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

US military publishes first photos of humanitarian pier being built off Gaza coast

A maritime pier being built by the US military off the coast of the Gaza Strip, in an image released on April 29, 2024. (CENTCOM)
A maritime pier being built by the US military off the coast of the Gaza Strip, in an image released on April 29, 2024. (CENTCOM)

The US military’s Central Command publishes the first images of the maritime pier it started constructing off Gaza’s coast last week.

The pier is being built with the aim of speeding up the flow of humanitarian aid into the enclave when it becomes operational in early May.

US President Joe Biden announced the construction of the pier in March as aid officials implored Israel to ease access for relief supplies into Gaza’s overland routes.

The port sits just southwest of Gaza City, a little north of a road bisecting Gaza that the Israeli military built during the fighting.

Netanyahu to meet bereaved families who threatened hunger strike until IDF enters Rafah

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set Tuesday to meet eight representatives of a forum of bereaved relatives of people who died in the October 7 Hamas onslaught, following a threat by the families to start a hunger strike until the military enters the Gazan city of Rafah.

The Heroism Forum, which has pushed for increased military pressure on the Palestinian terror group, announced on Sunday that its members would launch a hunger strike immediately after Passover, lamenting the “intolerable delay” in the Rafah offensive, which has been promised for months.

The forum slammed the reportedly brewing hostage deal, which reports have said could pave the way to a long truce, as an “embarrassing capitulation deal,” arguing that embracing it would be a surrender to international pressure and go against the stated war goal of dismantling Hamas.

Tonight, after Passover has ended, the forum updates that it is postponing its hunger strike until after it meets with Netanyahu tomorrow at noon.

“If we hear things that justify canceling the strike — we will cancel it,” it tweets.

Hamas delegation leaves Cairo, will return with response to truce offer — Egyptian TV

CAIRO — A Hamas delegation has left Cairo, Egypt’s state-affiliated Al Qahera TV says, adding they will return again with a written response to a Gaza ceasefire-for-hostages proposal.

6 arrested as protesters against Israel return to University of Texas

Protesters against Israel returning to the University of Texas at Austin are quickly greeted by dozens of law enforcement officers, many in riot gear. Six protesters are quickly arrested and others are taken into custody one by one.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott on social media reposts video of troopers arriving on the 50,000-student campus. “No encampments will be allowed. Instead, arrests are being made,” Abbott posts.

Police use water cannon to disperse Tel Aviv protest

Police are using a water cannon to disperse a protest calling for an immediate hostage deal outside the ruling Likud party’s headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Egypt says Sissi and Biden discussed ‘dangers of military escalation’ in Rafah

US President Joe Biden meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Saturday, July 16, 2022, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi received a phone call from US President Biden to discuss the latest developments of ongoing negotiations regarding a ceasefire in Gaza and the dangers of a military escalation in Rafah, a statement from Egypt’s presidency says.

Israeli official: ICC warrants will spark ‘wave of antisemitism’ that could blow up hostage deal

No decision has been made yet to send an Israeli delegation to Cairo, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel. Those conversations are continuing tonight at the Kirya in Tel Aviv and include deliberations on the composition of the delegation and how much leeway it will have.

A Hamas delegation is in Cairo, says the Israeli official.

At the same time, stresses the official, “Israel is still determined to achieve all the goals of the war, whether a deal is reached or not.”

If the International Criminal Court does issue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, continues the official, it will lead to “a wave of antisemitism around the world” that could blow up a potential hostage deal. This is not an Israeli threat to walk away from talks in the case of an ICC decision, explains the official, but reflects Israel’s belief that international pressure on Israel will remove pressure on Hamas to make compromises necessary for a deal.

Reacting to the US State Department report that found five IDF units guilty of “gross human rights violations,” the official says that Jerusalem “categorically rejects any attempts to harm the IDF and Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Nothing, says the official — not Iran and its proxies, State Department findings, or ICC warrants — will keep Israel from achieving its war aims.

“We are continuing to prepare for Rafah,” says the official.

“During past talks in Doha, we continued to surround Khan Younis, to capture Khan Younis,” the official says, referring to the city in southern Gaza that Israeli forces have since completely pulled out of. “[Rafah] is more complex, there are things we have to do, but we are continuing.”

There is a date for the evacuation of civilians, insists the official, but declines to share when that will be.

Over 70% of US voters back Israeli offensive in Rafah to defeat Hamas — poll

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe Israel should go ahead with an offensive in Rafah in order to end the war against Hamas, according to a new Harvard CAPS Harris poll.

The question posed to respondents is “should Israel move forward with an operation in Rafah to finish the war with Hamas, doing its best to avoid civilian casualties even though there will be casualties, or should it back off now and allow Hamas to continue running Gaza?”

In response, 72% say Israel should move forward with the operation while 28% say it should back off and allow Hamas to keep ruling Gaza.

Overall, 78% of poll participants say Hamas should be removed from power but are divided on what should come after, with 30% saying Israel should administer Gaza, 35% saying the Palestinian Authority should, and the other 35% saying a new authority should be established with the participation of Arab countries.

Protesters block Tel Aviv road as they call for hostage deal: ‘Rafah can wait, they can’t’

Police scuffle with demonstrators blocking Tel Aviv’s Begin Street as they hold a protest calling for an immediate hostage deal.

Images from the demonstration show protesters setting fires on the road, as officers try to clear them from the street. The demonstrators also place banners on the road spelling out “Rafah can wait, they can’t.”

Some of the demonstrators are marching toward the Ayalon Highway.

Biden to speak with leaders of Qatar and Egypt amid push for hostage deal

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden will speak today with the leaders of Qatar and Egypt as he pushes for a deal aimed at a Gaza ceasefire and the release of some hostages held by Hamas terrorists, the White House says.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tells reporters that progress has been made in recent days toward arranging a hostage deal and the onus is on Hamas to accept the latest Israeli proposal.

‘Columbia will burn’: Student protesters defy deadline to clear encampment or be suspended

Columbia University faculty and staff gather on the campus in solidarity with student protesters who are demonstrating against Israel, April 29, 2024, in New York.  (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)
Columbia University faculty and staff gather on the campus in solidarity with student protesters who are demonstrating against Israel, April 29, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

Student demonstrators at Columbia University defy an ultimatum to disperse from the anti-Israel encampment they set up on campus or face immediate suspension.

The protesters ignore the deadline with chants, clapping and drumming from the encampment of more than 300 people. No officials appear to enter the encampment, with at least 120 tents staying up as the deadline passes.

Pictures shared by the local branch of Students for Justice in Palestine, which despite being suspended is calling for its supporters to flock to the encampment, show paper copies of the ultimatum with “Columbia will burn” and “I aint [sic] reading all that Free Palestine” written on them.

In shot at US, Norway’s FM says Arab-European leadership ‘best hope’ for two-state solution

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide attends a ministerial meeting held in Riyadh on April 29, 2024, to discuss the Gaza crisis amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)
Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide attends a ministerial meeting held in Riyadh on April 29, 2024, to discuss the Gaza crisis amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — European and Arab foreign ministers met in the Saudi capital to discuss how to join forces on advancing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“If we want to move this two-state solution forward it will not happen from the parties. I do not believe that Israel is ready to negotiate at this point, and I do not think that the US is ready to take the necessary leadership,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, one of the organizers of the meeting, tells reporters after it concluded.

“So I think an Arab-European leadership is the best we can hope for.”

White House says ICC has no jurisdiction in Israel-Hamas war

Amid growing speculation that the International Criminal Court could issue arrest warrants against Israeli officials in the coming days over the war against Hamas in Gaza, a White House spokesperson reiterates US opposition for the investigation.

“The ICC has no jurisdiction in this situation,” the spokesperson says.

Italian navy shoots down Houthi drone targeting cargo ship in Red Sea

ROME — An Italian navy ship shot down a drone fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels and targeting a European cargo ship, the Italian defense ministry says in a statement.

The drone was intercepted “in the late morning” near the Bab-el-Mandeb strait at the southern end of the Red Sea, the ministry says.

It was flying toward the cargo ship and taken down while it was 5 kilometers (3.11 miles) away. It was similar to other drones used in previous Houthi attacks, it says.

The cargo was targeted by other drones and missiles, with one missile exploding in water near the commercial vessel, causing only superficial damage, the ministry says.

The Italian “Fasan” frigate and the cargo it was escorting are proceeding southwards on their planned route to exit from the Red Sea, the statement adds.

Italy is part of an EU naval mission, dubbed Eunavfor Aspides, launched in February to protect shipping in the Red Sea, a major trade route.

IDF announces 2 soldiers killed during battle in central Gaza

This composite image shows Master Sgt. (res.) Ido Aviv (L) and Master Sgt. (res.) Kalkidan Meharim, who were killed during fighting in the central Gaza Strip on April 28, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
This composite image shows Master Sgt. (res.) Ido Aviv (L) and Master Sgt. (res.) Kalkidan Meharim, who were killed during fighting in the central Gaza Strip on April 28, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF announces the deaths of two reservists killed during fighting in the central Gaza Strip yesterday.

They are named as:

Master Sgt. (res.) Ido Aviv, 28, of the Yiftah Brigade’s 9232nd Battalion, from Karmiel.

Master Sgt. (res.) Kalkidan Meharim 37, of the Carmeli Brigade’s 223rd Battalion, from Petah Tikva.

Their deaths bring the toll of slain troops in the IDF’s ground offensive against Hamas to 263.

The pair were killed and another soldier of the 223rd Battalion was seriously wounded as a result of a blast during a battle with gunmen in the Netzarim Corridor area, according to an initial IDF investigation.

The cause of the explosion is still being probed.

Ahead of deadline, SJP branch at Columbia urges supporters ‘to protect encampment’

The Columbia branch of Students for Justice in Palestine, which despite being suspended has continued to play a role in protests against Israel on campus, calls on its supporters “to protect the encampment” after the Ivy League school’s administration gave demonstrators until this afternoon to clear out or face suspension.

US State Department accuses 5 IDF units of ‘gross violations of human rights’

Troops of the Kfir Brigade's Netzah Yehuda Battalion operate in northern Gaza's Beit Hanoun, in a handout image published March 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Kfir Brigade's Netzah Yehuda Battalion operate in northern Gaza's Beit Hanoun, in a handout image published March 8, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The US State Department found five units of the Israeli military responsible for “gross violations of human rights” in incidents that took place outside of Gaza before the conflict broke out between Israel and Hamas in October, the State Department says.

Four of the units have effectively remediated the violations, while Israel has submitted additional information regarding the fifth unit and the US is continuing conversations with the government, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel tells reporters.

The announcement comes after the US decided to hold off on its decision to blacklist the fifth unit, an infantry brigade of mostly ultra-Orthodox soldiers that has been accused of abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank.

The IDF Spokespersons Unit directed The Times of Israel to the Foreign Ministry for a response on the matter.

IDF launches fresh strikes on Hezbollah targets after rocket barrage from Lebanon

Israeli fighter jets struck a series of Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon a short while ago, the military says.

Several buildings at a Hezbollah military compound in the village of Blat, from which a barrage of rockets was fired at the Upper Galilee this morning, were struck by fighter jets, the IDF says.

The IDF says additional airstrikes were carried out against buildings used by the terror group in Jebbayn, Khiam, Ayta ash-Shab and Tayr Harfa.

Troops also shelled areas near Chebaa with artillery to “remove threats,” the military adds.

Rally calling for hostage deal held outside military HQ in Tel Aviv

Families of hostages and their supporters call for a deal to return the captive Israelis held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, April 29, 2024. (Itai Ron/Flash90)
Families of hostages and their supporters call for a deal to return the captive Israelis held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, April 29, 2024. (Itai Ron/Flash90)

Families of hostages and their supporters demonstrate outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv to call for an immediate agreement to retrieve the captives held in Gaza by Hamas.

The protest is swelling rapidly, with the Ynet news site reporting thousands have gathered.

Families of hostages and their supporters call for a deal to return the captive Israelis held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, April 29, 2024. (David Papish / via Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

Blinken held meeting with Saudi crown prince — US official

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh today, a US official tells Reuters.

Blinken is in Saudi Arabia as part of a broader trip to the Middle East aimed at discussing with Arab partners post-war Gaza and to press Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take steps US President Joe Biden demanded this month to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Israeli delegation set to head to Cairo as Jerusalem awaits Hamas response to hostage-truce offer

An Israeli delegation is expected to travel to Cairo tomorrow for further hostage talks, according to Hebrew media reports, as Israel continues to wait for Hamas’s response to the latest hostages-for-truce proposal.

“We’re still waiting for [Yahya] Sinwar’s answer,” an unnamed Israeli official is quoted saying by the Walla news site, referring to the Hamas leader in Gaza.

Channel 12 says the Israeli team will be a “working delegation,” and the Mossad chief David Barnea and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar will join within days if the truce effort is advancing.

Sources tell Channel 12 news that Israel made “dramatic” concessions in its offer to Hamas, and that a deal could quickly be reached if the terror organization drops its demands for an end to the war and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

To date, Hamas has publicly insisted on an end to the war as a condition for the release of any further hostages.

Israel is widely reported to be demanding the release of 33 children, women, men aged over 50 and elderly hostages, in return for the release of large numbers of Palestinian security prisoners. Hamas is said to claim it holds only 20 living hostages in that “humanitarian” category.

Despite denials, the TV report says Israel has “indicated” to the Egyptians that, in the second phase of a deal, it would be prepared to discuss “long-term calm” in Gaza in exchange for the return of all hostages.

Channel 12 also reports that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi believe that the much-anticipated Israeli ground operation against Hamas in Rafah can and should wait until after a hostage deal.

Gantz has surgery on ankle he broke during bike ride

Minister Benny Gantz underwent surgery on the ankle he broke during a bike ride earlier today, with a statement from his office saying the operation was successful.

He will remain at Sheba Medical Center overnight, according to the statement, which says he’s continuing to receive briefings on “operational security developments” and hostage talks.

IDF says combat engineers destroyed 2 attack tunnels in northern Gaza

IDF combat engineers work to uncover a Hamas tunnel in northern Gaza's Beit Hanoun, in a handout image published April 29, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF combat engineers work to uncover a Hamas tunnel in northern Gaza's Beit Hanoun, in a handout image published April 29, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF combat engineers demolished two attack tunnels belonging to the Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups in northern Gaza’s Beit Hanoun in recent weeks, the military says.

The IDF says the two tunnels were under “continuous intelligence and technological surveillance” since their discovery and until they were demolished.

The underground passages did not cross into Israeli territory, according to the IDF.

Israeli source expresses concern that ICC could secretly issue arrest warrants

A source on the Israeli team working to prevent ICC arrest warrants against Israeli officials over the war tells the Ynet news site of concerns that The Hague-based court could secretly issue the warrants.

They believe that those officials targeted would only learn they’re wanted for arrest when traveling to Europe.

The source also criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct on the matter, saying the premier’s associates are antagonizing the court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan, and in doing so backing him into a corner.

“Netanyahu’s people are behaving like a bull in a china shop,” the source is quoted as saying. “The question is how much diplomatic protection Antony Blinken will give when he arrives Tuesday in Israel.”

IDF says Gaza rocket intercepted, 2 others make impact in sea near Ashdod

One rocket fired from the Gaza Strip at the southern city of Sderot was successfully intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, the IDF says.

The military says another two long-range rockets were launched toward Ashdod, both impacting in the sea near the coastal city.

Sirens did not sound in Ashdod because the rockets were not heading toward populated areas.

It marks the first attack on Ashdod in more than a month, after the last attack was carried out on March 25.

3 anti-tank missiles fired at Metula; IDF shells launch sites in Lebanon

Three anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon at the border community of Metula a short while ago.

No injuries were caused.

The IDF says it is shelling the launch sites.

Rocket warning sirens activated in towns near Gaza Strip

Rocket alert sirens are activated in Sderot and two other Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.

‘No time to waste’: Relatives of hostages in Hamas video call for deal to free them

Following the release of a Hamas propagnda video last week showing hostages Keith Siegel and Omri Miran, the two families hold a press conference at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv on April 29, 2024, calling on all governments involved to work to finalize a deal to release all the hostages. (Paulina Patimer / via Hostages Families Forum)
Following the release of a Hamas propagnda video last week showing hostages Keith Siegel and Omri Miran, the two families hold a press conference at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv on April 29, 2024, calling on all governments involved to work to finalize a deal to release all the hostages. (Paulina Patimer / via Hostages Families Forum)

Relatives of Keith Siegel and Omri Miran hold a press conference to call for an immediate agreement to return the hostages held by a Hamas, after the terror group issued a new propaganda video featuring the two of them.

Elan Siegel, daughter of hostage Keith Siegel: “18 world leaders sent a letter saying they demand the immediate release of all hostages and I want to ask everyone to stop talking and start taking action.

“We are losing people who are alive now and there is no time to waste,” says Elan Siegel. “We also know a deal is possible.”

Omri Miran’s wife calls for her husband to be released so he can be reunited with their two young daughters.

“No child should be forced to grow up with a distant memory of their father captured in a picture,” says Lishay Lavi-Miran.

She adds: “Let us finalize the deal that is on the table to bring home the hostages, end the hostilities, agree on a ceasefire, and allow us to celebrate our Israeli Independence Day next month with our loved ones reunited right here in Israel.”

Columbia threatens suspensions if anti-Israel encampment not cleared by this afternoon

A protester places a Palestinian flag at the anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University, in New York City, April 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
A protester places a Palestinian flag at the anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University, in New York City, April 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

Columbia University has issued a new ultimatum for students to sign a form and leave the anti-Israel encampment by the afternoon or face suspension.

The notice says that if the protesters leave by 2 p.m. local time and sign a form committing to abide by university policies through June 2025 or an earlier graduation, they can finish the semester in good standing. If not, the letter says, they will be suspended, pending further investigation.

“We very much hope that you will leave the encampment and sign the form on your departure. If you decide not to, the university may pursue actions,” the letter continues. “Sanctions include probation, access restriction, suspension for a term or more and expulsion. We regret that we need to take these actions, but we must restore order to the campus so that all students can complete their work for the term, study for exams, and feel welcome in the community.

A spokesperson for the Ivy League university in New York City confirms the letter had gone out to students but declined to comment further.

Mahmoud Khalil, the lead negotiator on behalf of protesters, says university representatives began passing out the notices at the encampment shortly after 10 a.m. this morning. He says discussions are ongoing about how to proceed.

US, allies said worried ICC arrest warrants for Israelis could sink Gaza truce deal

File: An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, December 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
File: An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, December 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The United States and allied nations are worried that the issuing of International Criminal Court arrest warrants for Israeli officials could sink a hostages-for-ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, according to Bloomberg.

Citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, the US news outlet reports on concerns that Israel could back away from the agreement if the ICC issues the warrants.

The report doesn’t specify what other countries have reached out to the court, but says G7 nation states “have begun a quiet diplomatic effort to convey that message to the Hague-based court.”

Paris police move to clear protest against Israel at Sorbonne

Students display a giant Palestinian flag as they take part in a rally in support of Palestinians and against Israel, at the Sorbonne University in Paris on April 29, 2024. (Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP)
Students display a giant Palestinian flag as they take part in a rally in support of Palestinians and against Israel, at the Sorbonne University in Paris on April 29, 2024. (Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP)

PARIS — French police have moved in to clear dozens of protesters who had camped out in a courtyard in Sorbonne University in Paris on Monday to protest against Israel over its war with Hamas in Gaza, a student there says.

The demonstration took place three days after protests at the capital’s elite Sciences Po university and came in the wake of rallies in campuses across the United States against the conflict.

“We have every reason, like in Yale, in Columbia, in Sciences Po… to condemn what we can see is happening,” the student, who only gives his name as Leonard, says at another rally outside the gates of the Sorbonne.

Lufthansa to extend suspension of Tehran flights until May 9

BERLIN — Lufthansa will extend the cancellation of flights to the Iranian capital, Tehran, because of security concerns until May 9, the German flag carrier says.

IDF says 15 rockets fired from Lebanon in latest barrage; no injuries or damage reported

A barrage of some 15 rockets were launched from Lebanon at the Upper Galilee a short while ago, according to the IDF.

Sirens had sounded in the communities of Arab al-Aramshe and Gornot Hagalil.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

British FM says conflict in Gaza won’t end until all hostages are freed

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron says the conflict between Israel and Hamas won’t end until all the hostages held by the terror group are freed.

The British diplomat says that for a “political horizon for a two-state solution,” with an independent Palestinian state co-existing with Israel, the “people responsible for October 7, the Hamas leadership, would have to leave Gaza and you’ve got to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.”

“You’ve got to see a political future for the Palestinian people, but you’ve also crucially got to see security for Israel and those two things have to go together,” he adds.

GOP senator slams ‘exploding’ cost to US of building Gaza aid pier

Construction work is seen on the coast of central Gaza, part of a US-led project to bring aid into the Strip, via a floating pier, in a handout image published April 27, 2024. (Defense Ministry Department of Engineering and Construction)
Construction work is seen on the coast of central Gaza, part of a US-led project to bring aid into the Strip, via a floating pier, in a handout image published April 27, 2024. (Defense Ministry Department of Engineering and Construction)

WASHINGTON — The US military’s cost estimate to build a pier off Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid has risen to $320 million, a US defense official and a source familiar with the matter tell Reuters.

The figure, which has not been previously reported, illustrates the massive scale of a construction effort that the Pentagon has said involves about 1,000 US service members, mostly from the Army and Navy.

Still, the cost has roughly doubled from initial estimates earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“The cost has not just risen. It has exploded,” Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Democratic-led Senate Armed Services Committee, tells Reuters, when asked about the costs.

“This dangerous effort with marginal benefit will now cost the American taxpayers at least $320 million to operate the pier for only 90 days.”

Wicker and some other lawmakers have questioned whether the pier is a worthwhile endeavor, particularly given the risk that US military personnel could become targets of Hamas terrorists.

“How much will taxpayers be on the hook once – or if – the pier is finally constructed?” Wicker asks.

“For every day this mission continues, the price tag goes up and so does the level of risk for the 1,000 deployed troops within range of Hamas’s rockets.”

Rocket sirens activated in 2 towns close to Lebanon border

Incoming rocket sirens sound in a pair of northern Israeli communities near the Lebanon border.

Israeli fighter jets strike Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon

Israeli fighter jets struck Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon’s Rachaya al-Foukhar and Khiam a short while ago, the military says.

The targets included rocket launching positions, a building used by the terror group and other infrastructure, according to the IDF.

The IDF says it also shelled areas near Ayta ash-Shab with artillery to “remove threats.”

UK’s Cameron says ‘potentially thousands’ of Palestinian prisoners could be freed in truce deal

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron arrives to attend the annual Commonwealth Day Service of Celebration at Westminster Abbey in London, March 11, 2024. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron arrives to attend the annual Commonwealth Day Service of Celebration at Westminster Abbey in London, March 11, 2024. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The current proposal put to Hamas over the Gaza war includes a sustained 40-day ceasefire and the release of “potentially thousands” of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron says.

“I hope Hamas do take this deal and frankly, all the pressure in the world and all the eyes in the world should be on them today saying, ‘Take that deal,'” Cameron adds in a World Economic Forum special meeting held in Riyadh, calling the proposal “very generous.”

Columbia rules out having cops clear anti-Israel encampment as latest deadline lapses

The anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University on April 28, 2024, in New York City. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)
The anti-Israel encampment at Columbia University on April 28, 2024, in New York City. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

The latest deadline set by Columbia University for pro-Palestinian students to leave the anti-Israel protest encampment on campus has lapsed, with the school saying in an email to students that bringing back police “at this time” would be counterproductive.

The students and administrators have engaged in negotiations to end the disruptions, but the sides have not come to an agreement, university President Minouche Shafik says in a statement.

“The university’s goal for the talks was a collaborative resolution with the protestors that would result in the orderly removal of the encampment from the lawn,” Shafik writes in a letter. “The students also were asked to commit going forward to following the University’s rules, including those on the time, place and manner for demonstrations and events.”

According to the statement, among the concessions offered to students if they’d clear the encampment were “an expedited timeline for review of new proposals from the students by… the body that considers divestment matters” and an offer “to make investments in health and education in Gaza, including supporting early childhood development and support for displaced scholars,” among others.

“As the past seven months have shown, our campus is roiled by divisions over the war in Gaza,” Shafik continues, without mentioning the Hamas-led October 7 attack that sparked the ongoing conflict. “All year, we have sought to facilitate opportunities for our students and faculty to engage in constructive dialogue, and we have provided ample space for protests and vigils to take place peacefully and without disruptions to academic life.”

“But we must take into account the rights of all members of our community. The encampment has created an unwelcoming environment for many of our Jewish students and faculty. External actors have contributed to creating a hostile environment in violation of Title VI, especially around our gates, that is unsafe for everyone-including our neighbors,” she adds.

“Consistent with our interim demonstration policies, after reading days, exams and Commencement, protests may continue on campus by application with two-days’ notice in authorized locations. We have no intention of suppressing speech or the right to peaceful protest.”

Israel said to drop its demand for 40 hostages to 33 after assessing some have died in captivity

Three Israeli officials confirm to The New York Times that Israel has dropped its demand that Hamas free 40 living hostages as part of a truce agreement and will now accept the release of 33 hostages.

One of the officials says the shift was due to assessments that some of the 40 hostages whose release Israel was demanding have died in Hamas captivity.

The numbers relate to hostages in a so-called “humanitarian” designation — women, children, men over 50, and those who are sick.

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf resigns after year in office

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf announces his resignation during a 
statement, at Bute House, in Edinburgh, on April 29, 2024. (Andrew Milligan/Pool/AFP)
Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf announces his resignation during a statement, at Bute House, in Edinburgh, on April 29, 2024. (Andrew Milligan/Pool/AFP)

Humza Yousaf has announced his resignation as Scotland’s first minister, before he was due to face two confidence votes this week sparked by his ditching of junior coalition partners in a row over climate policy.

The 39-year-old quits following a turbulent year as head of the devolved administration in Edinburgh, during which support for his pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has fallen.

Yousaf says he had “underestimated” the hurt he caused by unceremoniously ending the SNP’s power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens in the Scottish parliament last week.

His government had earlier abandoned ambitious targets for the transition to net-zero carbon emissions, angering the Greens.

The opposition Scottish Conservatives then lodged a vote of no-confidence in Yousaf, which was set for Wednesday and which the first minister was at risk of losing.

Scottish Labour also lodged another no-confidence vote in his government.

The Tories, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens all said they would vote against Yousaf in the personal vote, forcing him to seek the backing of the sole lawmaker from the pro-independence Alba party.

Yousaf — the first Muslim leader of a major UK political party — tells reporters at his official residence that he thought winning was “absolutely possible.”

But he adds that he’s “not willing to trade in my values or principles or do deals with whomever simply for retaining power.”

“I have concluded that repairing our relationships across the political divide can only be done with someone else at the helm,” Yousaf says.

IDF says suspected drone infiltration sirens in north sounded in false alarm

Suspected drone infiltration sirens that sounded in the Galilee Panhandle area a short while ago were false alarms, the IDF says.

EU foreign policy chief says some member states may recognize Palestinian state next month

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell attends the World Economic Forum special meeting in Riyadh on April 28, 2024. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell attends the World Economic Forum special meeting in Riyadh on April 28, 2024. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

RIYADH — Several European member states are expected to recognize Palestinian statehood by the end of May, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says at the sidelines of a World Economic Forum special meeting in Riyadh.

Protesters chant ‘Free Palestine,’ set up encampment at Paris’s Sorbonne University

PARIS, France — Protesters angry over the Israel-Hamas war take to Paris’s Sorbonne University, chanting “Free Palestine” at the university’s gates while some students set up tents in the courtyard.

Days after similar protests at Paris’s Sciences Po, the gathering at the Sorbonne was the latest sign that demonstrations on US campuses were spilling over to Europe as the devastating war is in its seventh month.

The protests, which led the university to close the building for the day, are peaceful as students urged the institution — one of the world’s oldest universities — to condemn Israel’s actions.

Police are securing the street with the main entrance, facing a group of around 50 students, a Reuters reporter sees.

Several French politicians, including Mathilde Panot, who heads the hard-left LFI group of lawmakers in the National Assembly, had called supporters to join the Sorbonne protests on social media.

NYT: Israel believes ICC readying arrest warrants for senior officials, weighing such measures for Hamas officials too

File: An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, December 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
File: An exterior view of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, December 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Israel thinks the International Criminal Court is preparing to issue arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials over accusations related to the Israel-Hamas war, and is considering arrest warrants against Hamas officials too, The New York Times reports.

The report cites five Israeli and foreign officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity and did not reveal the information that led them to reach this conclusion.

The Israeli officials say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be named in the warrant, though it is unclear what he would be charged with.

Two of five of the officials say some charges against officials could relate to the severe actions taken by the military in Gaza and the alleged preventing of humanitarian aid deliveries to the Strip.

Israel has been working to prevent such a measure by the ICC recently, an Israeli government source told The Times of Israel on Sunday, amid fears warrants could be issued for Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi.

Israel is not a member of the court, based in The Hague, and does not recognize its jurisdiction, but the Palestinian territories were admitted as a member state in 2015.

Smoke billows following an Israeli bombardment north of Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on April 27, 2024. (AFP)

Karim Khan, the ICC prosecutor, said in October that the court had jurisdiction over any potential war crimes carried out by Hamas terrorists in Israel and by Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

Khan has said his team was investigating any crimes allegedly committed in Gaza, and that those found to have breached the law will be held accountable.

Netanyahu said on Friday that any decisions by the ICC would not affect Israel’s actions, but would set a dangerous precedent.

“Under my leadership, Israel will never accept any attempt by the International Criminal Court in The Hague to undermine its basic right to defend itself,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Telegram.

“While decisions made by the court in The Hague will not affect Israel’s actions, they will set a dangerous precedent that threatens soldiers and public figures,” he said.

The ICC is a treaty-based criminal court focusing on individual criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Egyptian FM ‘hopeful’ for Gaza truce, hostage deal proposal

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, center, speaks with his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos, during their meeting at the foreign house in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
File: Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, center, speaks with his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos, during their meeting at the foreign house in Nicosia, Cyprus, Feb. 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Egypt’s foreign minister says he is “hopeful” about a new proposal for a Gaza truce as a Hamas delegation was due in Cairo for talks on Monday.

“We are hopeful,” Sameh Shoukry says in Riyadh at the World Economic Forum, adding that “the proposal has taken into account the positions of both sides and has tried to extract moderation.”

Maltese ship trading with Israel targeted by missiles off Yemen’s coast

Yemeni demonstrators carry a mock missile during a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel rally in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on April 26, 2024. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
File: Yemeni demonstrators carry a mock missile during a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel rally in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on April 26, 2024 (MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A Malta-flagged container ship was reportedly targeted with three missiles while en route from Djibouti to the Saudi city of Jeddah, British maritime security firm Ambrey says.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels have repeatedly launched drones and missiles against international commercial shipping in the Red Sea region since mid-November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians against Israel’s military actions in Gaza.

Ambrey assesses that the vessel was targeted due to its listed operator’s ongoing trade with Israel, it said in an advisory note.

Ambrey and the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency received a report of the incident 54 nautical miles northwest of Yemen’s Mokha.

Gantz breaks foot during bike ride in southern Israel

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz breaks his foot during a cross-country bike ride near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in southern Israel.

The National Unity chief is being taken to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv for testing, after an initial check at Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, his office says.

He is expected to be released home later today.

Blinken: ‘Intensive work’ done with Saudis on Israel normalization; not seen Israeli plan to protect Rafah civilians

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US and Saudi Arabia have done intensive work together over the last month on Israeli-Saudi normalization.

“The work that Saudi Arabia, the United States have been doing together in terms of our own agreements, I think, is potentially very close to completion,” Blinken says in Riyadh, during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum.

Blinken says he has not yet seen a plan from Israel on a Rafah offensive that would protect civilians.

Blinken says he hopes Hamas quickly accepts ‘extraordinarily generous’ Israeli hostage deal offer

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a Joint Ministerial Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-US Strategic Partnership discussing the humanitarian situation in Gaza, at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a Joint Ministerial Meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-US Strategic Partnership discussing the humanitarian situation in Gaza, at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he is hopeful Hamas would accept an “extraordinarily generous” offer to halt Israel’s offensive in Gaza in return for the release of hostages.

“Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel,” Blinken says in Riyadh at the World Economic Forum. “And in this moment the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas.”

“They have to decide — and they have to decide quickly,” Blinken says. “I’m hopeful that they will make the right decision.”

 

Abu Marzouk says Hamas leadership not looking to vacate Qatar, but would move to Jordan if they did

Palestinian senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, front, attends the funeral of Saleh Arouri, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, January 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
File: Palestinian Senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, front, attends the funeral of Saleh Arouri, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, January 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk dispels rumors that the terror group’s political leadership may relocate from Qatar to Iraq, Syria or Turkey.

Marzouk tells Iran’s al-Alam TV network that “any potential relocation, which is not currently happening, would be to Jordan.”

“Jordan is a supportive nation for Palestinian resistance, and Hamas maintains a positive relationship with the Jordanian government,” he says.

It was reported earlier this month that Hamas’s political chiefs are exploring moving their base of operations out of Qatar, as the Gulf state faces increasing pressure over its influence with the terror group in indirect hostage-for-truce negotiations with Israel.

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said last week there were no plans to close the office of Hamas’s political bureau as long as its mediation efforts were ongoing in the Israel-Hamas war.

Hamas-run health ministry says Gaza death toll reached 34,488

At least 34,488 Palestinians have been killed and 77,643 injured in Gaza since the start of the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, the Hamas-run health ministry in the Strip says.

The figures cannot be independently verified and include some 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

A total of 261 IDF soldiers have been killed in the army’s Gaza ground operation.

UK maritime agency warns of incident off coast of Yemen

CAIRO, Egypt — The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said on Monday that it received a report of an incident 54 nautical miles northwest of Yemen’s Mokha.

It said that authorities are investigating, adding that vessels are advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity to UKMTO.

Blinken: Iran’s attack on Israel demonstrates need for regional ‘integrated defense’

Israeli air defense systems intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, April 14, 2024. (AP/Tomer Neuberg)
Israeli air defense systems intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, April 14, 2024. (AP/Tomer Neuberg)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tells Gulf Arabs that Iran’s confrontation with Israel showed the need for greater defense integration.

“This attack highlights the acute and growing threat from Iran, but also the imperative that we work together on integrated defense,” Blinken tells the Gulf Cooperation Council ministers meeting in Riyadh.

Iran launched its first-ever direct missile and drone attack against Israel on April 13-14 after an April 1 strike widely blamed on the Jewish state that leveled what Tehran said was a consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals. Israel allegedly responded with a missile strike on an Iranian air defense unit inside Iran.

Blinken hails ‘measurable progress’ in Gaza humanitarian situation

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan (R) receives US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP)
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan (R) receives US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat in Riyadh on April 29, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The United States has seen “measurable progress” in the humanitarian situation in Gaza over the past few weeks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says, but urges Israel to do more.

Speaking in Riyadh at the opening of a US-Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, Blinken says the most effective way to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was to achieve a ceasefire. He also says Washington is continuing efforts to prevent the Gaza war from expanding.

Hamas says it fired recent barrage from Lebanon

The Hamas terror group claims responsibility for the latest barrage of rocket fire from Lebanon this morning.

In a statement, the terror group’s Lebanon branch says it targeted an Israeli army base in the Kiryat Shmona area.

IDF: 20 rockets launched from Lebanon, most intercepted, some fall in open areas

The Israel Defense Forces say that 20 rockets were fired in the recent barrage from Lebanon.

Most of the projectiles were intercepted, while some fell in open areas, the IDF says, adding that the source of the fire is being shelled.

No damage or injuries were reported in the barrage.

Reports say volley of 30 rockets fired at Upper Galilee communities

Media reports say a barrage of 30 rockets have been fired at northern towns this morning.

Sirens sounded in Metula and Kiryat Shmona, as well as other communities in the Upper Galilee.

France reportedly drops call for Hezbollah to pull back behind Litani in new proposal to end fighting in north

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Tayr Harfa near the border on April 26, 2024. (Kawnat Haju/AFP)
File: Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Tayr Harfa near the border on April 26, 2024. (Kawnat Haju/AFP)

Lebanese news outlet al-Akhbar reports that France has removed a provision calling on the Hezbollah terror group to withdraw behind the Litani River in its outline to end the fighting in the north.

Citing informed sources, the report says the new proposal submitted by French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne yesterday in Beirut calls for a “repositioning” of Hezbollah’s forces, without specifying where.

The new proposal also includes a ceasefire in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, ensuring the return of residents on both sides living along the border, and the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese soldiers boosted with “adequate equipment” south of the Litani, the report says.

Then, negotiations would be launched on demarcating a border between Israel and Lebanon and forming a committee to oversee such arrangements.

Resolution 1701 demanded that Hezbollah withdraw its forces north of the Litani, a provision the Iranian proxy has ignored.

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.

This handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra shows France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne (L) meeting with Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, in Beirut, on April 28, 2024. (Dalati And Nohra/AFP)

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in nine civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 11 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 289 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 56 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 60 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

Israel has threatened to go to war to force Hezbollah away from the border if it does not retreat and continues to threaten northern communities, where some 70,000 people were evacuated to avoid the fighting.

Reports say 4 teens planned to buy guns, attack Jews in Sydney after Church stabbing

File: Security officers stand guard outside the Assyrian Orthodox Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Sydney, Australia, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
File: Security officers stand guard outside the Assyrian Orthodox Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Sydney, Australia, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Four teenagers plotted to buy guns and attack Jewish people days after a bishop was stabbed in a Sydney church, news reports say, citing police documents.

Five teens, aged 14 to 17, were charged in a Sydney court on Thursday last week with a range of offenses including conspiring to engage in or planning a terrorist act.

Police alleged they all “adhered to a religiously motivated, violent extremist ideology” and were part of a network that included a 16-year-old boy charged with stabbing Assyrian Orthodox Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel on April 15 as a church service was being streamed online.

According to a police fact sheet tendered to the Sydney Children’s Court, two of the defendants charged last week discussed buying guns on April 19, the same day the bishop’s alleged attacker was charged, News Corp Australia newspapers report.

Gun ownership is heavily restricted in Australia under tough national laws, but there is a black market for firearms in Sydney.

IDF says it struck Hezbollah posts in south Lebanon overnight

Overnight, Israeli fighter jets struck Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon, the military says

The sites included infrastructure in Jabal Blat, and several buildings used by the terror group in Marwahin, according to the IDF.

Blinken lands in Saudi Arabia for talks on Gaza truce, boosting aid

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs Joint Base Andrews for Saudi Arabia in the latest Gaza diplomacy push, in Maryland, April 28, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/POOL/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs Joint Base Andrews for Saudi Arabia in the latest Gaza diplomacy push, in Maryland, April 28, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/POOL/AFP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Riyadh at the start of a new crisis tour aimed at pushing an elusive Israel-Hamas truce and hostage deal, and increasing humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

Blinken, who will later visit Jordan and Israel, will meet in the Saudi capital with visiting Gulf Arab and European foreign ministers on “day-after” plans for reconstruction of post-war Gaza, a State Department official said.

US Central Command says five unmanned drones ‘successfully engaged’ over Red Sea

The US military says it has “successfully engaged” five unmanned drones over the Red Sea that “presented an imminent threat to US, coalition, and merchant vessels in the region.”

US Central Command does not say in the statement if the drones were destroyed after they were identified.

“These actions are taken to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US, coalition, and merchant vessels,” the CENTCOM statement adds.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who control much of war-torn Yemen, have been attacking shipping in the Red Sea since November in a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The US has spearheaded a naval coalition to protect vessels in the vital waterway, and has also conducted air strikes in Houthi territory, both on its own and alongside Britain.

London police probe alleged attempted kidnapping of Haredi man in Stamford Hill

A clip shared on social media appears to show two men attempting to force an ultra-Orthodox man into the trunk of their car in North London.

The local Jewish neighborhood watch group, Shomrim, shares the footage from the Friday incident on social media, noting that London’s Metropolitan Police is looking for leads.

The video shows the car pull over on a street North London’s Stamford Hill — an area with a large Haredi community — next to the man, as two men jump out.

One of the men lunges threateningly at the victim, apparently demanding that he get in the car, while the other opens the trunk.

When the would-be kidnap victim quickly threatens to use his cellphone to call the police, and as other vehicles approached, the men get in their car and drive away.

Local police writes on X, formerly Twitter, that an investigation into the alleged antisemitic incident has been opened.

Palestinian prisoner in Israel wins prestigious Arabic fiction prize for book written in jail

ABU DHABI – Palestinian writer Basim Khandaqji, jailed 20 years ago in Israel, has been awarded won a prestigious prize for Arabic fiction for his novel “A Mask, the Color of the Sky.”

The award of the 2024 International Prize for Arabic Fiction is announced at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

The prize is accepted on Khandaqji’s behalf by Rana Idriss, owner of Dar al-Adab, the book’s Lebanon-based publisher.

Khandaqji was born in the West Bank city of Nablus in 1983, and wrote short stories until he was convicted and jailed in 2004 on charges relating to a deadly bombing in Tel Aviv.

He completed his university education from inside jail via the internet.

The mask in the novel’s title refers to the blue identity card that Nur, an archaeologist living in a refugee camp in Ramallah, finds in the pocket of an old coat belonging to an Israeli.

Khandaqji’s book was chosen from 133 works submitted to the competition.

Nabil Suleiman, who chaired the jury, says the novel “dissects a complex, bitter reality of family fragmentation, displacement, genocide, and racism.”

Since being jailed Khandaqji has written poetry collections including “Rituals of the First Time” and “The Breath of a Nocturnal Poem,” along with three earlier novels.

Palestinian reports: At least 13 killed, many wounded in Israeli air strikes in Rafah

Israeli air strikes on three houses in Rafah have killed 13 Palestinians and wounded many others, according to medics in Gaza.

Hamas media outlets put the death toll at 15 people.

There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces on the report.

Figures issued by the Hamas-run health ministry cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ 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.

 

Israeli delegation invited to Cairo for hostage talks, in parallel with Hamas — report

Egypt has reportedly invited an Israeli delegation to travel to Cairo today, amid ongoing negotiations to secure a deal for the return of hostages held by Hamas, with the terror group also expected to attend.

Qatari-owned outlet Al-Arabi Al-Jadid quotes Egyptian sources as saying that the invitation “aims to speed up the process and provide the necessary clarifications regarding the observations that will be presented by the Hamas delegation that will visit Cairo.”

“The invited Israeli delegation is scheduled to be authorized to provide answers to the inquiries raised by Hamas, without being authorized to make decisions or present official positions,” the source is quoted as saying.

Egypt, which along with Qatar and the United States has been unsuccessfully trying to broker a new Gaza truce deal ever since a one-week halt to the fighting in November, sent a high-level delegation to Israel on Friday.

The terms of the current Israeli-backed proposal have not been published but are reported to provide for the release of 33 living hostages who meet a so-called “humanitarian” designation — that is, women, children, men aged over 50 and the sick.

In return, Israel would release a far larger number of Palestinian security prisoners, including many with blood on their hands.

Anti-Israel protesters set up more tents at Yale, form human chains to block pro-Israel students

Hundreds of students have set up around 30 tents on Yale University’s cross campus green, according to the US college newspaper.

Over 200 pro-Palestinian protesters have gathered on the campus, forming chains reportedly to block pro-Israel demonstrators from entering the encampment.

In videos shared on social media, masked protesters can be seen wearing keffiyehs, the Arab headdress meant to provide protection from sun and sand that became a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, and erecting Palestinian flags.

Chants of “There is only one solution, intifada revolution” can also be heard at the demonstration, a reference to periods of deadly Palestinian uprisings that included terrorists carrying out deadly suicide attacks against Israelis.

The reports follow dozens of arrests at Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut last week after several violent episodes during the days-long protest.

Pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian protesters clash as UCLA allows both groups to express their views on campus

Protests at US universities have showed no sign of slowing over the weekend, with more arrests on campuses and a brief skirmish between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators at California’s UCLA, where a tent encampment was set up last week.

As the size of an anti-Israel encampment at the University of California at Los Angeles expanded in recent days, counter-protesters have become increasingly vocal and visible on the campus, although both sides remained peaceful until today.

The tone turns ugly at around midday when members of two groups of protesters clashed – shoving one another and shouting, and in some cases trading punches.

Posts on social media say that at least one person was injured during the clashes.

Security guards attempt to keep the two sides separated, while campus police stand by and watch the brief skirmish, according to a Reuters photographer who witnessed the scene at around noon local time.

The dueling demonstrations involve at least some people from outside the university, which issued a statement saying it had allowed two groups on campus to express their views.

US senator ‘casts serious doubt’ on ‘integrity’ of Biden administration review of Israel’s military conduct

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic senator has questioned whether the Biden administration is properly assessing whether Israel is complying with international law, following a Reuters report that some senior US officials do not find Jerusalem’s assurances credible.

“This reporting casts serious doubt on the integrity of the process in the Biden administration for reviewing whether the Netanyahu government is complying with international law in Gaza,” Senator Chris Van Hollen says in a statement.

The Reuters report found that some senior State Department officials have advised US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that they do not find “credible or reliable” Israel’s assurances that it is using US-supplied weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Blinken must tell Congress by May 8 whether he finds Israel’s assurances credible. According to an internal State Department memo, several bureaus within the agency did not find Israel’s statements credible, citing military actions that raise questions about potential violations of international humanitarian law.

Van Hollen says the Reuters report had found that the recommendations of those bureaus “were swept aside for political convenience.”

“The determination regarding compliance with international law is one of fact and law. The facts and law should not be ignored to achieve a pre-determined policy outcome. Our credibility is on the line,” he adds.

Van Hollen and some other Democratic lawmakers have pressed US President Joe Biden to impose conditions on military assistance to pressure Israel to limit civilian deaths in ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the terror group’s October 7 massacre.

So far, the administration has not done so.

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