted in Hebrew media express cautious optimism in efforts to secure a truce and hostage release deal, with an Israeli delegation in Cairo for talks with Qatari, Egyptian, and American negotiators.

Channel 12 news quotes a source close to the talks as saying, “This time is different, we are the closest we’ve been in months to a deal.”

The report attributes the apparent progress on US pressure on Israel to improve the humanitarian situation in the Strip and on Qatar to convince Hamas to accept a temporary ceasefire agreement.

Haaretz news reports that the US will present a new draft proposal to the parties tonight.

CIA Director Bill Burns is attending the talks, along with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate Abbas Kamel.

Among the Israeli officials expected to attend are Mossad chief David Barnea and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar.

Gazans start returning to Khan Younis after IDF withdraws ground forces

Men walk with an animal-drawn cart carrying salvaged wood from debris and trees past destroyed buildings in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on April 7, 2024. (AFP)
Men walk with an animal-drawn cart carrying salvaged wood from debris and trees past destroyed buildings in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis on April 7, 2024. (AFP)

Palestinians begin to return to the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, hours after the Israel Defense Forces withdrew all of its maneuvering ground forces from the Strip early this morning, leaving just one brigade to secure a corridor splitting the Palestinian enclave.

Nearly 400,000 people lived in Khan Younis and its environs before war in Gaza erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw thousands of terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, many together with horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

Much of the area is now in ruins after months of bombardment and heavy fighting between IDF troops and Hamas operatives.

A straggle of men and boys riding donkey carts, bicycles and the odd pickup truck head north, out of Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge from the fighting.

A Palestinian woman uses a wheelchair to ferry her belongings past damaged buildings in Khan Younis on April 7, 2024. (AFP)

Authorities in Gaza say at least 33,175 Palestinians have been killed and 75,886 wounded since war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

Figures issued by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including from the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Pro-Israel rallies around the world call for hostage release, mark 6 months of war

Members of the Jewish community and supporters gather at the St John's Wood United Synagogue in north London, on April 7, 2024, for a 'Time is Running Out' event to raise awareness of the plight of over 100 hostages held by terror groups in Gaza since October 7. (Justin Tallis/ AFP)
Members of the Jewish community and supporters gather at the St John's Wood United Synagogue in north London, on April 7, 2024, for a 'Time is Running Out' event to raise awareness of the plight of over 100 hostages held by terror groups in Gaza since October 7. (Justin Tallis/ AFP)

In a flood of posts on social media, demonstrations and gatherings can be seen around the world marking six months since Hamas’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel and calling for the release of 129 hostages still held by terror groups in Gaza.

In New York, pictures show thousands of people are gathering near the UN Headquarters in Manhattan.

Demonstrators at the rally can be seen locked in cages with “SOS” signs to draw attention to the plight of the captives in Gaza.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett addresses the crowds at one of the gatherings in New York, according to a photo posted on X, formerly Twitter.

In Toronto, a rally showing support for the plight of hostages is interrupted by a pro-Palestinian counterprotest.

Posts on social media also show protests in European cities including Brussels, London, Amsterdam and Paris.

Israeli ambassador to Belgium and Luxemburg Idit Rosenzweig-Abu shares a photo of the Brussels rally on X.

Poll: Almost 50% of Israelis believe Netanyahu is acting out of political motives

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz at a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, October 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/ Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz at a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, October 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/ Pool Photo via AP)

Six months into the war in Gaza, almost half of Israelis (49 percent) believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is acting out of political interests, according to a Channel 12 poll.

But it seems his main opponent, National Unity chair Benny Gantz, is losing his lead over the prime minister amid ongoing frustration with the government’s handling of the war and its failure to secure the release of over 100 hostages held captive since October 7.

Asked whether the government is “doing enough to bring back the hostages” 39% of respondents say yes and 56% say no.

The poll shows 35% of Israelis would vote for Gantz if elections were held today, compared to 29% for Netanyahu. A further 39% say they would not vote for either candidate.

Channel 12 notes that the gap between Gantz and Netanyahu was 18% two months ago.

In terms of Knesset mandates, the poll gives Gantz’s National Union party 32 seats, Netanyahu’s Likud party 19 seats, and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party 15 seats.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party, MK Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope and the Labor party all fall below the electoral threshold of four mandates.

Overall, the Channel 12 poll shows that were elections to be held today, Netanyahu’s bloc would get 47 seats, while his opponents would get 68 seats.

Amid ongoing tensions on the northern border with Lebanon since October 8, 46% of respondents believe Israel should initiate a military campaign against the Hezbollah terror group, while 37% would prefer a diplomatic solution.

IDF: Fighter jets hit Hezbollah positions, rocket launcher in southern Lebanon

The IDF says fighter jets carried out strikes on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon’s Kafr Kila over the past few hours, as well as a rocket launcher in Yaroun.

COGAT: 322 humanitarian aid trucks transferred to Gaza today in record since Oct. 7

Some 322 humanitarian aid trucks were scanned and transferred to Gaza today, according to COGAT, the Defense Ministry body responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories.

In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, COGAT says this marks the highest number of aid trucks transferred to Gaza in a single day since war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

“There is no limit to the amount of aid that can be facilitated for the civilians in Gaza,” the post adds.

Father of captive IDF soldier urges Netanyahu to resign, veering from apolitical stance of Jerusalem rally

Yehuda Cohen, whose son Nimrod Cohen is held captive by Hamas in Gaza, addresses a Hostages and Missing Families Forum demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)
Yehuda Cohen, whose son Nimrod Cohen is held captive by Hamas in Gaza, addresses a Hostages and Missing Families Forum demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

Yehuda Cohen, the father of kidnapped soldier Nimrod Cohen, is lambasting the current government at a massive rally marking half a year since October 7, calling the ruling coalition “criminal” and calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign.

His speech appears to be energizing the crowd, swaths of which are booing Netanyahu and demanding the toppling of his government.

Before introducing the rally’s next speakers, actor Lior Ashkenazi, the rally’s emcee for the night, comments indirectly on Cohen’s speech.

“Anger and pain take on many opinions… the hostages have no party, they don’t do polls,” he says in an attempt to reiterate the official, apolitical stance of the Hostage Families Forum.

Iraq says it will send 10 million liters of fuel to Gaza, treat wounded Palestinians

A United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) fuel truck arrives at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on November 22, 2023. (Khaled Desouki/ AFP)
A United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) fuel truck arrives at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on November 22, 2023. (Khaled Desouki/ AFP)

CAIRO, Egypt – Iraq has agreed to send 10 million liters of fuel to the Gaza Strip, as a humanitarian crisis mounts in the Palestinian enclave due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani says Baghdad has also agreed to receive wounded Palestinians from Gaza and provide them treatment in government and private hospitals.

Authorities in Gaza say at least 33,175 Palestinians have been killed and 75,886 wounded since war erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre.

Figures issued by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including from the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

At least 50,000 demonstrating in Jerusalem to mark six months since Oct. 7 – Hostages Forum

Tens of thousands of Israelis take part in a rally marking six month since the Hamas October 7 massacre, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Tens of thousands of Israelis take part in a rally marking six month since the Hamas October 7 massacre, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

At least 50,000 demonstrators are in attendance outside the Knesset building in Jerusalem at tonight’s mass rally marking half a year of captivity for the remaining 133 hostages in Gaza, says a spokesperson for the Hostages and Missing Families Forum which organized the event.

Hagit Chen, the mother of slain hostage Itay Chen, is onstage now lamenting her son’s murder in captivity.

“How is it possible that after six months they [the government] haven’t brought you back?” she says through tears, accusing the government of abandoning her, “who sent her son to the army with such great pride.”

She urges the government, in particular Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to reach a deal to return the hostages.

Her one-off mention of the prime minister’s name was met with loud booing by the crowd.

Hundreds gather near Eiffel Tower in Paris to mark six months since Oct. 7

People take part in a gathering organized by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) calling for the release of hostages held in Gaza since the Hamas-led October 7 attacks on Israel, at the Trocadero esplanade with the Eiffel Tower in the background in Paris, on April 7, 2024. (Thomas Samson/AFP)
People take part in a gathering organized by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF) calling for the release of hostages held in Gaza since the Hamas-led October 7 attacks on Israel, at the Trocadero esplanade with the Eiffel Tower in the background in Paris, on April 7, 2024. (Thomas Samson/AFP)

Hundreds of people are gathering at the Trocadeo esplanade in Paris to call for the release of over 100 hostages held by terror groups in Gaza since October 7.

Demonstrators are waving Israeli flags and holding posters of the hostages.

The demonstration near the Eiffel Tower marks six months since war erupted in Gaza with 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.

 

IDF: Iron Dome intercepted projectile from Lebanon that triggered sirens in Safed

A projectile fired from Lebanon a short while ago was successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, the IDF says.

The incident set off sirens in the northern city of Safed and in several nearby towns.

Rocket alert sirens sounding in Safed, northern border communities

Rocket alert sirens are sounding in northern communities near the border with Lebanon, warning of incoming missile fire.

Sirens are sounding in cities and towns including Safed, Kadita, Safsufa, and Dalton.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.

Protesters at Knesset rally drown out Jerusalem mayor’s speech with shouts of ‘Deal now!’

Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion speaks at rally for hostage deal outside the Knesset building on April 7, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)
Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion speaks at rally for hostage deal outside the Knesset building on April 7, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

Protesters are chanting down Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion at a mass demonstration in the capital, drowning out his speech with shouts of “Deal now!”

After Lion’s speech, one of the hostage family members onstage reaches out to embrace the recently re-elected mayor.

Many of the thousands of protesters this evening have traveled to the capital from other cities and towns to mark six months since Hamas’s October 7 massacre that sparked the ongoing war in Gaza.

Gallant claims Hamas ‘stopped functioning as a military organization throughout Gaza’; his office later partly walks back the statement

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) and Southern Command chief Maj-Gen. Yaron Finkelman during an assessment at IDF Southern Command, April 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) and Southern Command chief Maj-Gen. Yaron Finkelman during an assessment at IDF Southern Command, April 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant claims that Hamas has “stopped functioning as a military organization throughout the Gaza Strip.”

Following an assessment at the IDF Southern Command, he says “The achievements of the 98th Division and its units are extremely impressive, targeting terrorists, destroying enemy targets, warehouses, weapons, underground [sites], headquarters, communication rooms.”

“All these things were carried out in a very impressive manner and thus, Hamas stopped functioning as a military organization throughout the Gaza Strip,” he says.

A spokesperson for Gallant later clarified that the minister was referring to the Khan Younis area and other parts of the Strip where the military had operated, and not all of Gaza.

Gallant says that the IDF is still preparing to deal with Hamas’s remaining battalions in southern Gaza’s Rafah.

“The forces came out [of Gaza] and are preparing for their future missions. We saw examples of such missions in action at Shifa [Hospital], and also for their future mission in the Rafah area,” Gallant says.

“We will reach a situation where Hamas does not control the Gaza Strip and where it does not function as a military framework that poses a risk to the citizens of the State of Israel,” he adds.

Israeli officials have said that 18 of Hamas’s 24 original battalions in the Gaza Strip have been dismantled, meaning they do not function as an organized military unit, although smaller cells still exist.

Four Hamas battalions remain virtually untouched in southern Gaza’s Rafah, and another two are in the central part of the Strip.

At Jerusalem rally, freed hostage Itay Regev talks of Hamas psychological warfare

Itay Regev, who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and released during a hostage release deal in November, speaks during a mass demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 7, 2024. (Hostages and Missing Families Forum)
Itay Regev, who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7 and released during a hostage release deal in November, speaks during a mass demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 7, 2024. (Hostages and Missing Families Forum)

After a moment of silence honoring hostages held by terror groups in Gaza since October 7 falls over the crowd at a Jerusalem demonstration, freed hostage Itay Regev begins to recall his time in Hamas captivity.

Regev says that in Gaza, Hamas “tries to convince the hostages that the government has given up on them,” as a psychological warfare tactic.

Thousands of Israeli demonstrators are gathered outside Knesset are chanting: “There is nothing more important, every hostage has to return,” and demanding an immediate hostage deal.

After standing silently on stage for a few minutes with tape with the number 184 covering their mouths — marking the number of days past since Hamas’s October 7 onslaught — a group of female relatives of the hostages let out a long, bloodcurdling scream, to which the audience responds with a scream of its own.

Thousands of protesters gather to call for hostage deal half a year after October 7 in a mass demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 7, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi opens the rally, urging the government not to “close its heart” to the 129 hostages remaining in Gaza.

“Redeeming captives isn’t politics, it’s being Jewish,” he says.

Organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, the rally is being held alongside dozens of others across the world, including in New York, where hostage families met this morning with the city’s mayor Eric Adams.

IDF: Security forces blow up car of West Bank terrorist; assailant still at large

Security forces blew up the car of a terrorist who carried out a shooting attack in the West Bank this morning, after a bomb was found in it, the military says.

The Palestinian gunman had opened fire at a bus on Route 55, seriously wounding a soldier passenger, and at another car, lightly wounding a civilian.

The IDF says it is still searching for the terrorist.

‘October 7 is a watershed in Israeli security’: Halevi says IDF will need to be bigger to prevent repeat massacre

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from an army base in central Israel, April 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from an army base in central Israel, April 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi says the IDF will need to be bigger and undergo changes to prevent an attack like October 7 from ever happening again.

“October 7 is a watershed in Israeli security. We began to investigate the complex events of this day, we will learn and make decisions,” he says at a press conference.

“The working hypotheses under which we operated, scenarios to which we prepared for, the perception of the enemy which we held, it is clear to us that these must change,” Halevi says.

“The IDF needs to be stronger, bigger, so that what happened on October 7 will not happen again. And of course, these are not the only changes,” he says.

“The decisions we make today have a decisive and critical effect on building the strength of the IDF in the near and distant future,” Halevi says.

“We do not have the privilege to postpone them. Delaying decisions on building the strength of the IDF endangers the security of the country,” he adds, in an apparent reference to reports that Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has opposed the military purchasing new fighter jets.

‘Half a year of abandonment’: Thousands protest near Knesset calling for hostage release

Relatives and supporters of hostages held in Gaza since Hamas's October 7 massacre hold placards and wave national flags during a demonstration in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 7, 2024. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)
Relatives and supporters of hostages held in Gaza since Hamas's October 7 massacre hold placards and wave national flags during a demonstration in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 7, 2024. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Thousands of demonstrators are gathering near the Knesset in Jerusalem to mark six months since Hamas’s October 7 massacre and call for the government to secure the release of over 100 hostages held by terror groups in the Gaza Strip since then.

The participants hold placards and wave Israeli flags, under the banner, “Half a year of abandonment.”

Families of hostages still held by terrorists in Gaza along with released captives attend the event.

The past week has seen a series of protests in Jerusalem over four consecutive days, organized jointly by anti-Netanyahu activists and central family members in the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

 

 

Halevi: IDF is fully prepared to deal with Iran ‘in attack and defense’

On threats by Iran to respond to the alleged assassination by Israel of the top IRGC officer in Syria, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi says the IDF is fully prepared.

He says Israel is “in a multi-front war.”

“There is no reason to panic, but there is also no room for complacency. We must be aware of the situation, and always ready,” Halevi says.

“IDF troops are prepared and operating in all arenas, in the south, in the north, in Judea and Samaria and in more distant arenas. The IDF also knows how to deal with Iran, in attack and defense,” he warns.

“We prepared for this, we have good defense systems, we know how to act powerfully against Iran in places near and far. We work in cooperation with the US and strategic partners in the region,” Halevi continues.

He says that since the beginning of the war in Gaza, “Iran has tried to disavow and hide from direct involvement in it, but we know that it activates, directs, finances and transfers knowledge to all its proxies in the region, from Hezbollah, through Judea and Samaria to Yemen.”

“Iran does not only threaten Israel, but the entire Western and Arab world, Iran is a global problem, was and remains, the big problem,” he adds.

IDF chief of staff: War against Hamas is far from over, despite troop withdrawal

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from an army base in central Israel, April 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from an army base in central Israel, April 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi says that, despite the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the war against Hamas continues and is far from over.

He also says that the IDF will know how to return to fighting in the event of a truce as part of a hostage deal and that returning the hostages is a more urgent matter than other goals.

“We are fighting this war differently, it is different from its predecessors,” Halevi says in a press statement marking six months since Hamas’s October 7 onslaught.

“The war in Gaza continues, and we are far from stopping. Senior Hamas officials are still in hiding. We will get to them sooner or later. We are making progress, continuing to kill more terrorists and commanders and destroy more terror infrastructures, including last night,” he says.

“We will not leave Hamas brigades active in any part of the Strip. We have plans and we will act when we decide. At the same time as the offensive effort, we allow the introduction of humanitarian aid into the Strip. The interest of Hamas is to present a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, to press for an end to the war,” Halevi says.

He says “Hamas is trying to take control of the humanitarian aid and prevents its distribution, to return and control the Gaza Strip, This should not happen.”

“Therefore, we continue to dismantle Hamas from its military and governmental capabilities, to bring about… stability to the region,” Halevi continues.

On the operation to recover the body of hostage Elad Katzir, Halevi says “We all would have liked to have him back alive. We didn’t succeed in that.”

“We will continue to act in any way. We will continue our efforts, intelligence and operational, to return all the hostages as quickly as possible,” he says.

“As chief of staff, I personally feel a responsibility to return them, and so do the other commanders of the IDF and its soldiers,” he continues.

Halevi says hostage negotiation talks should be “done responsibly and carefully and its details should be left in the right rooms.”

“The IDF is strong enough for the State of Israel to know how to pay prices for the return of its sons and daughters. We have a moral duty to them and the IDF will know how to withstand even a difficult price and will also know how to come back and fight with strength,” he says.

Halevi says “When we went to war at the beginning, we knew and said that it would last a long time, to achieve the goals. We have made very significant achievements in fighting in Gaza, but the goals have not yet been fully achieved, the return of all hostages home, the return of all residents of the north and south to their homes in safety, and the dismantling of Hamas in the entire Gaza Strip, in a way that will allow for a government that is not Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”

“This reality is extremely complex and there are no simple solutions. We conduct the war with responsibility and determination. We must not be delusional,” he says.

“As we said, some goals will take a long time, and we will not let up until we achieve them. The return of the hostages is important and urgent, and its timer is different from the timer of the other goals,” Halevi says.

Gallant: IDF troops withdrawn from Khan Younis to prepare for Rafah operation

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during an assessment at IDF Southern Command, April 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during an assessment at IDF Southern Command, April 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says Israeli troops were withdrawn from the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza to prepare for the expected offensive in Rafah.

“The forces came out [of Gaza] and are preparing for their future missions, we saw examples of such missions in action at Shifa [Hospital], and also for their future mission in the Rafah area,” Gallant says following an assessment at the IDF Southern Command.

“We will reach a situation where Hamas does not control the Gaza Strip and where it does not function as a military framework that poses a risk to the citizens of the State of Israel,” he adds.

18 prominent Shas rabbis reject any compromise on Haredi draft

File: An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks near a billboard describing a picture late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, as part of Shas election campaign, in the northern Israeli city of Safed, February 28, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)
File: An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks near a billboard describing a picture late Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, as part of Shas election campaign, in the northern Israeli city of Safed, February 28, 2020. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Eighteen prominent rabbis associated with the Shas Sephardic Haredi party are rejecting any compromise on the conscription of Haredi Jews.

A letter signed by yeshiva heads and influential rabbis including Ovadia Yosef, the son of the Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, formulates a position similar to that of leaders of Ashkenazi Haredi society, where multiple leaders reject any conscription.

“Compromise will lead to ruination,” states the document, adding, “We will not be deterred from going to prison” and to “give our souls bravely and courageously to observe our holy Torah.”

Many promoters of greater participation by Haredim in carrying the burden of national service hope for greater flexibility on the issue in Sephardic society, which is seen as less insular than the Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox community.

The document, titled “Clear Instructions in the Face of Rulings on Conscription,” states that pressure to increase Haredi participation is part of a “malicious plan” to “gather under their control” the Haredi public and “reduce the number of those who observe” the commandments of the Torah.

The document also rejects a compromise offer by Welfare Minister Ya’akov Margi of Shas in February, who proposed in an interview to honor the legally required conscription of Haredi young men who are not studying in yeshivas in exchange for enshrining the controversial exemption of those who are.

The state is currently formulating its legal reaction to the High Court of Justice’s ruling last week barring the government from providing funds to ultra-Orthodox yeshivas for students eligible for IDF enlistment. The ruling effectively ended subsidies for nearly 50,000 full-time Talmud students.

US military destroys surface-to air missile system in Houthi-controlled Yemen — CENTCOM

CAIRO, Egypt – The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) says US forces destroyed a mobile surface-to air missile system in a Houthi controlled territory of Yemen yesterday.

US forces also shot down one unmanned aerial vehicle over the Red Sea, according to the statement, which adds that a coalition vessel also detected, engaged and destroyed one inbound anti-ship missile.

No injuries or damage are reported.

The Houthis, a US-designated terror group, have vowed to target Israeli, British, and American ships, as well as vessels heading to Israeli ports, disrupting traffic along the vital trade route amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US, which leads an international coalition meant to protect Red Sea shipping, has been hitting Houthi targets in Yemen since mid-January.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Gallant: Gaza aid is important, while we work to destroy Hamas and release the hostages

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tours the IDF’s Southern Command and the new Humanitarian Coordination and Deconfliction Cell with US Ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, April 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tours the IDF’s Southern Command and the new Humanitarian Coordination and Deconfliction Cell with US Ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, April 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew toured the IDF’s new Humanitarian Coordination and Deconfliction Cell, which was established earlier this week as part of a series of steps to improve the situation of Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing war there.

“As we work to achieve the goals of this war, namely the destruction of Hamas and the return of the hostages, we recognize the importance of facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Gallant says during the tour.

According to a Defense Ministry statement, Gallant and Lew were briefed on “measures being taken to increase the effective inspection, transfer and distribution of humanitarian aid.”

The statement adds that the humanitarian coordination cell was established in order to “enable key partners to work closely in order to facilitate the delivery of aid in a manner that will enable the IDF to continue operating against Hamas terrorism, while also ensuring the security of aid workers.”

Gallant also says Israel is working closely with the US to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where the United Nations has warned of looming famine.

“I would like to express my appreciation to the US administration for their longstanding support during this war, and for their leadership on the humanitarian issue as it pertains both to the hostage issue and to aid being delivered to Gaza,” he says.

 

 

Murdered hostage Elad Katzir’s sister at his funeral: ‘I’d like Netanyahu to apologize — but he won’t’

Thousands of people gather at Kibbutz Nir Oz to bury Elad Katzir, who was taken hostage during Hamas’s October 7 massacre and murdered in captivity by Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.

His body was extracted from Gaza and returned to Israel by the Israel Defense Forces over the weekend.

Katzir’s sister, Carmit Palty Katzir, again lashes out at the government during her eulogy, according to the Ynet news site.

“I’d like the prime minister to ask for your forgiveness — but that won’t happen,” she says, addressing her brother.

In an angry Facebook post yesterday announcing that Elad’s body had been recovered, Palty Katzir blamed the government for failing to secure a hostage release deal in time to save him.

“Look at yourselves in the mirror and see if your hands didn’t spill that blood. You have 133 more hostages to redeem, worlds to save,” she wrote.

Pope Francis set to meet hostage families and FM in Vatican tomorrow

People hold an Israeli national flag at St. Peter's square before Pope Francis Regina Coeli prayer on April 7, 2024 in The Vatican. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)
People hold an Israeli national flag at St. Peter's square before Pope Francis Regina Coeli prayer on April 7, 2024 in The Vatican. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

Pope Francis will meet families of hostages in the Vatican tomorrow, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The families are joining Foreign Minister Israel Katz for his visit to Rome and the Vatican around the six-month mark from the October 7 attack.

Katz will also meet with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States, and will discuss the importance of increasing pressure on Hamas to release the hostages in Gaza.

Today, Katz is meeting with his Italian counterpart Antonio Tajani, along with Italy’s Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, and Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi.

In a statement, Katz thanks the pope for agreeing to meet with the families “in order to strengthen them and to support bringing the hostages home.”

UK foreign minister says British backing for Israel ‘not unconditional’

Britain’s support for Israel depends on it abiding by international humanitarian law, UK foreign minister David Cameron writes in a newspaper column, days after an Israeli airstrike killed seven aid workers in Gaza, including three Britons.

“Our backing is not unconditional,” Cameron writes in The Sunday Times. “We expect such a proud and successful democracy to abide by international humanitarian law, even when challenged.”

The British government has been a staunch ally of Israel since Hamas’s shock onslaught on southern Israel on October 7 that triggered the war. But Cameron has hardened his language in recent months over the dire humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave.

Cameron warns of the risk of mass starvation unless Israel allowed more aid. On Saturday, Britain said it would supply a naval vessel to ship aid as part of an international effort.

He also adds that the UK’s top focus since October 7 has been “support for the hostages and their families.”

“That innocent people have been captured and held is a perpetual reminder of the monstrous organization we are dealing with,” he writes.

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 — 129 of whom remain in captivity.

Poll: 46% of UK Muslims support Hamas, only 1 in 4 believe terrorists committed atrocities on October 7

Just one in four Muslims in the UK believe that Hamas terrorists committed murder and rape in Israel on October 7, according to a British poll.

The survey, cited by the Daily Telegraph, also finds that 46 percent of British Muslims support the Palestinian terror group.

Commissioned by London-based think tank the Henry Jackson Society, the poll comes on the six month anniversary of Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians, amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

In terms of UK government policy, the survey finds that almost half (46%) of British Muslims believe Jews have too much power. By way of comparison, only 16% of the general public agrees with this sentiment.

US: IDF troop withdrawal from south Gaza likely just R&R, not prep for new operation

Israel’s partial withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip is likely so troops can “rest and refit,” rather than a move toward a new operation, the White House says.

“They’ve been on the ground for four months, the word we’re getting is they’re tired, they need to be refit,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tells ABC’s “This Week,” though he stresses that it is “hard to know exactly what this tells us right now.”

The Israel Defense Forces withdrew all of its maneuvering ground forces from Gaza early this morning, leaving just one brigade to secure a corridor across the Palestinian enclave.

The corridor enables the IDF to carry out raids in northern and central Gaza, prevents Palestinians from returning to the northern part of the Strip, and allows humanitarian organizations to deliver aid directly to northern Gaza.

The withdrawal appears to be a move similar to that carried out in northern Gaza following the IDF’s initial ground offensive last year. After several months of a large-scale offensive with several divisions, the IDF left northern Gaza, only to return to carry out smaller, localized, operations.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

Houthis claim attacks on Israeli, UK vessels, US warship in Red Sea over past 72 hours

Houthi forces in Yemen say they have launched rockets and drones targeting a British ship and two Israeli vessels that were heading to Israeli ports, and also at a number of US frigates in the Red Sea.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree says in a televised statement that the operations took place during the last 72 hours.

There is no immediate Israeli or US confirmation of the attacks, though two British maritime bodies reported attacks on vessels near Yemen overnight.

The statement comes hours after after the Israel Defense Forces said hostile aircraft intrusion sirens that sounded in Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat and the surrounding area earlier this afternoon were false alarms.

Since November, the Iran-backed group, a US-designated terror organization, has attacked ships in the Red Sea, saying it wants to force Israel to end its offensive in the Gaza Strip against Hamas.

IDF: Fighter jets strike military compound of elite Hezbollah unit in south Lebanon

The IDF says fighter jets carried out strikes on a military compound belonging to Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force in southern Lebanon’s Khiam a short while ago.

The compound included seven buildings used by the terror group, according to the IDF.

The IDF says it also struck a Hezbollah command center in Toura.

Earlier, a barrage of rockets was fired from Lebanon at the Golan Heights and Manara area.

The IDF says it shelled the launch sites in Kawkaba and Mays al-Jabal.

Gaza man who infiltrated Israel, stabbed security guard in 2021 gets 20-year sentence

File - Israeli security forces search the area where a Palestinian man was suspected of having entered southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on May 30, 2021. (Hamal Darom)
File - Israeli security forces search the area where a Palestinian man was suspected of having entered southern Israel from the Gaza Strip on May 30, 2021. (Hamal Darom)

The Beersheba District Court hands down a 20-year sentence to a Palestinian man who crossed into Israel from Gaza armed with knives and attacked a security guard in 2021.

He was convicted in January of attempted murder with a terroristic motive, in addition to illegal infiltration.

The Gaza resident, Amad Tzufi, is also given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay compensation of NIS 50,000 to the victim, who was lightly wounded in the attack.

Tzufi entered Israel May 30, 2021, through an undetected breach in the security fence caused by a mortar shell fired from the enclave during the 11-day conflict earlier that month. He came in armed with two kitchen knives.

The attack occurred when he stabbed a civilian security guard patrolling a road near the Sdei Avraham community, near the borders with Gaza and Egypt.

The security guard was lightly wounded in the attack.

In the sentencing, the judges note the gravity of the incident given that “the accused was aware that the victim was Jewish and stabbed him and tried to kill him out of a nationalistic or ideological motive.”

“There is no dispute that fortunately the victim sustained an injury that was defined as minor,” the sentencing continues, while pointing out that the reason the security guard was not more seriously wounded was because he “managed to fight back.”

Israeli team gets green light to join Gaza truce talks in Cairo this week — official

An Israeli delegation will take part in the latest round of negotiations in Cairo aimed at reaching a truce in the Gaza conflict and a hostage release deal, according to a government official.

The statement appears to be the first official confirmation that Israel will send a delegation to talks led by Qatar, Egypt and US expected to resume this week.

A Hamas official said yesterday that the terror group would be sending a delegation in response to an invitation extended by Egyptian mediators. It also reiterated its demands that any hostage release be conditioned on a full ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from the Strip, along with the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza.

CIA Director Bill Burns is expected to attend Sunday’s talks, along with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Among the Israeli officials expected to attend are Mossad chief David Barnea and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar.

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, amid horrific acts of brutality and sexual assault.

It is believed that 129 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive.

IDF: Hostile aircraft sirens in Eilat were false alarm

Hostile aircraft intrusion sirens that sounded in Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat and the surrounding area a short while ago were false alarms, the IDF says.

Netanyahu marks six months of war, calls for unity: We must unite to repel attacks against us

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting, April 7, 2024. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the weekly cabinet meeting, April 7, 2024. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

In a statement delivered at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marks six months since the October 7 massacre, vowing that Israel will achieve complete victory over Hamas and calling for unity among Israel’s citizens.

“I made it clear to the international community: There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. It just won’t happen,” Netanyahu says.

“This is the Israeli government’s policy, and I welcome the fact that the Biden administration made it clear the other day that this is still its position as well.”

Turning to the ongoing negotiations for a temporary truce and hostage release deal, Netanyahu says that “Israel is not the one preventing a deal. Hamas is preventing a deal.”

“Its extreme demands were intended to bring about an end to the war and leave it intact. To ensure its survival, its rehabilitation, its ability to endanger our citizens and our soldiers,” the premier continues. “Surrendering to Hamas’s demands will allow it to try to repeat the crimes of October 7 again and again, as it promised to do.”

Rattling off a list of threats Israel has eliminated in recent days, and mentioning, for the first time, the return of hostage Elad Katzir’s body to his family, Netanyahu says Israel “must unite to repel the attacks against us.”

“This is the time for unity. But precisely at this time, an extreme and violent minority is trying to drag the country into division,” he says. “There is nothing our enemies want more.”

“Let our enemies make no mistake – the absolute majority of the people are united in the need to continue fighting until victory,” Netanyahu continues. “The majority of the people, and I am among them, condemns any manifestation of violence within us – riots and violations of the law, trampling on demonstrators or attacking policemen, wild incitement and murderous violence on social media.”

70% of southern evacuees are back home, government says, six months after October 7

Israeli soldiers standing near a mural painted at the site of the Old Sderot Police Station that was attacked by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, March 11, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers standing near a mural painted at the site of the Old Sderot Police Station that was attacked by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, March 11, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Six months after the Hamas onslaught on Israel’s south, 70% of the population of the affected area are back home, with only a handful locales remaining uninhabited, the government says.

Of the 57,000 people who had been evacuees from the south as of February 29, at least 40,150 residents — including some 23,000 from Sderot alone — are living in their municipalities situated within 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) of the border, says the Tekuma Authority, the government arm responsible for rehabilitating the south, in a statement marking half a year since the devastating attack.

Some 13 locales, including Be’eri, Kfar Aza, Nir Oz and Kerem Shalom, are either too heavily damaged to be inhabited or deemed by the army to be at too great a risk to be resettled at this time, a rehabilitation official tells The Times of Israel Sunday.

Tekuma has spent roughly NIS 2.25 billion ($600 million) of its budget of NIS 18 billion ($4.7 billion) for rehabilitating the area over the next five years, Tekuma says in its six-month update.

The remaining evacuees are living in state-funded accommodations, including in hotels (6,350 people) and in communities (1.942) including Kiryat Gat, Mishmar Ha’emek and Beersheba.

Another approximately 60,000 evacuees from the north, near the border with Lebanon, are living in similar conditions.

Hostile aircraft sirens sound in southernmost city of Eilat

Hostile aircraft intrusion sirens sound in Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat and the surrounding area.

Amid the war in Gaza, the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen have attempted to fire drones and missiles at Eilat on multiple occasions.

One victim of West Bank shooting attack expected to be discharged later today

The condition of one of the victims of this morning’s shooting terror attack in the Shomron region has been downgraded from moderate to light, Meir Medical Center updates.

The victim, suffering from shrapnel wounds to the upper body, is expected to be discharged to his home later today.

Shin Bet: Iran likely behind delivery of mourner’s wreath to Liri Albag’s family

The Shin Bet security agency says that Iran was likely behind a delivery of a wreath of flowers, of the sort usually laid at graves, to the home of hostage Liri Albag.

Attached to the wreath was a note reading, “May her memory be a blessing, we all know that the country is more important.”

“An initial investigation by the Shin Bet raises the suspicion that the people behind the delivery of the bouquet of flowers to the home of the family of hostage Liri Albag, are most likely Iranian elements,” the agency says.

The Shin Bet says it is continuing to investigate the incident.

Albag, 19, was taken hostage during the shock onslaught by the Iran-backed Hamas terror group on October 7 and remains in Gaza with some 130 other hostages. She is believed to be alive.

Threatening Israel, senior Iranian official says Israeli embassies ‘are no longer safe’

Demonstrators burn an Israeli flag during the funeral for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5, 2024.  (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Demonstrators burn an Israeli flag during the funeral for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5, 2024. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader warns that Israeli embassies are “no longer safe” after a strike in the Syrian capital that Tehran blamed on Israel killed seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps last week.

“The embassies of the Zionist regime are no longer safe,” Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

The news agency also publishes a graphic that it claims showcases nine types of Iranian missiles it says are capable of hitting Israel.

Five rockets fired from Khan Younis at Gaza border communities, hours after IDF withdraws ground troops

Five rockets were fired from the Khan Younis area in the southern Gaza Strip at communities near the border.

According to the IDF, some of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. There are no reports of injuries or damage.

The rocket fire comes hours after the IDF withdrew all troops from southern Gaza.

Hamas-run health ministry says 33,175 people killed in Gaza since start of war

At least 33,175 people Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

Figures issued by the terror group cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including from the terror group’s own rocket misfires.

The IDF says it has killed over 13,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Hamas-led terrorists killed some 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7 and abducted 253, of whom 133 are still held captive, not all of them alive. The IDF has lost 260 soldiers since the start of the ground offensive in Gaza.

IDF says troops uncovered 900-meter-long tunnel in al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis

A handout image released on April 7, 2024 shows a 900-meter-long tunnel uncovered by the IDF in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, along with weapons discovered inside. (Israel Defense Forces)
A handout image released on April 7, 2024 shows a 900-meter-long tunnel uncovered by the IDF in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, along with weapons discovered inside. (Israel Defense Forces)

Before being withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, the IDF says troops of the Commando Brigade located a 900-meter-long tunnel in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis.

In the tunnel, the IDF says troops found rooms where operatives would reside, along with a large cache of weapons.

The tunnel was later demolished by combat engineers, the IDF says. Next to one of the tunnel entrances, a gunman was killed, the IDF adds.

IDF: Intelligence showed targeted raids more effective way to fight Hamas going forward

Troops of the Commando Brigade operate in the Khan Younis neighborhood of al-Amal, in a handout image published April 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Commando Brigade operate in the Khan Younis neighborhood of al-Amal, in a handout image published April 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF believes that raids based on new intelligence, like the operation at Shifa Hospital and others in northern Gaza, are a more effective way to operate against Hamas.

The offensive in Khan Younis did what it set out to do, according to the IDF, with the local Hamas brigade dismantled, thousands of gunmen killed, and around 30 kilometers of tunnels destroyed.

Troops will ultimately return for raids based on new intelligence, similar to how operations are taking place in northern Gaza, according to the IDF.

The 98th Division, which was withdrawn from southern Gaza overnight, also needs time for R&R after four straight months of fighting.

TikTok says over 3 million Israeli, Palestinian videos removed since October 7

President Isaac Herzog meets with senior TikTok representatives visiting Israel to discuss the spread of antisemitic, anti-Israel content on the platform, February 6, 2024. (President's Spokesperson)
President Isaac Herzog meets with senior TikTok representatives visiting Israel to discuss the spread of antisemitic, anti-Israel content on the platform, February 6, 2024. (President's Spokesperson)

Social media platform TikTok has removed over 3.1 million videos made in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza and suspended another 140,000 livestreams, an Israel-based spokesperson for the video-sharing app says.

Among the material taken off the platform was “content promoting Hamas, hate speech, violent extremism and misinformation,” the spokesperson says in a statement.

The 3.1 million videos are just a small portion of the nearly 78.3 million videos it says were removed globally for all community guideline violations in the same period, from October 7 to March 31.

Sunday’s statement says TikTok, owned by Chinese firm ByteDance, fine-tuned automated content moderation technology following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, resulting in “an immediate 234% increase in the violative comments removed in Israel and Palestine by this technology.”

It also claims a 13% boost in moderator accuracy in North America thanks to updated training on antisemitism and Islamophobia.

The platform has been hounded by allegations that it allows antisemitic and anti-Israel content or even fosters anti-Jewish attitudes in its users. In November, a survey suggested that for every 30 minutes that someone watches videos on the platform, they became 17% more antisemitic.

Among the videos removed was one by relatives of the hostage Bibas family calling for their release, which a cousin said was taken down last month. The company reportedly blamed a technical fault.

In January, the company’s top lobbyist in Israel resigned in protest of the company’s alleged anti-Israel bias.

IDF says 19-year-old seriously wounded in West Bank shooting attack is a soldier

The IDF says the seriously wounded victim of the shooting attack on Route 55 in the West Bank earlier was a soldier.

The 19-year-old was on a bus driving through the area, between the Palestinian towns of Azzun and Nabi Ilyas. Another man in a car was moderately hurt.

According to the IDF, the terrorist drove to a junction from a nearby dirt road, got out, and opened fire at several vehicles. He then fled the scene.

The IDF says aircraft were scrambled to the area to search for the terrorist and troops are blocking the entrance to Nabi Ilyas.

IDF withdraws all ground troops from southern Gaza, leaving just one brigade in the enclave

Troops of the Commando Brigade operate in the Khan Younis neighborhood of al-Amal, in a handout image published April 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Commando Brigade operate in the Khan Younis neighborhood of al-Amal, in a handout image published April 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Overnight, the IDF withdrew all ground troops from the southern Gaza Strip, after four straight months of fighting in the Khan Younis area.

Only one brigade, Nahal, currently remains in the Gaza Strip.

The Nahal Brigade is tasked with securing the so-called Netzarim Corridor, which crosses Gaza from the Be’eri area in southern Israel to the Strip’s coast.

The corridor enables the IDF to carry out raids in northern and central Gaza, prevents Palestinians from returning to the northern part of the Strip, and allows humanitarian organizations to deliver aid directly to northern Gaza.

Police investigating after mourner’s wreath sent to family of hostage Liri Albag, who is believed to be alive

The police have opened an investigation after a wreath of flowers, usually laid at graves, was left outside the home of Liri Albag’s family.

Attached to the wreath was a note reading “May her memory be a blessing, we all know that the country is more important.”

Albag, 19, was taken hostage on October 7 and remains in Gaza with some 130 other hostages. She is believed to be alive, and former hostages released in the weeklong November truce said they had seen her and that she had been forced to go between various Gazan families’ homes to cook and clean for them.

Speaking to the Walla news outlet, Liri’s sister Roni Albag says the family doesn’t know who sent the wreath, and upon its discovery, it was taken to the police station by a local security officer to prevent the family from seeing it.

“How are there people in the world who dare to send a mourning wreath to our family, when we know she is alive,” Roni says. “I have no words, it’s horrifying and makes me sick.”

Rocket sirens sound in northern Golan

Rocket warning sirens sound in the northern Golan, close to the border with Lebanon.

Sirens can be heard in Merom Golan, Otal and Ein Zivan.

Gallant: Israel has completed preparations for potential face-off with Iran

Pic: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) meets with the chief of the IDF's Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk (center), and the chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, at his office in Tel Aviv, April 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Pic: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) meets with the chief of the IDF's Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk (center), and the chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, at his office in Tel Aviv, April 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says Israel has “completed preparations for a response against any scenario that would develop against Iran.”

The remark is made following an assessment Gallant held with the chief of the IDF’s Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk, and the chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva.

Iran has threatened a response to the alleged assassination by Israel of its top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander in Syria, along with five other IRGC officers.

Meir Medical Center says it’s treating moderately wounded victim of West Bank shooting

A victim of the shooting attack in the Shomron region this morning is brought to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba in moderate condition, the hospital says.

The victim, in his 40s, is currently being treated in Meir’s trauma unit.

Driver who plowed into protesters in Tel Aviv says car accelerated due to malfunction

The scene where a driver ran over protesters during a demonstration calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the current Israeli government in Tel Aviv, April 6, 2024. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
The scene where a driver ran over protesters during a demonstration calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the current Israeli government in Tel Aviv, April 6, 2024. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

The driver who ran over five protesters in Tel Aviv last night, moderately injuring one of them, has claimed it was accidental, and that a malfunction prevented him from braking or slowing down, Hebrew media reports.

The driver’s lawyer says his client “did everything possible to avoid running over protesters,” and says that public figures criticizing the incident before the details are known will “lead to unrest.”

Police are expected to request that the driver’s detention be extended later today on the grounds that the incident posed a risk to human life.

West Bank shooting: Woman, 19, seriously wounded, man in his 50s in moderate condition

The scene of a shooting attack on Route 55 in the West Bank in which two people were injured, April 7, 2024. (Magen David Adom)
The scene of a shooting attack on Route 55 in the West Bank in which two people were injured, April 7, 2024. (Magen David Adom)

A 19-year-old woman is seriously wounded and a man in his 50s is listed in good-to-moderate condition in the shooting attack on the West Bank’s Route 55, medics say.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the seriously wounded woman is conscious.

Both victims are being taken to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba, MDA adds.

IDF says troops dispatched to scene of West Bank shooting

The IDF says troops have been dispatched to the scene of the shooting attack in the West Bank.

The military says it will provide further details on the incident soon.

According to medics, at least two people were wounded after gunfire was directed at a bus and a car on Route 55, between the Palestinian towns of Azzun and Nabi Ilyas.

Police say the highway has been closed in both directions in the area of the attack.

Herzog visits Rwanda to discuss Gaza hostages, attend ceremony commemorating Rwandan genocide

President Isaac Herzog arrives in Rwanda to attend ceremony marking 30 years since the Rwandan genocide, April 7, 2024. (Maayan Toaf/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog arrives in Rwanda to attend ceremony marking 30 years since the Rwandan genocide, April 7, 2024. (Maayan Toaf/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog lands in Rwanda as part of ongoing international efforts to secure the release of the 130 hostages abducted on October 7 still held in Hamas captivity in Gaza, his office says.

During his visit, arranged at the invitation of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Herzog will participate in a ceremony marking 30 years since the Rwandan genocide, alongside other international diplomats and heads of state.

Some 800,000 members of Rwanda’s minority Tutsi and Hutu populations were slaughtered by Hutu militias over a 100-day period from April 7 to July 15, 1994, during the Rwandan Civil War.

Herzog will also hold several diplomatic meetings, his office says, focused on the urgent need to secure the release of the hostages and the global fight against terrorism.

Herzog is the first Israeli leader to visit a country in Africa since the October 7 Hamas massacre in southern Israel and the outbreak of war in Gaza.

Medics responding to reports of two Israelis wounded in suspected West Bank shooting

Medics are responding to reports of two Israelis wounded in a suspected shooting attack in the West Bank.

The suspected attack takes place on the West Bank’s Route 55, between the Palestinian towns of Azzun and Nabi Ilyas.

According to the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service, one person was wounded on a bus that came under fire, and a second person was hurt in a car.

Family of Gan Yavne terror attack victim Lidor Levy donates his organs

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)

The family of Lidor Levy, the victim of the terror attack in Gan Yavne last week who died from his injuries on Thursday, donates his organs.

Levy’s heart was transplanted into a 63-year-old man and his lungs went to a 23-year-old man. Both procedures were done at Sheba Medical Center.

Before his death, Levy had registered as a potential organ donor with the National Transplant Center and carried an ADI organ donation card.

France’s Macron to lead ceremony marking 80 years since Nazi raid on Jewish orphanage

France's President Emmanuel Macron speaks to journalists during the inauguration of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, northern Paris, on February 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron speaks to journalists during the inauguration of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, northern Paris, on February 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron will later today mark 80 years since Nazi forces raided a Jewish orphanage in the southeast of France and sent almost all its occupants to extermination camps.

A handful of former residents of the orphanage in the village of Izieu are to attend the ceremony headed by Macron, one of a string of events he is leading this year as France marks eight decades since the key penultimate year of the Holocaust.

On April 6, 1944, the 44 Jewish children aged four to 12 then hosted in the orphanage were rounded up by the Gestapo with their seven instructors, also Jewish.

The raid was carried out on the orders of Klaus Barbie, the notorious Nazi known as the “Butcher of Lyon.” Barbie fled to South America after the war but was extradited from Bolivia to France in 1983 and in 1987 was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of crimes against humanity. He died in prison in 1991.

All the Izieu victims were deported to the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Nazi-occupied Poland or Reval in Estonia. Only one instructor survived.

Sunday’s event will see the celebration of “the commitment of those who stood up against Nazism by welcoming the victims of persecution, and of those who opposed the abomination of republican values, by bringing the executioner Klaus Barbie to justice,” the French presidency says.

Six months of war: IDF data shows 604 soldiers killed, more than 9,000 rockets fired by Hamas

FILE: Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, Sunday, October. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
FILE: Rockets are fired toward Israel from the Gaza Strip, Sunday, October. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

As the country marks six months of war against Hamas, the IDF publishes new data on its operations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Lebanon, from the number of terror operatives killed to the number of sites struck.

According to the data, more than 13,000 Hamas operatives and members of other terror groups have been killed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7, when gunmen rampaged through southern communities massacring some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting 253 to Gaza.

The Hamas-run health ministry has said over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, though the figure cannot be independently verified and is believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires.

The IDF’s data says the military has killed five Hamas brigade commanders and those of an equivalent rank, as well as more than 20 battalion commanders. More than 100 Hamas company commanders and operatives with a similar rank have also been killed, according to the data.

In Lebanon, the IDF says it has killed more than 330 terror operatives, mostly members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah. The number includes 30 Hezbollah commanders, according to the IDF.

Some 32,000 targets have been struck in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war, including more than 3,600 that were discovered as Hamas sites during the fighting.

In Lebanon, some 4,700 Hezbollah positions have been hit, according to the IDF’s data.

Since the beginning of the war, some 9,100 projectiles fired from Gaza crossed the border into Israel, alongside 3,100 from Lebanon and around 35 from Syria. These figures do not include rockets — said by Israel to be at least in the hundreds — launched by Gazan terror groups that misfired and landed in the Strip.

The IDF says the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504 has interrogated some 4,600 Palestinian suspects in the Gaza Strip, many of whom were arrested and brought to Israel for further questioning.

A total of 604 soldiers, reservists and local security officers have been killed and another 3,193 have been wounded since October 7. Of them, 260 were killed and 1,552 were wounded during the ground offensive in Gaza.

The IDF also lists 41 soldiers killed due to friendly fire in Gaza and other military-related accidents.

Since October 7, in the West Bank, the IDF says troops have arrested more than 3,700 wanted Palestinians, including more than 1,600 affiliated with Hamas. Another 420 gunmen have been killed by troops in the West Bank, the IDF says.

The IDF says 70 brigade-level raids have been carried out in the West Bank, and 19 homes of Palestinians accused of terrorism have been demolished.

IDF says it struck Hezbollah air defense infrastructure in northeastern Lebanon

The IDF says it targeted sites belonging to Hezbollah’s air defense unit in northeastern Lebanon’s Baalbek overnight.

The targets included a compound and three additional infrastructures relating to Hezbollah’s air defenses, the IDF says.

The IDF says the strikes come in response to the terror group shooting down a military drone over southern Lebanon yesterday with a surface-to-air missile. Hezbollah initially said it downed an Elbit Hermes 450, but later claimed it was a Hermes 900 model.

Additional Hezbollah sites were also hit last night in Ayta ash-Shab and Odaisseh, the military adds.

IDF announces 4 soldiers killed fighting Hamas in southern Gaza

From left to right, This combination of photos shows Cpt. Ido Baruch, Sgt. Amitai Even Shoshan, Sgt. Ilai Zair and Sgt. Reef Harush, who the army said were killed fighting against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
From left to right, This combination of photos shows Cpt. Ido Baruch, Sgt. Amitai Even Shoshan, Sgt. Ilai Zair and Sgt. Reef Harush, who the army said were killed fighting against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF announces the deaths of four soldiers who were killed during fighting against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon.

They are named as:

Cpt. Ido Baruch, 21, a commander at the Commando Brigade’s training base, from Tel Mond.

Sgt. Amitai Even Shoshan, 20, of the Commando Brigade’s training base, from Azri’el.

Sgt. Ilai Zair, 20, of the Commando Brigade’s training base, from Kedar.

Sgt. Reef Harush, 20, of the Commando Brigade’s training base, from Kibbutz Ramat David.

Their deaths bring the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 260.

The four were killed after gunmen who came out of a tunnel in a destroyed building opened fire at troops carrying out a patrol along the IDF’s logistics route in Khan Younis, according to an initial military probe. The operatives apparently managed to flee back into the tunnel.

A tank with the soldiers came under RPG fire by another cell in the area, though there were no injuries in that attack. The tank returned fire, killing members of the second cell, according to the IDF’s probe.

UN chief: ‘Nothing can justify the horror unleashed by Hamas on October 7’

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, at the foreign ministry headquarters in the Egypt's New Administrative Capital, Sunday, March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, at the foreign ministry headquarters in the Egypt's New Administrative Capital, Sunday, March 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Six months after the terror onslaught led by Hamas, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls October 7 “a day of pain for Israel and the world.”

In a video statement posted to X, Guterres says he and the UN mourn for the some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, “who were killed in cold blood.”

“Nothing can justify the horror unleashed by Hamas on October 7,” he says.

He also condemns “the use of sexual violence, torture, injuring and kidnapping of civilians, the firing of rockets toward civilian targets, and the use of human shields.”

“I call for the unconditional release of all the hostages still held by Hamas and other armed groups.”

Israeli strikes in eastern Lebanon targeted Hezbollah training camp — Lebanese sources

Two Lebanese security sources tell Reuters that an Israeli attack in eastern Lebanon targeted a training camp belonging to Hezbollah in the Janta village, near the border with Syria.

One of the strikes was aimed at the town of Safri, near the eastern city of Baalbek, the sources add.

UK sends Royal Navy ship to supply aid to Gaza as part of new maritime corridor

LONDON — A British Royal Navy ship will supply aid to Gaza as part of an international effort to help set up a new humanitarian maritime corridor in early May, the foreign office and ministry of defense say.

The multinational effort, involving the United States, Cyprus and other partners, will develop a new temporary pier off the coast of Gaza, British Foreign Minister David Cameron says.

“The situation in Gaza is dire and the prospect of famine is real. We remain committed to getting aid to those who so desperately need it,” Cameron says in a statement.

Cameron has also pledged 9.7 million pounds ($12.26 million) for aid equipment and logistical expertise to help set up the maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza, his office says.

The initiative will see aid pre-screened in Cyprus and delivered directly to Gaza, through the new US temporary pier being constructed off the coast or via Ashdod Port after Israel agreed to open it, the foreign ministry says.

British Defense Minister Grant Shapps says the new temporary pier on the coast of Gaza will host cargo ships to deliver aid by sea.

The government says British military teams had been embedded with planning teams in the US operational headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as well as in Cyprus for several weeks to develop the safest and most effective maritime route.

Israel said to launch airstrikes in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley

Israel launched airstrikes on Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley early Sunday, two Lebanese security sources tell Reuters, a few hours after the downing of an Israeli drone over Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group claimed responsibility for downing the drone in a statement.

Herzog and Gantz denounce Tel Aviv ramming, warn against ‘return to October 6’

President Isaac Herzog and other political leaders denounce the suspected ramming of protesters by a driver in Tel Aviv, wounding five people.

In a statement calling the incident “most grave,” Herzog warns “violence is a red line that must never be crossed” and calls for those acting violently to be brought to justice.

“We cannot return to October 6,” he says, referring to the political and societal tensions roiling Israel before the Hamas terror onslaught that started the ongoing war in Gaza. “We must do everything to maintain the unity of Israel. Only together will we defeat our enemies.”

War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz denounces the “horrific” incident and says “we all must speak out with a clear voice against all violence.” He also slams “comparisons of the protesters to our enemies and accusing them of wanting to murder the prime minister.”

“All public leaders should act sensitively toward all parts of society, particularly in these difficult days,” adds Gantz, while similarly warning against a return “to the days before October 7.”

MK Chili Troper of Gantz’s National Unity party calls for the incident to be widely denounced, specifically saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “and the entire leadership” should do so, adding that “whoever is quiet in the face of incitement cannot say their hands are clean.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid suggests Netanyahu is responsible, charging the ramming was “the direct result of the rising incitement from the government.”

“They will not be deter us and or stop us from protesting until the hostages return and this terrible government falls,” Lapid says.

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