The Times of Israel is liveblogging Thursday’s events as they unfolded.

Yemen’s Houthis say they targeted container ship in Gulf of Aden

CAIRO — Yemen’s Houthis targeted the MSC Darwin ship in the Gulf of Aden, the Iran-aligned group’s military spokesman Yahya Sarea says in a televised speech, as Houthi forces have staged attacks on shipping in the Red Sea region for months in solidarity with Palestinians fighting Israel in the Gaza war.

Senior official says Israel weighing proposal for release of 33 hostages, not 20

An unnamed senior Israeli official is quoted telling several Hebrew media outlets that Israel is currently weighing a proposed deal for the release of 33 hostages held by Hamas, not 20.

The official adds the length of the ceasefire accompanying the hostages’ released will be determined by the number of captives that Hamas frees.

State Department Arabic spokesperson resigns in opposition to US policy on Gaza war

WASHINGTON — The Arabic language spokesperson of the US State Department has resigned, citing her opposition to Washington’s policy related to the war in Gaza, in at least the third resignation from the department over the issue.

Hala Rharrit was also the Dubai Regional Media Hub’s deputy director and joined the State Department almost two decades ago as a political and human rights officer, the department’s website shows.

“I resigned April 2024 after 18 years of distinguished service in opposition to the United States’ Gaza policy,” she writes on social media website LinkedIn. A State Department spokesperson, asked about the resignation in today’s press briefing, says the department has channels for its workforce to share views when it disagrees with government policies.

Video from anti-Israel encampment at Northwestern shows protester assaulting student reporter

Video from the anti-Israel encampment at Northwestern University shows a masked pro-Palestinian demonstrator assaulting a student reporter who was filming protesters set up tents.

Another video from the university shows a demonstrator with a keffiyeh wrapped around his face wearing a hoodie with an image of Abu Obeida, the spokesman of the Hamas terror group’s military wing.

Smotrich urges end of Mossad’s role in hostage talks: ‘Only speak to Hamas with shelling and bombs’

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaks at the Maariv economic conference in Tel Aviv, March 26, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaks at the Maariv economic conference in Tel Aviv, March 26, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Following a primetime television report about the latest proposal for a hostage deal, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich lashes out at Israel’s handling of the negotiations and calls the Mossad intelligence agency to no longer involve them.

“The time has come for the Mossad to resume dealing with what it was trained to do: Taking out Hamas leaders across the world and not [taking part] negotiations that have conducted irresponsibly and harm Israel’s security,” the far-right politician writes on X, formerly Twitter.

He also says that “from now we should only speak to Hamas with shelling and bombs,” while calling for Israeli forces to enter Rafah “as quickly and hard as possible, before continuing throughout the entire Strip until [Hamas’s] total destruction.”

“This is critical for Israel’s security and it’s also the only chance to bring back the hostages,” claims Smotrich.

Source says Israel willing to reassess Rafah op as part of hostage deal but not end war

A source tells the Ynet news site that Israel would be willing to reconsider its planned operation in Rafah if there’s “a real offer” for hostages-for-truce agreement with Hamas, but won’t “compromise on ending the war.”

The official’s comments come amid Hebrew media reports that Israel has dropped its previous demand that at least 40 hostages be released as part of any agreement.

Dozens of IDF vehicles near southern Gaza border ahead of expected Rafah op

The Israeli military has massed dozens of tanks and armored vehicles along its border with the southern Gaza Strip in what appears to be preparations for an invasion of the border city of Rafah.

An Associated Press journalist saw the movement of the vehicles today near Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing, which is next to Rafah.

Government asks High Court to again delay mandatory conscription of ultra-Orthodox

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and youth raise placards during a protest against Israeli army conscription outside an army recruitment office in Jerusalem on April 11, 2024. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and youth raise placards during a protest against Israeli army conscription outside an army recruitment office in Jerusalem on April 11, 2024. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

The government seeks another deferral of a looming High Court-enforced deadline for it to come up with a new military conscription plan that would address mainstream anger at exemptions granted to ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The court, hearing appeals that describe the decades-old waiver as discriminatory, had given March 31 as the original deadline. That was extended to April 30 at the request of the government, which argued it was busy waging the Gaza war.

In a new request, the Justice Ministry asks for a deferral to May 20, citing a lag in appointing a government lawyer and “significant national-security events” of recent days which, it says, had halted government work on a conscription blueprint.

That appears to refer to an unprecedented Iranian drone and missile salvo against Israel on April 13-14, a surge in fighting on the Lebanese front and Israeli preparations to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah as part of the offensive to crush Hamas.

There is no immediate response from the court.

Egypt seeks further talks with Israel in renewed mediation push to secure hostages-for-truce deal

CAIRO — Egypt has asked for a follow-up meeting with Israel in renewed efforts to mediate a deal for a ceasefire and the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip, two Egyptian security sources say.

Egyptian, Israeli and US officials held in-person and remote meetings on Wednesday that sought concessions to break a deadlock in months-long negotiations for a truce in the war between Israel and Hamas that was triggered by the terror group’s October 7 attack, the sources say.

Egypt believes Israel had shown more willingness to allow displaced Gazans to return toward the north of the enclave in a way that limited security checks and procedures for those not suspected of terror activity, they add.

A meeting between Egyptian and Israeli officials is expected to take place on Friday in Cairo, the sources say, with further meetings with the Hamas contingent on the result.

A deal for 20 hostages: Israel said discussing more limited proposal that won’t involve ending the war

Israelis march during a protest by the relatives of hostages held in Gaza by Palestinian terrorists, outside Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on April 25, 2024, to call for government action to release the hostages. (Jack Guez/AFP)
Israelis march during a protest by the relatives of hostages held in Gaza by Palestinian terrorists, outside Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on April 25, 2024, to call for government action to release the hostages. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Officials in Israel are deliberating a more limited proposal for Hamas to free hostages, Israeli television reports, in an effort to avoid acceding to the terror group’s demand that any agreement to release captives include an end to the war.

According to Channel 12 news, “the new outline for a deal that’s being debated in Israel” calls for the release of 20 hostages — women, female soldiers, the elderly and those with serious medical conditions. In turn, Israel would agree to allow Palestinians to return to northern Gaza, but would not declare an end to the war.

The unsourced report indicates this and other proposals were discussed at today’s war cabinet meeting. It does not specify how long of a pause in the fighting would be involved.

It says the proposal will be convoyed to mediators shortly.

An Israeli source quoted by the network says Israel is doing the maximum to try to compel Hamas to respond, noting the preparations for a ground offensive in Rafah and the growing international pressure for a hostage-for-ceasefire deal.

The report also says Israel is increasingly inclined toward Egypt’s mediation efforts instead of Qatar’s, and that there’s currently very little optimism in Jerusalem about the prospects for an agreement.

IDF says probing reports that strike killed Gazan assisting Belgian aid efforts

The IDF says it is investigating reports that a Palestinian man working for Belgium’s development aid efforts in the Gaza Strip was killed in a strike overnight.

“The details of the incident are under review,” the IDF says in response to a query.

“The IDF acts in accordance with international law against the Hamas terrorist organization and the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip,” the military adds.

UK convicts Moroccan of murdering retiree so ‘Palestine would be free from Zionists’

Ahmed Alid, a Moroccan asylum seeker who stabbed a pensioner to death, in Hartlepool, northeast England, October 15, 2023. (Counter Terrorism Policing North East)
Ahmed Alid, a Moroccan asylum seeker who stabbed a pensioner to death, in Hartlepool, northeast England, October 15, 2023. (Counter Terrorism Policing North East)

LONDON — A Moroccan asylum seeker who stabbed a random senior citizen to death, telling British police he carried out the attack because Israel had “killed children” in Gaza, is convicted of murder.

Ahmed Alid, 45, stabbed 70-year-old Terence Carney six times after a chance meeting in the street in Hartlepool, north east England, on October 15, 2023 — eight days after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel.

Alid also attacked his housemate Javed Nouri, a Christian convert, and assaulted two police officers.

He shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest,” as he repeatedly wounded the sleeping Nouri in the chest, Teesside Crown Court heard at the start of his trial.

The 31-year-old survived the assault but Carney died after being stabbed six times in the chest, abdomen and back.

The jury at Teesside Crown Court unanimously finds Alid guilty of murdering Carney, attempting to murder Nouri and assaulting the two police officers.

Police arrested Alid close to the murder scene with a bloody knife in his waistband, and he later told officers that he had acted because of the Gaza war, the court heard.

“He said he had wanted to kill them because of the conflict in Gaza and to further his desire that Palestine would be free from the Zionists, by which he meant Israel,” prosecutor Jonathan Sandiford said.

“The defendant said he would have killed more people if he had been able to do so.”

Sandiford added Alid had described Carney as an “innocent victim” during his interrogation, but that he had been killed “because Britain had created the Zionist entity — Israel — and should make it leave.”

“They killed children and I killed an old man,” he told officers, the prosecutor said.

UK says Royal Navy downed Houthi missile fired at commercial ship

LONDON — Britain says the Royal Navy warship HMS Diamond has shot down a missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthis from Yemen targeting a merchant vessel.

“The UK continues to be at the forefront of the international response to the Iranian-backed Houthis’ dangerous attacks on commercial vessels, which have claimed the lives of international mariners,” British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps says in a statement.

Clashes at Princeton, Northwestern as students defy university policy against anti-Israel encampments

In the latest campus clash, police officers immediately respond as student protesters at New Jersey’s Princeton University begin setting up an anti-Israel encampment, video footage on social media shows.

“You all are in violation of university policy. These tents must come down now,” an officer is heard saying in a video posted on X, as protesters chant “Free, free Palestine.”

At Northwestern University, students began erecting tents on the campus just north of Chicago as they called for the school to protect pro-Palestine speakers and end relationships with Israeli institutions, organizers say.

“We refuse to allow business to continue as usual in the face of Northwestern’s complicity,” the NU Educators for Justice in Palestine, Student Liberation Union and anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace say in a joint statement.

Video from Northwestern shows students shoving officers called in to disperse the encampment.

Tents are also being erected George Washington University in Washington, DC. where a group of protesters chants, “It is our right to rebel, divest now or go to hell,” video footage posted on social media shows.

Ministers okay visits to imprisoned Hamas terrorists who took part in Oct. 7 attack

Hamas terror suspects, caught during Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 and during the ongoing IDF operations in Gaza, seen at a courtyard in a prison in southern Israel, February 14, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Hamas terror suspects, caught during Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 and during the ongoing IDF operations in Gaza, seen at a courtyard in a prison in southern Israel, February 14, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Government ministers have okayed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to permit non-Israeli monitors to visit imprisoned terrorists in Hamas’s Nukhba force who took part in the October 7 assault, according to Hebrew media reports.

The reports say that the proposal calls for allowing an Israeli judge and two foreign observers to see the jailed Nubkah members.

Holocaust survivors affected by October 7 to attend March of the Living at Auschwitz

Visitors to the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp after the March of the Living annual observance, in Oswiecim, Poland, April 28, 2022. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)
Visitors to the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp after the March of the Living annual observance, in Oswiecim, Poland, April 28, 2022. (Czarek Sokolowski/AP)

Seven Holocaust survivors whose lives were affected by the October 7 onslaught on Israel are preparing to attend this year’s March of the Living event in Poland.

The march, which the March of the Living nonprofit holds annually at the Auschwitz former death camp on Israel’s national Holocaust memorial day, Yom Hashoah, is set to happen on May 6 this year, with the October 7 delegation leading.

Bella Haim, grandmother of the Yotam Haim, who was kidnapped during the attack and later accidentally killed by Israeli troops in Gaza while trying to escape; Danit Gabay, who was with her children at Kibbutz Re’im during the terror onslaught; and Daniel Louz from Kibbutz Be’eri are among the members of the delegation. They are among 55 Holocaust survivors set to attend the march, along with thousands of Jews, many of them members of youth movements from across the world.

This year’s event also features a commemorative march in Budapest to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, organizers say.

“This year’s March of the Living holds profound significance, as the horrors of the past intertwine with the present ongoing nightmare faced by the State of Israel,” reads a statement published today that is undersigned by Shmuel Rosenman and Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, the chairman and president, respectively, of the International March of the Living organization.

“The recent incomprehensible massacre on October 7 serves as a constant reminder of the persistent threat posed by antisemitic hatred,” they write.

IDF says terrorists fired mortar shells at under-construction US-led Gaza aid pier as UN officials toured site

This satellite picture taken by Planet Labs PBC show the construction of a new aid port near Gaza City, Gaza Strip, on April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite picture taken by Planet Labs PBC show the construction of a new aid port near Gaza City, Gaza Strip, on April 18, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

Members of a terror group in the Gaza Strip launched mortars at an under-construction pier for a US-led project to bring aid into the Palestinian enclave yesterday, the military says.

The mortar attack occurred as United Nations officials were touring the site with Israeli troops on the coast of central Gaza, the IDF says in response to a query on the incident.

The IDF says the UN officials were rushed to a shelter by troops amid the attack.

UN officials also confirmed the mortar attack to the Associated Press, saying there were no injuries.

“The terrorist organizations continue to systematically harm humanitarian efforts while risking the lives of UN workers, while Israel allows the supply of aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip,” the IDF adds.

The attack marks a shaky start to the construction of the pier, a project that the US is spearheading to surge humanitarian aid into Gaza.

No group claimed responsibility for the mortar fire, but a Hamas official told AP yesterday that the terror group will resist any foreign military presence involved with the port project.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

PA envoy says 80,000-100,000 Gazans crossed into Egypt since October 7

Travelers crossing from the Gaza Strip enter the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Palestinian enclave following their evacuation on December 18, 2023. (AFP)
Travelers crossing from the Gaza Strip enter the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Palestinian enclave following their evacuation on December 18, 2023. (AFP)

CAIRO — Between 80,000 and 100,000 Palestinians have crossed into Egypt from Gaza since the start of the war triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Cairo says.

Ambassador Diab Allouh tells AFP that they had made their way over the frontier, without specifying how. The Rafah border crossing is the sole entry and exit point to Gaza not directly under the control of Israeli forces.

White House releases photo from Biden’s meeting with freed hostage Avigail Idan

The White House releases a photo of US President Joe Biden holding freed Israeli-American hostage Avigail Idan, 4, during their meeting yesterday in Washington.

“She’s remarkable and recovering from unspeakable trauma,” Biden says in a social post, referring to Avigail. “Our time together yesterday was a reminder of the work we have in front of us to secure the release of all remaining hostages.”

White House hits back at Hamas for decrying Biden’s criticism of anti-Israel Columbia protests

The White House hits back after a Hamas official criticized US President Joe Biden for condemning the anti-Israel protests at Columbia University.

“The American administration’s attempts to suppress these activities will not change the reality of the situation, whether regarding the justice of the Palestinian cause or the brutality and racism of the Israeli occupation,” Hamas spokesperson Bassem Naim told Newsweek earlier this week. “We believe that suppressing these activities will increase the youth’s adherence to their position and reveal the falsity of American democracy.”

Responding to Naim, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates tells The Times of Israel, “Hamas is a vicious terrorist organization that has spent decades murdering innocents.”

“Hamas perpetrated the deadliest massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust, which makes them the least credible voice that exists on this subject,” Bates says.

“Hamas’ disapproval, after their acts of ‘unadulterated evil’ – which they’ve pledged to repeat “again and again” – is a testament to President Biden’s moral clarity,” Bates adds.

“President Biden has stood against antisemitism his entire life. And he will never stop. That’s why he is carrying out the first-ever national strategy to combat antisemitism,” he adds.

UK reveals new sanctions targeting Iranian drone industry

File: In this photo released by the Iranian army on Oct. 3, 2023, drones are launched during the air force nationwide drone drill centered in northern Semnan province, Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)
File: In this photo released by the Iranian army on Oct. 3, 2023, drones are launched during the air force nationwide drone drill centered in northern Semnan province, Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

LONDON — Britain announces new sanctions targeting Iran’s military drone industry, in response to Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel earlier this month.

The measures, taken in coordination with the US and Canada, target four businesses and two directors at a network of drone companies with the aim of limiting Iran’s ability to launch drones.

“The Iranian regime’s dangerous attack on Israel risked thousands of civilian casualties and wider escalation in the region,” British Foreign Secretary David Cameron says in a statement.

“Today the UK and our partners have sent a clear message — we will hold those responsible for Iran’s destabilizing behavior to account.”

Britain also says it will introduce new bans on the export of drone and missile components to Iran, seeking to limit its military capabilities.

Last week, Britain imposed sanctions on Iranian military figures and organizations, in another coordinated move with the United States, following Iran’s action against Israel.

Iran launched drones and fired missiles at Israel on April 13 as a retaliatory strike for the attack on its embassy compound in Damascus two weeks prior, raising the risk of further escalation in conflict in the Middle East.

US appoints new Gaza humanitarian envoy

Lise Grande visits displaced people from Ramadi at a camp in al-Shurta neighborhood in west Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 23, 2015. (AP/Ali Abdul Hassan)
Lise Grande visits displaced people from Ramadi at a camp in al-Shurta neighborhood in west Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 23, 2015. (AP/Ali Abdul Hassan)

US President Joe Biden has appointed Lise Grande as his new Gaza humanitarian envoy, replacing David Satterfield who has held the role since it was established in October.

Grande “has an extensive background working in Africa and the Middle East including as the head of UN humanitarian and development operations in Yemen, where she coordinated one of the UN’s largest operations globally. Lise was also responsible for the UN’s humanitarian, stabilization, and development operations while serving as deputy head of the UN’s political mission in Iraq during the campaign against ISIS, where she led UN efforts to stabilize the more than twenty cities that had been liberated from ISIS control,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says in a statement announcing the appointment.

“Lise’s unique experience overseeing similar endeavors in complex and dangerous circumstances will allow her to continue this round the clock effort,” Blinken adds.

Satterfield, who took temporary leave as director of the public policy school at Rice University to take on the envoy role, will stay on at the State Department as a senior adviser, Blinken says, confirming reporting from The Times of Israel earlier this week regarding Grande’s appointment.

Satterfield’s replacement allows him to leave the post on a relatively high note.

On Tuesday, he told reporters that after months of sluggish performance by Israel and a stern call from US President Joe Biden with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 4, Jerusalem has taken “significant steps” to secure the entry and delivery of more humanitarian aid throughout Gaza.

Satterfield called on Israel to do more to facilitate efforts to avert famine in Gaza, including by establishing additional routes for aid to be transported throughout the Strip since the main two crossings have become overly congested due to the uptick in aid.

He also noted the need for the UN to secure additional trucks and transfer them into Gaza so that the additional assistance that has been approved in recent weeks can be delivered.

Hamas reiterates no release of hostages without end of war, says US pressure ‘has no value’

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. (AP/Hatem Moussa)
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. (AP/Hatem Moussa)

Hamas reiterates its demand Israel end the Gaza war as part of any deal to release hostages held there, with Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior official in the Palestinian terror group, telling Reuters that US pressure on Hamas “has no value.”

US official concedes ceasefire proposal would effectively accept Hamas demand to end war

This picture taken from southern Israel shows an Israeli military vehicle patrolling along the Gaza border on April 24, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)
This picture taken from southern Israel shows an Israeli military vehicle patrolling along the Gaza border on April 24, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Asked about whether a sticking point has been Hamas’s demand for a permanent ceasefire, which Israel doesn’t seem interested in accepting, a senior Biden administration official indicates to reporters in a briefing that the proposal on the table would effectively accept the terror group’s demand.

“It’s an immediate six-week ceasefire, leading into a second phase and then a permanent restoration of calm,” the official says, adding that the US would serve as a “guarantor along with Egypt and Qatar to ensure those things happen.”

US official stresses Yahya Sinwar is calling the shots for Hamas in hostage talks

Yahya Sinwar, Hamas's Gaza Strip chief, waves to supporters in Gaza City, on April 14, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Yahya Sinwar, Hamas's Gaza Strip chief, waves to supporters in Gaza City, on April 14, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

There have been times throughout the negotiations when significant progress was made with Hamas’s leaders “living in fancy hotels,” before the terror group’s Gaza leader ultimately rejected what had been agreed to, a US senior administration official tells reporters.

“Sinwar is the ultimate decision maker… and Sinwar is living deep, deep underground, as Gaza above him is a warzone and as Gazans are suffering,” the official says in a briefing. “The question goes to him of whether he’ll agree to release the vulnerable category of hostages to secure ceasefire and relief for Gazans, and the answer that comes back from Sinwar personally, is ‘No.'”

“Sinwar has made the decision he’d rather hold [Hersh Goldberg-Polin] and others rather than securing a ceasefire in Gaza,” the senior Biden administration official says.

He acknowledges that there have been times in the negotiations where Israel has been less cooperative, but in the last call US President Joe Biden had with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier “fully agreed” to the proposal now on the table.

“Right now, the core truth is that there’s a deal on the table that meets nearly all of the demands that Hamas has had,” the official says.

“The view of the Egyptians and the Qataris and those who are fairly deeply involved is that the answer that came back from inside Gaza was totally not constructive.”

The official adds that Hamas has sent “signals” seeking to clarify that it has not actually rejected the latest offer and that it is ready to sit down and negotiate further, but he is unsure whether that is genuine or whether the terror group is just trying to drag things out further. “We’re going to test that proposition over the coming days.”

“We do see some indications that there might be an avenue here, but I’m not totally confident because a lot of times we hear things from leaders of Hamas outside Gaza that do not reflect the Hamas leadership inside,” the senior administration official says, adding that even Hamas’s leaders abroad acknowledge that Sinwar is the only decisionmaker for the terror group.

US official says Israel agreed to unrestricted return of Palestinians to northern Gaza

People await approaching aircraft about to drop humanitarian aid packages over the northern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024. (AFP)
People await approaching aircraft about to drop humanitarian aid packages over the northern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024. (AFP)

Israel agreed to the hostage deal proposal on the table that would allow for the unrestricted return of Palestinians to northern Gaza, a senior Biden administration official tells reporters in a briefing.

The official was asked about comments from Hamas officials claiming that Israel has refused this demand. In the past, Israel had indeed indicated resistance to the unrestricted return of Palestinians to areas the IDF cleared in northern Gaza, due to fears that it would lead to a resurgence of Hamas.

But the senior administration official says Israel has in fact agreed to an unrestricted return as part of the hostage deal that Hamas has rejected.

The official clarifies that the return of Palestinians to northern Gaza would not be immediate as conditions have to be put in place over the first several weeks of the ceasefire to ensure the safety of civilians, given the level of destruction. “That means shelter, that means assistance, that means a UN mission to make sure things are ready.”

NY appeals court overturns Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction in landmark #MeToo case

Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan court as jury deliberations continue in his rape trial, on February 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan court as jury deliberations continue in his rape trial, on February 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK — New York’s highest court overturns Harvey Weinstein’s 2020 rape conviction, finding the judge at the landmark #MeToo trial prejudiced the ex-movie mogul with improper rulings, including a decision to let women testify about allegations that weren’t part of the case.

The state Court of Appeals ruling reopens a painful chapter in America’s reckoning with sexual misconduct by powerful figures — an era that began in 2017 with a flood of allegations against Weinstein. The court orders a new trial. His accusers could again be forced to relive their traumas on the witness stand.

Weinstein, 72, has been serving a 23-year sentence in a New York prison following his conviction on charges of criminal sex act for forcibly performing oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006 and rape in the third degree for an attack on an aspiring actress in 2013.

He will remain imprisoned because he was convicted in Los Angeles in 2022 of another rape and sentenced to 16 years in prison. Weinstein was acquitted in Los Angeles on charges involving one of the women who testified in New York.

Weinstein’s lawyers argued Judge James Burke’s rulings in favor of the prosecution turned the trial into “1-800-GET-HARVEY.”

The reversal of Weinstein’s conviction is the second major #MeToo setback in the last two years, after the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a Pennsylvania court decision to throw out Bill Cosby’s sexual assault conviction.

Weinstein’s conviction stood for more than four years, heralded by activists and advocates as a milestone achievement, but dissected just as quickly by his lawyers and, later, the Court of Appeals when it heard arguments on the matter in February.

Biden, 17 other world leaders issue joint call for Hamas to immediately free hostages

A posters of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists is seen in the streets of Nice, France, April 24, 2024. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A posters of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists is seen in the streets of Nice, France, April 24, 2024. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

US President Joe Biden leads a joint statement from the leaders of 18 countries with citizens being held hostage by Hamas calling on the terror group to immediately release them from Gaza.

The leaders of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom joined Biden in this statement. Israel was not included as the focus was on securing international support for the effort.

“We call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza for over 200 days. They include our own citizens. The fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, who are protected under international law, is of international concern,” the leaders say.

“We emphasize that the deal on the table to release the hostages would bring an immediate and prolonged ceasefire in Gaza, that would facilitate a surge of additional necessary humanitarian assistance to be delivered throughout Gaza and lead to the credible end of hostilities.”

“Gazans would be able to return to their homes and their lands with preparations beforehand to ensure shelter and humanitarian provisions,” the statement adds.

“We strongly support the ongoing mediation efforts in order to bring our people home. We reiterate our call on Hamas to release the hostages and let us end this crisis so that collectively we can focus our efforts on bringing peace and stability to the region,” the leaders say.

A senior administration official tells reporters in a briefing call previewing the joint statement that the US had tried to issue a joint statement like this earlier on in the war, but there had been disagreements among the countries regarding the language that prevented its publication.

During a meeting with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan roughly two weeks ago, American relatives of the hostages asked the Biden administration to try again to put a joint statement together, the senior US official says.

The US managed to get unanimous support this time around because of the understanding from the countries of the increasingly dire situation in which the hostages now find themselves, the official says. The White House shared with them the elements of the deal on the table that Israel has accepted but that Hamas has rejected.

“There is a deal on the table that would bring a ceasefire immediately to Gaza with the release of women, wounded, elderly and sick hostages that is ready to go. We have worked it out in meticulous detail and Hamas has rejected that. Because of that, we still have fighting ongoing in Gaza,” the senior administration official says.

The senior official also says that US forensic analysis of Hamas’s video of Hersh Goldberg-Polin has been ongoing since it received the video on Monday, adding that the White House has been in touch with the 23-year-old Israeli-American hostage’s family and is working with Qatar, Egypt and others to secure his release, along with that of the other hostages.

During the briefing, the official shares that Biden spent over an hour with Avigail Idan and her family in the White House yesterday, letting the 4-year-old girl released in the last hostage deal in November play in the Oval Office and crawl through the door of the Resolute Desk like John F. Kennedy Jr. was seen doing as his father worked above him in an iconic 1963 photo.

As Avigail played, Biden talked with her aunt and uncle who have been raising her since her return. The four-year-old was with her parents when they were murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7. The president also updated the family on the ongoing efforts to release the remaining hostages.

Belgium says worker taking part in country’s Gaza aid efforts killed in overnight strike

An aid worker who was part of Belgium’s development aid efforts in the Gaza Strip died in an Israeli strike on Rafah, the country’s development minister, Caroline Gennez, says.

“It is with deep sadness and horror that we learn of the death of our colleague Abdallah Nabhan (33) and his seven-year-old son Jamal, last night, following a bombardment by the Israeli army in the eastern part of the city of Rafah,” the minister says in a statement.

Nabhan, whose nationality was not disclosed, worked for the Enabel agency, assisting small businesses.

The Israel Defense Forces had no immediate comment when contacted.

Sirens briefly sound in towns near Lebanon due to suspected hostile aircraft

Residents of numerous Israeli communities near the Lebanon border, including the city of Kiryat Shmona, are instructed to take shelter immediately due to the suspected entry of a hostile aircraft to Israel’s skies.

After several minutes, the IDF says “the incident has ended.”

Police break up anti-Israel protest by students at prestigious Paris university

French police broke up an anti-Israel protest by dozens of university students in Paris, officials say Thursday, after days of similar protests erupting on college campuses across the United States.

The protest was organized by the Palestine Committee of Sciences Po University, which demanded that the university “cut its ties with universities and companies that are complicit in the genocide in Gaza” and “end the repression of pro-Palestinian voices on campus,” according to witnesses.

Police intervened as dozens of students gathered on a central Paris campus of the prestigious school on Wednesday evening, management says.

“After discussions with management, most of them agreed to leave the premises,” university officials say in a statement to AFP, saying the protest was adding to “tensions” at the university.

But “a small group of students” refused to leave and “it was decided that the police would evacuate the site,” the statement adds.

Sciences Po says it regretted that “numerous attempts” to have the students leave the premises peacefully had led nowhere.

According to the police prefecture, students had set up around 10 tents.

When members of law enforcement arrived, “50 students left on their own, 70 were evacuated calmly from 12:20 a.m.” and the police “left at 1:30 a.m., with no incidents to report,” the police said.

The protest group, however, claims its activists were “carried out of the school by more than fifty members of the security forces,” adding that “around a hundred” police officers were “also waiting for them outside.”

Separately, the Student Union of Sciences Po Paris said the decision by university officials to call in the police was “both shocking and deeply worrying” and reflected “an unprecedented authoritarian turn.”

The protests in Paris are an extension of the anti-Israel protests across universities in the US over the last week, as students demand that schools cut financial ties to Israel and divest from companies they claim are enabling its monthlong war with Hamas.

Some Jewish students say the protests have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus, partly prompting a heavier hand from universities.

European Parliament adopts resolution condemning Iran, calling for sanctions in vote of 357-20

European Parliament members attend the last session before the upcoming European elections, Thursday April 25, 2024 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
European Parliament members attend the last session before the upcoming European elections, Thursday April 25, 2024 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

The European Parliament adopts a resolution condemning Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel earlier this month in a vote of 357-20, and calls for further sanctions to be imposed on Iranian entities.

Condemning Iran’s attack on Israel, as well as those carried out before and during the assault by its proxies Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, the resolution acknowledges Tehran’s role in destabilizing the Middle East through its “network of non-state actors.”

The resolution passed during the final session before the upcoming European elections reiterates a prior demand for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be included on the European Union’s list of recognized terror organizations, and calls for Hezbollah in its entirety to be added to the list as well.

It also demands the current sanctions regime against Iran be expanded, “including by sanctioning the country’s supply and production of unmanned drones and missiles to Russia and the wider Middle East.”

In addition to condemning Iran’s attack on Israel, the resolution also criticizes the April 1 strike on an Iranian embassy building in Damascus, which Iran and Syria have blamed on Israel, stating that the “importance of the principle of the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises” must be respected at all times.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz lauds the resolution’s passage as “another Israeli diplomatic success and another blow to Iran.”

“We are tightening the noose around the Iranian regime’s neck – the world understands that Iran needs to be stopped now before it’s too late,” he adds.

IDF says Nahal Brigade withdrawn from Gaza to prepare for looming Rafah operation

Troops of the Nahal Brigade are seen in the Netzarim corridor, central Gaza, in a handout image published April 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Nahal Brigade are seen in the Netzarim corridor, central Gaza, in a handout image published April 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF’s Nahal Brigade has been withdrawn from the Gaza Strip for it to prepare with the rest of the 162nd Division for future operations, including Israel’s looming offensive in Rafah.

In the past three months, Nahal had operated in the Netzarim corridor, which crosses Gaza from the Be’eri area in southern Israel to the Strip’s coast.

The corridor, built around a road south of Gaza City, enables the IDF to carry out raids in northern and central Gaza while allowing Israel to control access to the north for Palestinians seeking to return after fleeing south. It also enables Israel to coordinate deliveries of humanitarian aid directly to northern Gaza.

The IDF says the road is 6.8 kilometers long and takes just seven minutes to cross it.

This aerial image from video shows the Netzarim corridor in central Gaza, in footage published April 25, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

In the corridor, the IDF built three forward operating bases, which have enabled dozens of pinpoint raids to be carried out in northern and central Gaza, the military says.

Nahal is being replaced by two reserve brigades in central Gaza, the 679th “Yiftah” Armored Brigade and the 2nd “Carmeli” Infantry Brigade.

The brigade will now be given time for R&R, training and going over plans for future offensives in Gaza.

Weather in Tel Aviv breaks city’s record for hottest April day, surpassing previous high recorded in 1939

People enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv during a heatwave, on April 24, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
People enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv during a heatwave, on April 24, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Temperatures in Tel Aviv broke an 85-year-old record for the month of April a short while ago, the Israel Meteorological Services says, as the country is engulfed in a heatwave for the second day.

Shortly after midday, temperatures in the coastal city reached a high of 40.7°C (105.3°F), breaking the previous record of 40.4°C (104.7°F) in 1939.

Hostage families protest outside IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv as war cabinet convenes

Families of the hostages gather outside the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv to demand a hostage deal ahead of a war cabinet meeting, April 25, 2024.. (Danor Aharon/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)
Families of the hostages gather outside the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv to demand a hostage deal ahead of a war cabinet meeting, April 25, 2024.. (Danor Aharon/Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

Family members of Gaza hostages stage a protest outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, where the war cabinet is currently meeting and the security cabinet is expected to convene later in the day.

The meetings will reportedly focus on the upcoming IDF operation in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, as well as the possibility that a deal with Hamas for the release of the 129 hostages from October 7 could still be reached, despite the dead end that the last round of negotiations seemed to arrive at.

Protesters play the footage of Hersh Goldberg-Polin that was published yesterday by Hamas on large screens outside the military base as family members and protesters call for the government to agree to any hostage deal that is offered to them rather than move ahead with the planned military operation.

The sisters of captive 19-year-old Liri Albag address the government from outside the military base, calling for them to “stop dragging your feet, be brave and accept any deal you’re given.”

The street is closed to traffic as protesters stand in the middle, counting to 202 through megaphones to represent each day that has passed since October 7 without the release of the hostages.

Magen David Adom says it is facing blood supply shortages, in need of donations

Israel’s blood supplies are insufficient, according to an announcement today from Magen David Adom blood services and Israel’s Health Ministry. MDA says it faces difficulties meeting the demand for blood to treat the injured and ill in the country’s hospitals.

Historically, fewer citizens donate blood over the Passover holiday. However, this year blood and blood products are needed more than ever. A donation of one unit of blood can be used for transfusions that save the lives of three people.

Information about where and when to donate blood is available by calling MDA blood services at 03-5300400, or by visiting www.mdais.org/blood-donation.

Senior US Democrat accuses anti-Israel protesters of ‘left-wing totalitarianism’

Students and other pro-Palestinian protesters are in an anti-Israel tent camp on the campus of Columbia University in New York City on April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
Students and other pro-Palestinian protesters are in an anti-Israel tent camp on the campus of Columbia University in New York City on April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

Anti-Israel protesters in the United States who have repeatedly disrupted public events and taken over public spaces are engaged in “left-wing totalitarianism,” and are attempting to silence and intimidate decision-makers, senior US Democratic Representative Adam Smith charged last week, ahead of the eruption of anti-Israel demonstrations on college campuses across the US.

Speaking to the One Decision Podcast in an episode recorded on April 18 and released Thursday morning, Smith, who serves on the US House Committee on Armed Services, condemns the form of protest frequently employed by left-wing protest groups throughout Israel’s war with Hamas as “completely wrong and enormously dangerous.”

While the protesters’ passion for the “life or death situation” faced by many in Gaza is understandable, the aim of the protests is to “silence opposition and intimidate decision-makers,” Smith says, noting that he agrees that the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave must be urgently addressed.

“If there are members of Congress who won’t meet with them, I meet with them. All the time. So they have an opportunity to be heard. They’re not trying to be heard, they’re trying to silence people who disagree with them,” he says.

Asked what he believes the solution to the issue is, Smith says that if the protesters are committing a crime such as “shutting down a freeway, shutting down an airport,” they should be arrested.

The exterior of Smith’s home was vandalized in December with graffiti accusing him of being a “baby killer” and demanding a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas, which began with the massacre committed by the terror group inside Israel on October 7.

At the time, he issued a statement criticizing extremism on both sides of the political spectrum, warning that it was “a threat to a healthy, functioning democracy.”

At the same time, he encouraged protesters to meet with him, and to find a way to work together “in a productive and peaceful way.”

Thousands of Jewish worshippers attend priestly blessing ceremony at Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Thousands of Jewish worshipers gather for the semi-annual priestly blessing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on April 25, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)
Thousands of Jewish worshipers gather for the semi-annual priestly blessing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on April 25, 2024. (Charlie Summers/Times of Israel)

Thousands of Jewish worshipers are convened at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for the traditional priestly blessing ceremony, held semi-annually during the intermediate periods of Passover and Sukkot.

The priestly blessing, known as “birkat kohanim” in Hebrew, involved male descendants of the Kohanim priestly class, who raise their hands and wrap themselves in their prayer shawls before chanting the ancient prayer.

Israeli police have blocked off the entrance to the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Outside the Western Wall complex, some elderly Orthodox Jews are requesting charity from passersby as they enter the site, while others sell flags depicting the ancient temple in Jerusalem.

After the blessing ends, Israeli Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef lead the crowd in the continuation of shacharit, the daily morning prayer.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the official rabbi of the Western Wall, invokes the hostages held captive by Hamas in Gaza, noting that he and the other organizers are sitting beside members of two hostage families descended from the priestly class.

“With us today is the Cohen family, whose son Eliya, the son of Sigalit, is in captivity, and the Halfon family, whose son Segev, the son of Galit, is in captivity,” he says.

War cabinet convenes to discuss upcoming Rafah operation

Israel’s war cabinet is meeting at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, ahead of an expanded meeting of the security cabinet later this afternoon.

According to Hebrew media reports, the meeting will focus on the imminent IDF operation in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city where four Hamas battalions remain, and where Israel believes many of the remaining 129 hostages from October 7 are being held.

Father of Hersh Goldberg-Polin: We didn’t know he was alive until yesterday, video gave us strength to keep going

Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, held captive in Gaza since October 7, in a Hamas propaganda video released on April 24, 2024. (Screenshot: Telegram)
Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, held captive in Gaza since October 7, in a Hamas propaganda video released on April 24, 2024. (Screenshot: Telegram)

Jon Polin, the father of Hamas hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin who appeared in a propaganda video published by the terror group yesterday, tells the Kan public broadcaster that the video of his son has given him and his wife Rachel Goldberg even more motivation to fight for his release.

“It’s not clear who wrote what he said,” Polin says, acknowledging the high likelihood that Hersh was reading from a script written by his captors. “The part I’m focusing on is the last part, when even if he read it off a page, he spoke directly to me and Rachel, to our daughters Libby and Orly.”

At the end of the nearly three-minute-long video, Hersh addressed his family, saying he knows “you are doing everything for me to return home as soon as possible,” and asked them to stay strong for him and to keep fighting.

“We’ve been working to bring Hersh home for 200 days, and after yesterday, we feel even more strongly that we can’t stop now, we have to continue,” Polin tells Kan.

“Until yesterday, we didn’t know he was alive,” he continues. “We hoped he was, but we didn’t know.”

Rachel Goldberg-Polin and Jon Polin, parents of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, issue a video statement pleading for a hostage deal and urging him to stay strong and survive, April 24, 2024. (Courtesy)

The video is the first sign of life that the Goldberg-Polin family has received of Hersh since October 7, when he was seen being pushed onto a Hamas pickup truck, his left arm blown off from the elbow down and wrapped in a bloody tourniquet.

“We cried, my wife and I sat and watched the video and cried,” Polin says, adding that he has watched the new video upwards of 20 times. “There were so many emotions, but at the core, for the first time in 200 days, we saw him and heard him.”

“I’ve been watching and watching it to draw strength from it, and also to understand what the purpose of it was – why did they release it yesterday specifically? I have no answers, but a lot of questions, and I’ll keep watching it.”

IDF evaluating how best to ‘recognize and honor’ hostages, other civilians in unique circumstances amid war

Avi Shamriz, father of Alon Shamriz, one of three hostages who was mistakenly killed by Israeli soldiers, arrives for a court hearing in his petition to recognize his son as a fallen Israeli soldiers, March 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Avi Shamriz, father of Alon Shamriz, one of three hostages who was mistakenly killed by Israeli soldiers, arrives for a court hearing in his petition to recognize his son as a fallen Israeli soldiers, March 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israeli military is establishing a panel that will evaluate how it will “recognize and honor” hostages and other civilians who participated in the fighting or were in unique situations amid the war.

The advisory committee was appointed by the head of the IDF Personnel Directorate, Maj. Gen. Yaniv Asor, at the request of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and with the approval of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the military says.

The IDF says the panel is being established over Hamas’s October 7 onslaught and the subsequent war in Gaza, “which raised complex and painful issues concerning bereavement, memory, and heroism.”

The military had received requests from a number of families of slain civilians who participated in the fighting during the onslaught, as well as the family of one of three Israeli hostages mistakenly killed by IDF troops in Gaza, Alon Shamriz, asking to have them recognized as fallen soldiers.

“The advisory committee will examine the appropriate way of recognition and honor, including the need to change the existing situation, to respond to the unique cases at this time,” the IDF says.

Members of the panel will submit their recommendations to Halevi by June 30.

Their recommendations are to focus on four main topics: A policy for recognizing fallen fighters in unique cases, including IDF soldiers; a policy for honoring civilians in unique cases; the recognition of individual cases, such as unusual circumstances of death; and how the panel’s recommendations can be implemented, including by law.

The panel will be headed by Maj. Gen. Moti Baruch, the former head of the IDF Training Command. The members include Maj. Gen. Orli Markman, President of the Military Court of Appeals; Asher Ben Lulu, deputy head of the Defense Ministry’s Personnel Department; Herzl Shmuel, head of the Defense Ministry’s unit for commemorating slain soldiers; Jocelyn Bash, a former head of the IDF Casualty Department; Prof. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, chair of the Public Council to Commemorate Soldiers; Rabbi Prof. Yigal Shafran; and Dr. Shimon Azulay.

Hamas official claims it would lay down arms for two-state deal, refugees’ return; said yesterday this would only be temporary

Khalil al-Hayya speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Turkey,  April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Khalil al-Hayya speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in Istanbul, Turkey, April 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya, who in October said that the goal of the October 7 massacres in southern Israel was to plunge the entire region into permanent war, claims that Hamas would disband its military wing if a Palestinian state were to be established along pre-1967 borders.

In an interview with AP, the Qatar-based Hamas politburo official says that the terrorist organization would be willing to lay down its weapons and dissolve the al-Qassam Brigades “should a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip” be implemented along Israel’s pre-1967 borders, with “the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with the international resolutions.”

“All the experiences of people who fought against occupiers, when they became independent and obtained their rights and their state, what have these forces done? They have turned into political parties and their defending fighting forces have turned into the national army,” he says.

The AP report notes that Al-Hayya does not say whether his apparent embrace of a two-state solution would amount to an end to the Palestinian conflict with Israel or merely constitute an interim step toward the group’s stated goal of destroying Israel.

The Palestinian demand for a so-called “right of return” provides for up to six million descendants of refugees entering Israel — a demand dismissed by Israel as seeking to destroy it as a Jewish majority state.

In an interview yesterday with the Dubai-based Asharq News, al-Hayya said that the creation of a Palestinian state along 1967 borders would be viewed only as a temporary solution, and insisted on the Palestinians’ “historic right to all Palestinian lands,” suggesting that the terror group would continue to try and reach its stated goal of destroying Israel.

Hamas’s 1988 founding charter, a virulently antisemitic document rife with outlandish tropes about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, professes the terror group’s commitment to armed struggle, while rejecting any territorial concessions to “the warmongering Jews.”

In a 2017 bid to curry international favor, Hamas revised the document, claiming the group’s struggle was not against Jews, but rather against “the Zionist project.” But Hamas’s political program still officially “rejects any alternative to the full liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea” — referring to the area reaching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which includes lands that now make up Israel. The 2017 charter asserts the Palestinian right to the “Arab Islamic land” of Palestine, “which extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west and from Ras al-Naqurah in the north to Umm al-Rashrash in the south.”

The Hamas official also tells AP today that the terror group doesn’t regret the October 7 terror assault, despite the destruction it has subsequently brought down upon Gaza and its people.

In an interview with The New York Times in the immediate aftermath of October 7, when some 1,200 people in southern Israel were slaughtered by invading Hamas terrorists, al-Hayya said that the goal of the assault was to “change the entire equation,” and to ensure that “no one in the region is experiencing calm.”

“This battle was not because we wanted fuel or laborers,” Al-Hayya said at the time. “It did not seek to improve the situation in Gaza. This battle is to completely overthrow the situation.”

Lebanese media reports Israeli airstrike in Baalbek District, northeast Lebanon

Lebanese media outlets are reporting an Israeli airstrike in northeastern Lebanon’s Baalbek District.

The strike is reported near the town of Douris.

Footage posted to social media shows smoke rising from a targeted site.

Baalbek, an area identified in the past as a Hezbollah stronghold, is around 100 kilometers from the Israeli border.

IDF says two terrorists killed in central Gaza after trying to launch rockets at Israel

Two Palestinian terrorists who were attempting to launch rockets at Israel were killed in an airstrike in the central Gaza Strip, the military says.

The IDF says the pair were spotted by troops of the Nahal Brigade in the central Gaza corridor, before a fighter jet was called in to strike them, along with the rocket launcher and a nearby weapons depot.

More than 30 other airstrikes were carried out in the Gaza Strip over the past day, according to the IDF.

The IDF says one strike in Gaza City’s Shati camp killed a group of Hamas operatives that had opened fire at troops in central Gaza.

Another strike in central Gaza’s Nuseirat killed a Hamas sniper cell, the IDF says.

Right-wing activists block humanitarian aid headed to Gaza for several hours overnight

Right-wing activists from the Tzav 9 movement block the road to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the Gaza Strip, April 25, 2024. (Tzav 9)
Right-wing activists from the Tzav 9 movement block the road to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the Gaza Strip, April 25, 2024. (Tzav 9)

Right-wing activists from the Tzav 9 organization and some relatives of hostages blocked several intersections in southern Israel overnight in an attempt to prevent trucks of humanitarian aid from reaching the Gaza border, the organization says.

The attempt to block the aid deliveries came about following the publication of a Hamas propaganda video of 23-year-old American-Israeli hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin.

In a statement, Tzav 9 says the right-wing activists blocked the Tel Arad junction for several hours until they were removed by security forces, at which point they moved on and blocked several other intersections along the route taken by the trucks.

In one instance, the activists surrounded one of the trucks and unloaded its contents, dumping flour and other items onto the road, the statement adds.

Shortly before 7 a.m., security forces cleared the area of protesters and the trucks proceeded to the Gaza border without further issue.

IDF says fighter jets struck Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon last night

Israeli fighter jets struck Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon last night, the military says.

The sites included Hezbollah infrastructure in Maroun al-Ras and an observation post in Markaba, according to the IDF. Earlier in the day, a building the IDF says is used by the terror group was hit in Aalma ash-Shab.

It also says that troops shelled areas in southern Lebanon with artillery several times yesterday to “remove threats.”

Number of people arrested at University of Texas rises to 34

Police arrested 34 people while dispersing an anti-Israel protest at the University of Texas, according to the US state’s Department of Public Safety.

Man dies in Lod shooting that police are investigating as murder

A man has been pronounced dead after being shot in the central city of Lod.

Police are investigating the shooting as a murder.

Peru judge orders preventative detention for Iranian, 2 others in thwarted plot to kill Israelis

Officers escort Iranian Majid Azizi at police headquarters in Lima, Peru, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Castillo)
Officers escort Iranian Majid Azizi at police headquarters in Lima, Peru, March 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Castillo)

LIMA, Peru — A Peruvian judge has ordered 18 months of preventative detention for an Iranian and two Peruvian men while they are investigated for allegedly attempting to kill two Israelis living in the South American country.

The ruling by Magistrate Miguel Quevedo was handed down Tuesday but released Wednesday. The defendants are also accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The judge said the motive for the unsuccessful alleged killing plot was unclear, but police and prosecutors in Peru have said the Iranian, Majid Azizi, could be a member of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is responsible for intelligence work outside Iran.

On March 15, after Azizi’s arrest, the Israeli embassy in Lima thanked the Peruvian police and prosecutor’s office in a press release “for having dismantled an Iranian attack that was directed against an Israeli citizen.”

Prosecutors in Peru have subsequently said that images, messages and testimonies were found indicating that Azizi contacted Peruvians Walter Loja and Ángelo Trucios in March to plan the killing of Israeli Shachar Malka.

Malka, who is alive, has said on social media that he has been working as a tour guide and healer with traditional plants in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas, for more than five years.

The other Israeli citizen who they allegedly planned to kill was Gilad Duchovny, who opened a cafe in Cusco in 2006 with his twin brother.

According to the judge, “it has been established with a high degree of plausibility” that Azizi conspired with the Peruvians to kill the Israelis. Police found information about Malka and Duchovny in Azizi’s Lima house. One of the Peruvians arrested, Trucios, has a conviction for murder and aggravated robbery.

UN humanitarian official notes steps by Israel to boost Gaza aid deliveries

UN senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag, speaks to the press at the US State Department in Washington, on January 31, 2024, as she met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)
UN senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag, speaks to the press at the US State Department in Washington, on January 31, 2024, as she met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN’s top humanitarian official for Gaza says Israel has taken steps to improve the delivery of aid to the enclave but further urgent measures are needed to increase the volume of food and other critical items needed in the territory.

Sigrid Kaag, the UN senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, tells the UN Security Council that “a paradigm shift is needed to continue to meet the immense needs of the civilian population in a safe and secure manner.”

She says this requires further scaling up “in the quality and quantity of assistance,” irreversible steps to enable the safe and unhindered delivery of aid in Gaza, and “timely preparations” for projects to start early recovery of Gaza.

Kaag says she and her team have worked to launch a new streamlined land corridor from Jordan and to maximize access for humanitarian cargo from Egypt through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings.

She says a “UN mechanism” to accelerate the provision of aid to Gaza that the Security Council called for in a December resolution will start operating “in the coming days,” initially by land from Jordan and by sea from Cyprus.

She adds that “a database and notification system will go online for all cargo destined for Gaza along supply routes.”

Kaag says her team has “very constructive cooperation” with Israel, which she says has taken a number of steps since April 5.

She says that includes increasing the volume of aid crossing into Gaza, temporarily opening the Erez crossing and opening the port of Ashdod for humanitarian goods, increasing the number of trucks entering from Jordan and preparing other crossings to northern Gaza where acute hunger and looming famine are worst. She also cites the resumption of some bakery operations in central and northern Gaza and the repair of the water pipeline to northern Gaza.

But Kaag says other measures need urgent implementation, including improvement in checkpoint procedures and clearing humanitarian convoys as well as repairing roads and approving additional communication equipment, armored vehicles and spare parts for critical equipment.

“Agreement on medical and casualty evacuation is equally urgent,” she says, and improved communications between aid workers and Israeli military decisionmakers and “effective and credible deconfliction “is vital for all humanitarian actors on the ground.”

Over 20 arrested at U of Texas anti-Israel protest; Governor: ‘These protesters belong in jail’

Texas State Troopers and other law enforcement personnel monitor the scene as pro-Palestinian students protest against Israel, on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin on April 24, 2024. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP)
Texas State Troopers and other law enforcement personnel monitor the scene as pro-Palestinian students protest against Israel, on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin on April 24, 2024. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott urges swift punishment after police arrested more than 20 people while dispersing an anti-Israel protest that pro-Palestinian demonstrators held at University of Texas in Austin.

“These protesters belong in jail,” Abbott writes on social media.

“Students joining in hate-filled, antisemitic protests at any public college or university in Texas should be expelled.”

At Columbia, US House speaker calls on president to quit ‘if she cannot bring order to this chaos’

US House Speaker Mike Johnson gives a press conference after meeting with Jewish students, as pro-Palestinian students and activists continue to protest against Israel on the campus of Columbia University in New York City on April 24, 2024. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP)
US House Speaker Mike Johnson gives a press conference after meeting with Jewish students, as pro-Palestinian students and activists continue to protest against Israel on the campus of Columbia University in New York City on April 24, 2024. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP)

On a visit to the Columbia University campus, US House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, calls on President Minouche Shafik to resign “if she cannot bring order to this chaos,” while decrying “the virus of antisemitism.”

“If this is not contained quickly and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard,” he says.

After meeting with Jewish students, Johnson speaks at a press conference on the campus, during which he is interrupted by demonstrators, including with shouts of “Mike you suck.”

 

US military says Houthi anti-ship missile intercepted over Gulf of Aden

CAIRO — A coalition vessel successfully engaged one anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), which was launched from the Iranian-backed Houthi “terrorist-controlled areas” in Yemen over the Gulf of Aden, the US Central Command says in a statement.

“The ASBM was likely targeting the MV Yorktown, a US-flagged, owned, and operated vessel with 18 US and four Greek crew members,” it says..

“There were no injuries or damage reported by US, coalition, or commercial ships,” it adds.

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