The Times of Israel liveblogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

US official confirms Biden, Netanyahu to speak on Gaza war, WCK strike Thursday

A US official confirms that President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are scheduled to speak on Thursday amid growing White House frustration with Israel’s prosecution of the war in Gaza and in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers, according to a US official

The official, who is familiar with planning for the call, was not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity to discuss plans for the call. The statement comes as a top White House official says the administration has no plans to carry out its own investigation of what led to the strikes that killed workers — including an American citizen — associated with celebrity chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby tells reporters that the Biden administration continues to support Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. But Kirby says Israel must do more to prevent the killing and wounding of innocent civilians and aid workers as it carries out its operations in Gaza.

“As a modern military and a democracy, they have obligations to the innocent people of Gaza and they have not always have met those obligations,” Kirby says. “We are concerned about the methods too.”

Dozens, including Likud conspiracy theorist, protest outside Tel Aviv home of ‘Hamas-supporting’ AG

Protesters outside Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara's Tel Aviv home unfurl a massive banner which reads 'corrupt Kaplan-goer,' referring to the Tel-Aviv street where numerous anti-government demonstrations took place, April 3, 2024. (Noam Lehmann/Times of Israel)
Protesters outside Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara's Tel Aviv home unfurl a massive banner which reads 'corrupt Kaplan-goer,' referring to the Tel-Aviv street where numerous anti-government demonstrations took place, April 3, 2024. (Noam Lehmann/Times of Israel)

Some 50 right-wing activists have assembled near Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara’s north Tel Aviv home for their first police-approved protest there since the war broke out.

It was unclear if Baharav-Miara was at home at the time.

Neighbors upset by the noise say this is the second such protest since October 7, with the first taking place yesterday, “by surprise.” A police officer confirmed that a request to hold last night’s protest was not approved.

The neighbors said that earlier demonstrations against Baharav-Miara’s opposition to the government’s planned judicial overhaul had taken place about 100 yards farther away from her home.

Prominent radical Likud activist Rami Ben-Yehuda is on site live-streaming the event on X, telling viewers online that she “supports Hamas.”

Ben-Yehuda goes full-on conspiratorial, accusing Baharav-Miata of protecting a 150-strong ring of pedophiles embedded in her office. Though it is unclear what he was referring to, Ben-Yehuda’s pronouncement echoes the US rightwing QAnon conspiracy theory.

Neighbors and protesters shout insults at each other. Ben-Yehuda tells an uninvolved passerby to “return to his dog and cat and to go f**k himself,” invoking a stereotype about Tel Avivians who often own pets.

The demonstration ends at 11 p.m., in accordance with the city’s noise restrictions.

A Special Patrol Unit vehicle that pulled up outside the AG’s home an hour before the protest leaves, as the last protesters head home.

WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook go down in widespread Meta outage

Logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France, on October 5, 2020. (Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)
Logos of US social networks Facebook, Instagram and mobile messaging service WhatsApp on the screens of a smartphone and a tablet in Toulouse, southwestern France, on October 5, 2020. (Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Users of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook have reported that the apps are down, in an apparent outage to their Meta parent company.

Meta has not issued a statement on the reports.

Israeli reporter Barak Ravid wins award for best White House coverage

Israeli journalist Barak Ravid (Twitter)
Israeli journalist Barak Ravid (Twitter)

Israeli reporter Barak Ravid wins the White House Correspondence Association’s award for overall excellence in White House coverage.

“Barak Ravid’s reporting displayed deep, almost intimate levels of sourcing in the US and abroad that produced stories closely aligned to the events that subsequently transpired. His stories put the reader into the room as decisions were being made in the tumultuous aftermath of the October 7 raids,” the WHCA says in its announcement.

Ravid is reporter for the Walla and Axios news sites.

Rockets fired at Sderot for first time in 9 days; no reports of injuries or damage

Israeli Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in central Israel, October 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Israeli Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in central Israel, October 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the southern city of Sderot a short while ago, the municipality says.

One of the rockets was shot down by the Iron Dome, while the second hit an open area outside the city, a spokesperson for Sderot says.

There are no reports of damage or injuries.

Sirens sounded in the city during the attack.

It marks the first time in nine days that Sderot has come under rocket fire.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has subsequently claimed responsibility for the rocket fire.

Hamas leader says terror group to keep original hardline demands in hostage talks

Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based political bureau chief of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, speaks to the press after a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Tehran on March 26, 2024.(AFP)
Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based political bureau chief of the Palestinian terror group Hamas, speaks to the press after a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Tehran on March 26, 2024.(AFP)

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh says that his terror group at war with Israel is sticking to its conditions for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, including a complete Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza.

Israeli officials visited Egypt earlier this week in a renewed effort to secure a deal, but a Palestinian official close to mediation efforts says there are no signs of a breakthrough.

“We are committed to our demands: a permanent ceasefire, a comprehensive and complete withdrawal of the enemy out of the Gaza Strip, the return of all displaced people to their homes, allowing all aid needed for our people in Gaza, rebuilding the Strip, lifting the blockade and achieving an honorable prisoner exchange deal,” Haniyeh says in a televised speech marking Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day.

In recent months, negotiators indicated that Hamas was privately willing to compromise on its demand for a permanent ceasefire in favor of a phased deal that would start with a six-week truce during which the sides would agree to negotiate something more sustainable.

Schumer welcomes Gantz’s call for early elections after making same plea himself

Benny Gantz, left, a key member of Israel's War Cabinet is welcomed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, for a private meeting at the Capitol in Washington, March 5, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Benny Gantz, left, a key member of Israel's War Cabinet is welcomed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, for a private meeting at the Capitol in Washington, March 5, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer welcomes War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz’s call to hold elections in September, after having made a similar call last month, saying early elections should be held when the war winds down, in order to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“When a leading member of Israel’s war cabinet calls for early elections and over 70 percent of the Israeli population agrees according to a major poll, you know it’s the right thing to do,” Schumer tweets.

US indicates opposition to renewed Palestinian bid for statehood status at UN

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, and China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, center left, speak with ambassadors of Arab countries and the PLO before a Security Council meeting and vote on a resolution on Israel and Gaza conflict at UN Headquarters, March 25, 2024. (AP/Craig Ruttle)
Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, and China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, center left, speak with ambassadors of Arab countries and the PLO before a Security Council meeting and vote on a resolution on Israel and Gaza conflict at UN Headquarters, March 25, 2024. (AP/Craig Ruttle)

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller indicates that the Biden administration opposes the renewed Palestinian bid to obtain full-member state status at the United Nations.

“We have always made clear that, while we support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state… that is something that should be done through direct negotiations through the parties — something we are pursuing at this time — and not at the United Nations,” Miller says during a press briefing.

US opposition to the initiative in the UN Security Council would all but block it, given that Washington has veto power.

Qatari PM appears to brand Netanyahu an ‘adventurous politician who only cares about himself’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on December 10, 2023. 
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at Lusail Palace, in Doha on February 6, 2024. (Ronen Zvulun/AP, Mark Schiefelbein/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on December 10, 2023. Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at Lusail Palace, in Doha on February 6, 2024. (Ronen Zvulun/AP, Mark Schiefelbein/AFP)

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani takes a swipe at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appearing to brand him as an “adventurous politicians who only care[s] about [his] own personal interests.”

Al-Thani was speaking regarding a potential Israeli invasion of Rafah during a press conference earlier today, asserting that Israel is the only country that supports such an operation.

“This will lead to genocide, and the international community must tell Israel enough,” the Qatari premier says.

“We cannot leave the fate of the region to adventurous politicians who only care about their own personal interests,” al-Thani says, without specifically naming Netanyahu.

Channel 12 speculates that the criticism is a response to several issues: Netanyahu-backed legislation passed by the Knesset that aims to shutter Al Jazeera’s offices in Israel; Netanyahu’s repeated claims that Qatar is not sufficiently pressuring Hamas in the hostage negotiations; and recent Israeli praise of Egypt’s role as a broker in the talks, which were seen to have purposefully neglected Qatar — the other main broker.

“Qatar’s behavior is extremely disappointing. It has not used any of the leverage it has over Hamas. And it certainly has [leverage]: it hasn’t frozen bank accounts, hasn’t exiled families of Hamas [from Qatar], nothing,” a senior Israeli official tells Channel 12.

IDF denies report that it’s using AI to build list of 37,000 targets based on Hamas ties

IDF soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo published April 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo published April 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF denies a report published this evening claiming that the military has used artificial intelligence to build a list of some 37,000 potential targets in the Gaza Strip, based on their suspected links to Hamas.

The report, by the Israeli left-wing activist outlet +972 Magazine, and republished by the UK’s Guardian, also claims that IDF officials permitted large numbers of Palestinian civilians to be killed, especially during the early weeks of the war.

The +972 Magazine article says that the IDF Spokespersons Unit denied the existence of such a kill list, and denied using AI to incriminate targets, saying that such systems are “auxiliary tools that assist officers in the process of incrimination.”

“An independent examination by an [intelligence] analyst is required, which verifies that the identified targets are legitimate targets for attack, in accordance with the conditions set forth in IDF directives and international law,” the IDF tells the magazine.

Jose Andres tells Israeli TV: WCK was in IDF-controlled area, coordinated with IDF

World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres is interviewed by Channel 12 on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)
World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andres is interviewed by Channel 12 on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

World Central Kitchen’s founder Jose Andres gives a tearful interview to Israel’s Channel 12 news, mourning the seven dead and insisting the IDF airstrike was “a direct attack,” not a mistake.

“The airstrikes on our convoy I don’t think were an unfortunate mistake. It was really a direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by everybody at the IDF,” he says.

“I know Israelis. I have many friends that are Israelis and Jewish. I know Israelis, they are better than this war being waged. I know that they are better than blocking food and medicines to civilians.”

“We were feeding Israelis. We were next to the people of Israel hours after entire communities were massacred [on October 7]. We were there next to the Israeli people. We did more than two million meals. We were in many kibbutzim. We were in the north.”

“If we think about Passover — what are the lessons that we know from Passover? Lessons that every Israeli knows? That in Passover, you will feed the strangers. You will feed the strangers because the strangers fed you. Let’s embrace the meaning of Passover by making sure we will feed every stranger today.”

Asked about his conversation yesterday with US President Biden, Andres says:

“Nobody questions President Biden’s support for Israel, and I believe obviously Israel has and had all the right to defend her people. But defending your people is not killing everybody else around. I’ve been in Gaza myself. I met…,” he breaks down off tearfully, then resumes “… and some of the people that died were my friends… Zomi [Frankcom, one of the seven fatalities] is the nicest angel you will meet, a woman that has been in so many places around the world feeding people. This was a good soul.

“I think the Israeli government has to open more routes — that’s what I told President Biden. Needs to open more land routes and [allow in more food and] medicine today. [Prime Minister] Netanyahu can make that happen just by picking up the phone and asking for that simple thing to happen.”

Asked if there could have been terrorists in the cars, and whether someone could have exploited his staff unwittingly, Andres says:

“Obviously, I cannot speak about what we still don’t know. But what I can tell you is that World Central Kitchen were in a deconflicted zone; we were in an area that was highly controlled by the IDF, that there is no way anybody moves in and out without the IDF doing long searches. So I’m highly skeptical that this would be the case.

“I do believe Israel and the Israeli people are better than that. Let’s bring out our best angels today. Let’s make sure we stop the continuous killing of everything that moves in Gaza.”

Undelivered food returns to Cyprus after aid workers’ killing in Gaza

Illustrative: The second vessel, left, with food aid from aid group World Central Kitchen prepares to depart for Gaza, at Larnaca port, Cyprus, March 16, 2024. (AP/Petros Karadjias)
Illustrative: The second vessel, left, with food aid from aid group World Central Kitchen prepares to depart for Gaza, at Larnaca port, Cyprus, March 16, 2024. (AP/Petros Karadjias)

A sea convoy of undelivered food for Gaza has returned to Cyprus, after the killing of aid workers of World Central Kitchen (WCK) in an Israeli airstrike on Monday evening.

A cargo ship carrying 240 tons of food initially destined for the people of the besieged Palestinian enclave sailed back to Larnaca in Cyprus, following the deadly attack, dropping anchor just outside the port.

A second ship, the Open Arms, owned by a Spanish NGO working with WCK, arrived earlier.

The undelivered aid was part of a consignment of about 340 tons sent to Gaza from Cyprus on March 30. The aid workers killed in Gaza had just finished work unloading 100 tons from a barge, also sent from Cyprus.

WCK, active in Gaza since October, has paused operations in the territory after the killings and turned around its flotilla of ships back to Cyprus.

In March, WCK launched an inaugural sea corridor transporting aid to the enclave from the east Mediterranean island.

Cyprus has offered to supplement aid getting into Gaza by sea with a fast-track on-island security screening process for aid overseen by Israel.

IDF calls up air defense reservists amid concerns of retaliation for strike on Iran mission in Syria

People gather near a destroyed building in Damascus, Syria, April 1, 2024. (SANA via AP)
People gather near a destroyed building in Damascus, Syria, April 1, 2024. (SANA via AP)

The IDF says that it has bolstered its air defense array, calling up reservists following a fresh assessment.

The move follows threats by Iran to respond to the alleged Israeli assassination of Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the IRGC’s most senior official in Syria, along with his deputy, five other IRGC officers, and at least one member of Hezbollah.

Channel 12 reports that Israel is on high alert for a potential Iranian response to the strike in Syria and that a retaliatory strike originating from Iranian territory — as opposed to from one of its proxies — would require a more significant IDF response.

Netanyahu to speak with Biden tomorrow in first call since IDF strike on aid convoy

US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Pool Photo via AP)
US President Joe Biden, left, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Pool Photo via AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak on the phone with US President Joe Biden tomorrow — their first call since the Monday IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen aid convoy in central Gaza, which elicited blistering criticism from Washington.

Kfar Aza director says community plans to relocate to nearby town this fall, partially return by end of 2025

Victor Weinberger and Keren Flash speak with media outlets in Kibbutz Shefaim, where they and hundreds of other Kibbutz Kfar Aza residents currently live, on April 3, 2024. (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)
Victor Weinberger and Keren Flash speak with media outlets in Kibbutz Shefaim, where they and hundreds of other Kibbutz Kfar Aza residents currently live, on April 3, 2024. (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)

Victor Weinberger, director of planning and strategy for Kibbutz Kfar Aza, tells reporters that his community plans to relocate to Kibbutz Ruhama in the Negev before the end of 2024.

Nearly half of the kibbutz residents currently live in the central Israeli Kibbutz Shefaim in both the kibbutz’s hotel and newly constructed mobile homes.

The move to Kibbutz Ruhama will require financial assistance from the government, Weinberger says.

“We have a prime minister who has refused to say the word ‘kibbutz’ or ‘kibbutznik’ to this day,” he adds. “We’re not getting the money that we need.”

Weinberger says that if they end up receiving sufficient funds, the community plans to move to Kibbutz Ruhama in the fall of 2024 and hopes to begin moving back to Kibbutz Kfar Aza by the end of 2025.

He adds that not all residents of Kibbutz Kfar Aza want to move back to the Gaza border area, explaining that young parents with small children are particularly hesitant.

The community currently enjoys a variety of recovery services, including close to 100 providers in the fields of psychiatry, education, and trauma treatment. Weinberger says that these services are funded by philanthropic donations that he and his colleagues have raised over the last six months.

Halevi: Reaching hostage deal is of utmost importance, but will only come via military pressure

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets troops in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, April 3, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets troops in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, April 3, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Speaking to officers in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis earlier today, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi says reaching a hostage deal with Hamas is a task of “utmost” importance, but that it will only come from military pressure on the terror group.

“We are pressing to deepen the achievement, and we are also pressing to try to bring about a shift in the negotiations, to bring about an agreement on the release of hostages. This is a task of utmost [importance],” Halevi says.

“It will only come from stronger pressure and we will press harder, however [much is] necessary. Another battalion being dismantled, another commander killed, another infrastructure destroyed, this is the way to exert pressure to eventually release the hostages,” he says.

IDF names additional Hamas, PIJ commanders captured by troops in Shifa raid

Ashraf Ibrahim Samur during his Shin Bet interrogation, in footage released on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
Ashraf Ibrahim Samur during his Shin Bet interrogation, in footage released on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

The IDF names additional senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders captured by troops at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.

During the two-week-long operation at Shifa, the IDF says soldiers managed to detain more than 500 members of terror groups, including top operatives.

The IDF says that among those captured is Ashraf Ibrahim Samur, the deputy head of the information department in Hamas’s intelligence division.

In an interrogation video released by the IDF, Samur is seen describing to Shin Bet interrogators that several Hamas units, including its intelligence division, operated out of Shifa.

Samur says that Hamas began to regroup at the hospital two days after the IDF initially left it last year. If accurate, that means that the terror group entered the hospital at the start of the seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas in late November.

Additional Hamas commanders captured at Shifa are named by the IDF as Hashem Sarsour, head of the emergency committees in East Gaza City; Mehdi Abu Hassanin, head of internal security in the Gaza City; Ibrahim Tamraz, head of police operations in Gaza City; Mahmoud Ajour, head of “policy decisions committee”; Asama al-Tata; head of the Shejaiya Brigade’s rocket unit; and Diab al-Tahar, a senior member of the emergency committees in south Gaza.

The IDF also names four more Islamic Jihad terror operatives captured at Shifa: Hassan Aki, the deputy commander of a special rocket unit; Bakr Jaabari, an assistant to the former head of Islamic Jihad’s northern Gaza region; Muhammad Mali, responsible for finances for Islamic Jihad; and Musa al-Imawi, the deputy commander of the group’s Sabrah district.

Netanyahu’s Likud blasts Gantz’s September election call, says gov’t remains until war aims achieved

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party rejects War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz’s call for an election in September, saying the government will remain in place “until all the goals of the war are achieved.”

“At this fateful moment for the State of Israel and in the midst of a war, Benny Gantz must stop engaging in petty politics just because his party is disintegrating.

“Early elections will inevitably lead to paralysis (in the war) and (societal) division in addition to harming (the IDF’s goal to invade) Rafah and dealing a fatal blow to the chances of a hostage deal,” the Likud party says.

Meanwhile, Opposition Chairman Yair Lapid says a September election date is too far away and that the current government must be replaced much sooner.

“This government needs to go home as soon as possible so that we can return the hostages, return the evacuees home, defeat Hamas, and make sure that someone takes care of the Israeli middle class,” Lapid says in a statement.

Sullivan warns global food security group could declare famine in Gaza within weeks

Palestinians crowd together as they wait for food distribution in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, November 8, 2023. (AP Photo/ Hatem Ali, File)
Palestinians crowd together as they wait for food distribution in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, November 8, 2023. (AP Photo/ Hatem Ali, File)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned Israeli counterparts during yesterday’s virtual meeting on Rafah that the UN-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) organization could issue a famine declaration for Gaza in the coming weeks, which would have major implications for Israel and the US, the Axios news site reports.

Sullivan said this would be the third such declaration of the 21st century.

The Israeli officials in the meetings retorted that they dispute this assessment, but their US counterparts pointed out that Jerusalem is the only government in the world currently rejecting the IPC’s assessments.

Gantz pushes September election in first such call since joining gov’t after Oct. 7

National Unity chair Benny Gantz gives a video statement on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
National Unity chair Benny Gantz gives a video statement on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

War cabinet Minister Benny Gantz calls for elections in September, citing the need to “maintain unity” and “renew trust” in the government.

This is the first time Gantz has made such a call since joining the government on an emergency basis following the October 7 onslaught.

“We must agree on a date for elections in September, about a year from the war,” Gantz says in a televised briefing.

“Setting such a date will allow us to continue the military effort while signaling to the citizens of Israel that we will soon renew their trust in us.”

Gantz says he has discussed the matter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks and plans to continue to do so.

Gantz also suggested that early elections would provide Israel with international legitimacy, apparently speculating that it would lead to the ouster of far-right parties from the halls of power.

Netanyahu has repeatedly spoken out against the prospect of elections, claiming it would prevent Israel from defeating Hamas, paralyze the hostage talks, and spark greater societal rifts.

UN suspends Gaza nighttime aid operations following WCK strike

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

The United Nations has suspended movements at night for at least 48 hours to evaluate security issues following a deadly IDF strike on a convoy belonging to the World Central Kitchen food charity, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric says during a briefing.

The WCK strike took place at night.

Dujarric says the suspension started today. The World Food Program is continuing operations during the day, including daily efforts to send convoys to the north of Gaza “where people are dying,” Dujarric says.

“As famine closes in we need humanitarian staff and supplies to be able to move freely and safely across the Gaza Strip,” he tells reporters.

Report: Israel thinks Rafah evacuation would take 4 weeks; US says four months

Palestinian women and children walk near a building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 31, 2024. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Palestinian women and children walk near a building destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 31, 2024. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Major divides between the US and Israel were reportedly exposed during Monday’s virtual meeting between top officials from both governments to discuss a potential Israeli operation the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

While Israel said it would need about four weeks to evacuate the over one million Palestinians sheltering there, the senior Biden officials in the meeting said that timeline was wildly unrealistic and that the process would likely take closer to four months — an assertion that the Israeli officials flatly rejected, the Axios news site reports.

The US officials told their Israeli counterparts that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that has deteriorated in recent months does not breed confidence in the IDF’s ability to pull off a safe evacuation of so many Palestinians within the timeframe that the military is suggesting.

“It is clear to everybody that we will have to find a middle ground here,” one source tells Axios.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned the Israeli team that the UN-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) organization could issue a famine declaration for Gaza in the coming weeks, which would have major implications for Israel and the US.

Sullivan said this would be the third such declaration of the 21st century.

The Israeli officials in the meetings retorted that they dispute this assessment but the US counterparts pointed out that Jerusalem is the only government in the world currently rejecting the IPC’s assessments.

Footage of Kochav Yair attack shows suspect in flip-flops rushing guards with knife

Security cam footage of the April 3, 2024, suspected terror attack near Kochav Yair. (Screen capture/Defense Ministry)
Security cam footage of the April 3, 2024, suspected terror attack near Kochav Yair. (Screen capture/Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry publishes footage of an overnight attack at a West Bank checkpoint near the town of Kochav Yair.

The footage shows Waheb Sabita, a 26-year-old resident of the neighboring Arab Israeli town of Tira, rushing at security guards at the Eliyahu Crossing with a knife, while wearing flip-flops.

Sabita had moments earlier rammed his car into four police officers. One of the cops was seriously hurt.

The assailant was shot dead by the checkpoint’s guards.

Sabita’s family issued a statement earlier today, condemning the incident, and also claiming that Waheb was mentally unwell, asserting that the incident should not be probed as a nationalistically motivated terror attack.

Spanish PM says Israeli explanation of aid workers attack ‘insufficient and unacceptable’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (L) and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, arrive to the podium to give a joint press conference in Doha on April 3, 2024. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (L) and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, arrive to the podium to give a joint press conference in Doha on April 3, 2024. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says explanations provided by Israel about the killing of seven people working for the aid charity World Central Kitchen in a Gaza airstrike were insufficient and unacceptable, and he demands further details.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident “a tragic event in which our forces unintentionally harmed noncombatants,” adding that “this happens in war.”

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said the strike was due to a “misidentification” made in complex, wartime conditions.

“That is unacceptable and insufficient, and we are awaiting a much stronger and more detailed clarification, after which we’ll see what action to take,” Sanchez tells a news briefing on Wednesday while visiting Qatar.

World Central Kitchen was founded by Spanish American chef Jose Andres.

Qatar PM: Dispute in hostage talks mainly over return of displaced to northern Gaza

Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani speaks to the press as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the Treaty Room of the State Department in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2024. (Photo by Drew ANGERER / AFP)
Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani speaks to the press as he meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the Treaty Room of the State Department in Washington, DC, on March 5, 2024. (Photo by Drew ANGERER / AFP)

Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani says in a press conference that the main point of dispute in negotiations on a hostage deal and extended truce is over the return of displaced people to parts of the Palestinian territory.

Israel has objected to allowing an unchecked return of Palestinians to northern Gaza amid fears that this would lead to a resurgence of Hamas in areas already cleared by the IDF.

White House reiterates belief that IDF strike on aid workers shouldn’t impact hostage talks

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

The United States does not expect the Israeli strike that killed seven World Central Kitchen workers in Gaza to impact talks on an Israel-Hamas ceasefire and releases of hostages and Palestinian prisoners, the White House reiterates.

“The ceasefire and hostage negotiations are ongoing,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tells reporters in a briefing. “I wouldn’t anticipate any particular impact on those discussions as a result of the strike yesterday.”

Police say PM, family were not in danger during last night’s protests

Police clash with protestors outside of the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Azza Street in Jerusalem, April 2, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Police clash with protestors outside of the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Azza Street in Jerusalem, April 2, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Against the backdrop of criticism over the conduct of anti-government protesters outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home on Jerusalem’s Azza Street last night, the Israel Police issues a statement clarifying that the premier and his family were never in any danger during the demonstration.

The police statement also blasts protesters’ conduct, though, asserting that it went beyond what constitutes freedom of expression.

Channel 12 reports that Netanyahu was at home at the time.

Gallant: We’re boosting our readiness, expanding our operations against Hezbollah

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during a home front command drill in Haifa, April 3, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks during a home front command drill in Haifa, April 3, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Speaking at a homefront readiness drill in Haifa, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says Israel is “increasing preparedness, and at the same time we are also expanding our operations against Hezbollah, against other bodies that threaten us, we strike our enemies all over the Middle East.”

He says one of the main issues that Israel is facing is how to let some 80,000 displaced Israelis return to their homes in northern Israel amid daily attacks by Hezbollah.

“We prefer… an agreement that will result in the removal of the threat, but we have to prepare for the possibility of [using] force in Lebanon which can also take into account the scenario we are describing here, which is a scenario of war, and we need to be prepared for this issue and understand that it can happen,” Gallant says.

“We need to be prepared and ready for every scenario and every threat, against close enemies and against distant enemies,” he adds.

The drill evaluated the coordination between local authorities, government ministries, and rescue services in a war scenario, “in light of the increasing need to return the residents of the north to their homes,” the Defense Ministry says.

IDF strikes Hezbollah posts in southern Lebanon after projectiles fired at Mount Dov

Footage of IDF airstrikes on Hezbollah positions and infrastructure in southern Lebanon's Kfarhamam on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
Footage of IDF airstrikes on Hezbollah positions and infrastructure in southern Lebanon's Kfarhamam on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

The IDF says it carried out airstrikes against Hezbollah positions and infrastructure in southern Lebanon’s Kfarhamam a short while ago.

One of the posts was used to launch projectiles at the Mount Dov area earlier. The IDF says it targeted the position and the operatives behind the fire minutes after the attack.

The IDF says it also hit buildings used by Hezbollah in Blida and Aynata last night, and shelled areas near Ayta ash-Shab earlier today to “remove threats.”

Senior Israeli official laments culture of ‘shoot first, ask later’ gaining ground in IDF

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

A culture has percolated in some corners of the IDF in which soldiers are “shooting first [in Gaza] and asking questions later,” a senior Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

The admission comes following multiple strikes on a World Central Kitchen convoy on Monday that was driving within what was supposed to be a de-conflicted humanitarian corridor. Seven WCK staffers were killed on the spot.

The senior Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity says the culture was on display in late December when troops opened fire on three Israeli hostages who managed to escape captivity and were waving a white flag when they were killed.

Both that incident and the one on Monday represented violations of the IDF’s rules of engagement, the senior official noted.

“Soldiers are operating under immense pressure in very difficult conditions in which Hamas embeds itself within the civilian population, but the rules of engagement are designed to help deal with such conditions, and they’re too often being ignored,” the senior Israeli official says.

Sullivan postpones planned trip to Saudi Arabia where he was slated to discuss Israel normalization

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has postponed this week’s planned trip to Saudi Arabia where he was reportedly slated to discuss a major agreement with the Biden administration that would see Riyadh receive major security guarantees from Washington while normalizing ties with Israel.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tells reporters in a briefing that a minor accident in which Sullivan cracked one of his ribs contributed to the decision to postpone the trip.

Kirby doesn’t say whether the deadly Israeli strike on aid workers in Gaza on Monday also led to the postponement, as Riyadh reportedly chills on the idea of normalizing with the Jewish state amid increased international opposition to the war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

IDF begins calling up Haredi yeshiva students after exemptions expire

Illustrative: Haredi students study at the Kamenitz Yeshiva, in Jerusalem, August 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: Haredi students study at the Kamenitz Yeshiva, in Jerusalem, August 22, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The army has begun calling up ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students this week following the expiration of a legally dubious temporary regulation instructing conscription authorities not to draft Haredim.

At least some yeshiva students who had previously been issued deferments from service were sent an order, known in Hebrew as a Tzav Rishon, to report for a pre-draft assessment, according to Hebrew news site Walla. The students in question had previously received the same order in question before being given their deferrals.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara on Sunday told the legal advisers of both the defense and education ministries that the process of drafting members of the ultra-Orthodox community into the army must begin the next day.

“Beginning April 1, 2024, there will be no source of authority for a blanket exemption from military conscription for yeshiva students, and the defense establishment must act to draft them into military service in accordance with the law,” wrote Baharav-Miara, in a letter first published by Channel 13 news.

Per the State Attorney’s Office, there are currently some 63,000 enrolled yeshiva students who are legally subject to the draft, but it seems unlikely that military police will begin actively enforcing its conscription orders through arrests.

Knesset passes controversial climate bill through first reading

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman speaks during an Interior and Environmental Protection Committee at the Knesset on March 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman speaks during an Interior and Environmental Protection Committee at the Knesset on March 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset passes the first reading of a controversial climate bill by 49 votes to 32.

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman says the proposed law will “protect the public, its health and welfare, and also protect future generations.”

She adds that the bill “sets targets and programs for the reduction of global-warming gas emissions and for preparing the economy for the effects of climate (change).”

But environmental groups and opposition MKs decry the bill as next to useless and say it’s a capitulation to the Finance Ministry, which has fought against anchoring any climate targets in law.

Starting in 2030, the annual amount of emissions will be no more than 70% of those recorded in 2015, it says.

The bill sets the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. (Net zero is achieved when actual emissions are offset by the amount of gases removed from the atmosphere).

It orders the preparation of national plans for emissions reduction and for dealing with the effects of climate change. Ministries will also be expected to create climate crisis preparation plans on different aspects of the economy.

The current draft of the bill specifies that the government “may change by decree the goals and the years set as well as the base year” pertaining to the climate targets.

The government will be able to exempt ministries and corporations from the obligation to prepare plans for dealing with climate change.

War cabinet slated to hold virtual meeting shortly

File - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a meeting of the war cabinet in Tel Aviv on March 15, 2024 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
File - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a meeting of the war cabinet in Tel Aviv on March 15, 2024 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The war cabinet will hold a virtual meeting shortly, the Ynet new site reports.

It is unclear whether this is a routine meeting or due to a development in the hostage negotiations.

Israel is waiting for a response from Hamas after agreeing to a new compromise proposal in Cairo earlier this week.

Sirens heard in Kiryat Shmona and nearby towns in the Galilee Panhandle

A map of where rocket sirens were triggered in the north on April 3, 2024. (Red Alert)
A map of where rocket sirens were triggered in the north on April 3, 2024. (Red Alert)

Sirens warning of incoming rockets and suspected drones are sounding across the Galilee.

The alarms are activated in Kiryat Shmona and nearby towns in the Galilee Panhandle, as well as in several communities in the Western Galilee.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Egypt: Bodies of 6 foreign aid workers killed in Israeli strike moved out of Gaza

Egypt state media says the bodies of six foreign aid workers killed in Israeli strikes have been transported out of Gaza.

Russia says NATO, at 75, has returned to Cold War mindset

NATO foreign ministers pose during a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 3, 2024 (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
NATO foreign ministers pose during a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, April 3, 2024 (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Russia says NATO has returned to a Cold War mindset as the alliance marks its 75th anniversary this week.

“Today, in relations with Russia, the bloc has returned to Cold War settings,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova tells reporters.

She says that NATO has no place in the “multipolar world” that Moscow says it seeks to build in order to end US dominance, but that it remains the focus of Russian attention.

President Vladimir Putin launched what he called his “special military operation” in Ukraine in 2022 with the stated aim of preventing NATO from expanding its footprint close to Russia. But the war has served to galvanize the alliance, which has expanded to 32 members by admitting Finland and Sweden.

NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels today to discuss proposals that would give the alliance a more direct role in coordinating the supply of arms, ammunition and equipment to Ukraine.

Western governments say they are helping Ukraine fight for its survival in the face of Russia’s invasion. Zakharova says NATO’s history was “full of aggressive adventures that brought wars and destruction to many nations,” and its anniversary is no cause for celebration.

Knesset limits secrecy covering controversial state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Company

In a landmark decision, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee waters down the secrecy conditions covering the controversial state-owned Europe Asia Pipeline Company and agrees to extend the rules for one year only, despite the Finance Ministry’s request for five years.

Local authorities and environmental groups have long claimed that the secrecy — apparently linked to a historical connection between the company and Iran prior to the Islamic Revolution — prevents them from supervising and monitoring polluting activities to protect the environment.

The committee, chaired by the Likud Party’s Yuli Edelstein, approves allowing inspectors with security clearance from relevant local authorities and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to view confidential information for the purposes of environmental supervision. The authorities govern areas in and around Eilat and Ashkelon in southern Israel where the EAPC maintains its oil ports.

The company maintains pipelines linking Eilat, on the Red Sea coast, to Ashkelon, on the Mediterranean shore, for the transportation of oil between Europe, the Gulf and the Far East.

Oil leaks have caused some of Israel’s worst environmental disasters over the years.

Environmental campaigners have long warned of the dangers an oil spill could unleash on Eilat’s climate-resilient coral reefs. These are not only important as the world continues to warm, but underpin much of the tourism industries in Israel, Jordan and Egypt.

Lapid: In no other country would this government be in power on October 8

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on April 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader and Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on April 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid says in a statement in the Knesset plenum: “Our hearts are with you, the families of the protesters. We will fight with you. I call on protesters to follow the law, and on police to maintain the safety of protesters.”

He adds: “There is no other country in the world where this government would be in power on October 8. It’s a disaster for the ages that you stayed in power.”

Lebanese official says UN observers wounded by landmine

A Lebanese a judicial official says an ongoing investigation by the Lebanese army has found that a landmine wounded three UN military observers and a translator in the south last week.

“Preliminary results of a Lebanese army investigation have found that the observers were wounded by a landmine,” the official tells AFP, adding that the probe is continuing and the source of the mine had yet to be determined.

Israel earlier in the day said the cause was a Hezbollah roadside bomb. Lebanese officials had initially claimed the observers were struck by Israel.

Agriculture minister hosts Austrian delegation, says visitors expressed support

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter (R) meets with Austrian President of the National Council Wolfgang Sobotka in the Knesset, Jerusalem, April 3, 2024 (Office of Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter)
Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter (R) meets with Austrian President of the National Council Wolfgang Sobotka in the Knesset, Jerusalem, April 3, 2024 (Office of Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter)

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter hosts an Austrian delegation headed by Wolfgang Sobotka, president of the National Council, Austria’s lower house of parliament.

In their meeting, which takes place in the Knesset, the five-member delegation presses Dichter on who will rule Gaza after Hamas. According to a statement from Dichter’s office, he emphasized that there is “no intention” of bringing the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. He also claims UNRWA has funneled donor funds to Hamas.

According to Dichter’s office, the guests expressed their support for Israel and its right to defend itself.

UN rights council to consider call for Israel arms embargo

The UN Human Rights Council will consider a draft resolution on Friday calling for an arms embargo on Israel, citing the “plausible risk of genocide in Gaza.”

If the draft resolution is adopted, it would mark the first time that the United Nations’ top rights body has taken a position on the war raging in Gaza.

The text condemns “the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects by Israel” in populated areas of the Gaza Strip and demands that Israel “uphold its legal responsibility to prevent genocide.”

The text was brought forward by Pakistan on behalf of 55 of the 56 UN member states in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — the exception being Albania.

The draft resolution is also co-sponsored by Bolivia, Cuba and the Palestinian mission in Geneva.

Commotion in Knesset as hostages’ relatives smear yellow paint on hands and windows

Relatives of hostages protest in the Knesset, painting their hands yellow, on April 3, 2024 (Knesset channel video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Relatives of hostages protest in the Knesset, painting their hands yellow, on April 3, 2024 (Knesset channel video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Chaos erupts in the gallery above the Knesset plenum as activists and relatives of hostages in Gaza throw yellow paint at the glass windows, while some cover their hands in yellow, the color that has become associated with the plight of the captives.

Security personnel immediately confront the protesters, pushing them away from the windows and escorting them out.

The incident takes place as legislators in the plenum below vote on a climate-related bill.

Several oppositions members in the plenum raise their hands in solidarity with the protesters in the gallery above.

Bodies of foreign aid workers killed in Israeli strike to be repatriated

The victims of the IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy in Gaza (Clockwise from top right):
Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, Damian Soból, Jacob Flickinger, James Kirby, James (Jim) Henderson and John Chapman. (World Central Kitchen/X)
The victims of the IDF strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy in Gaza (Clockwise from top right): Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, Lalzawmi (Zomi) Frankcom, Damian Soból, Jacob Flickinger, James Kirby, James (Jim) Henderson and John Chapman. (World Central Kitchen/X)

The bodies of six foreign aid workers killed in a Gaza strike are expected to be transported out of the war-torn Palestinian territory today as Israel faces a chorus of outrage over their deaths.

The remains of the six international staff, who were killed alongside one Palestinian colleague, are set to be taken out of Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, says Marwan Al-Hams, director of the city’s Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital.

After surgery, Netanyahu working from home for now

After leaving the hospital yesterday — where he underwent surgery for a hernia Sunday night — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working from home, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

There is no date set for his return to the office as of now, adds the official.

The 74-year-old prime minister is participating in meetings from a secure videoconference line. “He’s involved, he’s running the show,” says the official.

Canada’s FM calls for full investigation into killing of aid workers

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly addresses a joint press conference with the Ukrainian foreign minister in Kyiv on February 2, 2024. (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly addresses a joint press conference with the Ukrainian foreign minister in Kyiv on February 2, 2024. (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister Melanie Joly calls for a full investigation into the killing of aid workers in Gaza, among whom was a Canadian citizen, by an Israeli airstrike.

Speaking on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, she says Israel needs to respect international law, adding Canada will make sure it does.

Strike on Gaza aid group putting Poland-Israel ties ‘to the test’ — Tusk

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

Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk says that a deadly Israeli strike on aid workers in Gaza that killed a Polish citizen, and the government’s reaction to the incident, are straining ties between the two countries.

Directly addressing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s envoy to Warsaw, Tusk posts on X: “The vast majority of Poles showed full solidarity with Israel after the Hamas attack. Today you are putting this solidarity to a really difficult test.”

“The tragic attack against volunteers and your reaction are generating an understandable anger,” he wrote.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski warns the incident is likely to increase antisemitism in Poland, and calls for Israel to “apologize and pay compensation to the families of the victims.”

“If it is true that the convoy was deliberately attacked because it was supposed to contain a terrorist, and that civilian lives were therefore sacrificed, I do not know of any [political] system in which this would be justified,” he tells Polish public radio Trojka.

“It is obvious something is wrong with the rules on the use of weapons by the Israeli army,” he says. “You cannot play down this matter by saying these things happen in war, as Netanyahu said yesterday.”

Star basketball player Miki Berkovich to receive Israel Prize

File: Former Israeli basketball player Miki Berkovich in 2021 (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
File: Former Israeli basketball player Miki Berkovich in 2021 (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Legendary Israeli basketball player Miki Berkovich is to receive the Israel Prize in the category of outstanding athletic achievement, the government announces.

Berkovich, 70, had a long and distinguished career with Maccabi Tel Aviv, leading it to two Euroleague championships in the late 1970s and early 80s. During his time with Tel Aviv it dominated Israel’s premier league, winning 16 national championships. He also was a part of several Israeli national teams, notably the squad that won a gold medal at the 1974 Asian Games, held in pre-Islamic Revolution Iran.

His contract with Maccabi in the late 70s prevented him from accepting offers from NBA teams, and he later played for Maccabi Rishon Lezion, Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Tel Aviv before retiring in 1995.

Berkovich is “an inspirational role model” and “a legend in Israeli sports due to his tremendous and extraordinary achievements in the field of basketball, on both a personal and national level, and is considered the greatest Israeli basketball player of all time,” the Education Ministry, which oversees the Israel Prize, said in its official statement.

The Israel Prize is handed out during the national Independence Day ceremony, which this year falls on May 14. The event is to be held this year in Sderot instead of Jerusalem, the latest twist in a series of controversies around this year’s prize, which at one point saw the regular categories removed in favor of two newly created war-related awards. The former have now been restored alongside the new prizes.

Fatah calls for an end to Iranian meddling in Palestinian affairs

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Amman, Jordan, October 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Amman, Jordan, October 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party issues a statement rejecting Iranian involvement in Palestinian internal affairs.

“This external interference, particularly by Iran, has no other objective than to sow chaos in the Palestinian internal arena, which will only benefit the Israeli occupation and the enemies of our people,” the statement reads.

“We will not allow our sacred cause and the blood of our people to be exploited for suspicious plots that have nothing to do with them,” it says.

“We will be on the lookout for those tamperers, and will cut off the hand that seeks to meddle in our affairs, or harm our security services, or any of our national institutions,” it adds.

Iran is considered to be one of the main state sponsors of the terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and has provided them with money, weapons and training for years.

The PA has been seeking to distance itself from Hamas after attempts at reconciliation and at forming a national unity government failed. The PA is international pressure to sideline the terror group in the future governance of Gaza.

Three weeks ago, Fatah accused Hamas of returning the “Israeli occupation” to Gaza through its “October 7 adventure,” calling it a worse catastrophe than that caused by the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Knesset speaker on Jerusalem clashes: Police must act before we come to bloodshed

More criticism from the government over the behavior of protesters in Jerusalem yesterday:

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana argues “yesterday’s events join the rising incitement that characterized the days prior to October 7.” He calls on police “to take action to thwart the danger before we come to bloodshed, God forbid.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says he “strongly condemn[s] the violent actions against the prime minister… disrupting the work of policemen and Shin Bet officials at this time endangers our security and even more so our unity, which is critical to our existence.”

Head of aid group struck by IDF: ‘Israel better than the way this war is being waged’

File: José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, speaks onstage during a summit on September 19, 2023 in New York City. (Bryan Bedder / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
File: José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, speaks onstage during a summit on September 19, 2023 in New York City. (Bryan Bedder / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

In an op-ed for Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, the head of the humanitarian organization that saw seven volunteers killed by an Israeli strike in Gaza on Monday night, writes: “Israel is better than the way this war is being waged… It’s time for the best of Israel to show up.”

José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, says: “The seven people killed on a World Central Kitchen mission in Gaza on Monday were the best of humanity. They risked everything for the most fundamentally human activity: to share our food with others.

“From day one [of the war], we have fed Israelis as well as Palestinians. All across Israel, we have served more than 1.75 million hot meals. We have fed families displaced by Hezbollah rockets in the north. We have fed grieving families from the south. We delivered meals to the hospitals where hostages were reunited with their families. We have called consistently, repeatedly and passionately for the release of all the hostages,” he writes.

“We know Israelis. Israelis, in their heart of hearts, know that food is not a weapon of war,” he says. “Israel is better than the way this war is being waged. It is better than blocking food and medicine to civilians. It is better than killing aid workers who coordinated their movements with the IDF.

“The Israeli government needs to open land routes to food and medicine today. It needs to stop killing civilians and aid workers today. It needs to start the long journey to peace today.

“In the worst conditions, after the worst terrorist attack in its history, it’s time for the best of Israel to show up. You cannot save the hostages by bombing every building in Gaza. You cannot win this war by starving an entire population.”

“The people of Israel need to remember, at this darkest hour, what strength truly looks like.”

The full op-ed can be read in the link above.

IDF says UN peacekeepers in Lebanon were hit by Hezbollah roadside bomb

Spanish UN peacekeepers stand on a hill overlooking the Lebanese border villages with Israel in Marjayoun town on January 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
Spanish UN peacekeepers stand on a hill overlooking the Lebanese border villages with Israel in Marjayoun town on January 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

A group of UN peacekeepers wounded in a blast Lebanese officials blamed on Israel in southern Lebanon’s Rmeish on Saturday were hit by a Hezbollah roadside bomb, according to the IDF.

Shortly after the March 30 incident, the IDF denied carrying out any strikes in the Rmeish area. Hezbollah-linked media and security sources speaking to Reuters had claimed that the IDF carried out a drone strike on a vehicle with four UN employees.

The IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, says that according to the latest information available to the military, the UN peacekeepers were wounded by “an explosive device that had been planted by Hezbollah in the area.”

According to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, the four observers were carrying out a foot patrol, and were not in a vehicle as the initial reports suggested. UNTSO said they were wounded after a “shell exploded near their location.”

Teachers of at-risk youth hold one-day strike over salaries they say are unfair

Teachers and staff who run programming for some 5,500 at-risk and drop-out youth around the country are staging a one-day strike today, in protest of what they say is a refusal by the Education Ministry to raise their salaries in line with other high school teachers.

The ministry has “frozen a tender for the program,” halting a salary increase for 1,200 teachers “whose wages have not been updated since 2018,” the strikers say in a statement.

“We were the first in the education system to mobilize after October 7 and teach at-risk youth, but despite our importance, our salary is around 20% lower than our peers,” the statement continues.

The striking teachers say there is a budget for a salary increase but the “failures of the Education Ministry” have stalled the increased wages they deserve.

Army says suspected drone set off sirens near Eilat overnight

View of a tree seen from the Arava highway in southern Israel. January 08, 2013 (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
View of a tree seen from the Arava highway in southern Israel. January 08, 2013 (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

At around 1 a.m., a suspected drone flying from the east entered Israeli airspace in the Arava region, just north of Eilat, according to the IDF.

The “suspicious aerial target” set off sirens at a popular roadside store in the area.

The IDF says it fired an interceptor missile at the target, although it is not clear if it was shot down.

The incident is under further investigation, the IDF says.

It comes a day after a drone struck an open area in Jordan, near southern Israel’s Ramon Airport. Earlier this week, a drone launched from Iraq hit a hangar at the Israeli Navy’s base in Eilat.

IDF: Forces in Gaza destroy Hamas infrastructure, capture or kill terror operatives

IDF soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo published April 3, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo published April 3, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF troops are continuing to battle Hamas in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the military says in a morning update.

The IDF says the 7th Armored Brigade located weapons in Khan Younis, while the Air Force and combat engineers destroyed Hamas infrastructure, including weapon depots, in the same area.

The Commando Brigade and Givati Brigade have been operating in the al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, where over the past day the troops killed and captured numerous terror operatives, according in the IDF.

The IDF says fighter jets struck several booby-trapped buildings and tunnels in the Gaza Strip over the past day, and other aircraft hit dozens more sites, including weapon depots, rocket launchers, and buildings used by Hamas.

Gantz: Protest is legitimate, but laws and rules must be kept

Head of the National Unity party Minister Benny Gantz holds a press conference at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Head of the National Unity party Minister Benny Gantz holds a press conference at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

National Unity party head Benny Gantz also comes out against violence at yesterday’s protests in Jerusalem.

“Unity is the key to our future. We cannot accept violence from any side. We can not accept people ignoring police instructions and breaking through barriers as we saw yesterday night in Jerusalem,” he says. “Protest is legitimate, the pain is understandable, but the law and rules must be kept.”

“We mustn’t return to October 6,” he says, referring to the period of intense public unrest prior to the Hamas attacks.

Rocket sirens sound in Western Galilee towns

Rocket sirens are sounding in the Western Galilee, including the communities of Shtula, Shomera, Zar’it and Even Menachem

Shin Bet chief: There’s a clear line between legitimate protest and violence

ShinBet head Ronen Bar at the annual IDF Armored Corps memorial ceremony, marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in Latrun on September 27, 2023 (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)
ShinBet head Ronen Bar at the annual IDF Armored Corps memorial ceremony, marking the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, in Latrun on September 27, 2023 (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar issues a warning regarding violence at anti-government protests.

“The violent discourse online and some of the scenes we saw tonight in Jerusalem, go beyond acceptable protest, harm the ability to maintain public order, could lead to violent clashes with law enforcement, disrupt their ability to carry out their work and even cause harm to individuals under protection,” he says.

“There is a clear line between legitimate protest and violent and illegal protest. This is a worrying trend that could lead to dangerous places which we must not come to.”

Kanye West accused of racism and antisemitism in new lawsuit

File: Kanye West watches an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, January 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
File: Kanye West watches an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, January 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Controversial rapper Kanye West repeatedly yelled at Black employees and praised Adolf Hitler as an “innovator” according to a new lawsuit filed in California on Tuesday.

The creative brains behind the Yeezy designer brand, whose music and fashion ventures have made him fabulously wealthy, has repeatedly courted controversy in recent years with racist or antisemitic language and some odd historical revisionism.

Now a former employee is claiming the author of the hit “Stronger” told schoolchildren he was being persecuted by Jewish people.

Trevor Phillips, who like West is Black and worked for two of West’s ventures for nearly a year, claims in a Los Angeles lawsuit that he suffered severe discrimination, harassment and retaliation from West, who is also known as Ye.

Phillips was hired in November 2022 by Yeezy, the rapper’s clothing brand, and immediately began working at the Donda Academy, a school West founded outside Los Angeles.

“Phillips, on several occasions, witnessed Kanye preach to his staff obscenities such as ‘the Jews are out to get me’ and ‘the Jews are stealing all my money,'” the suit says.

Clothing giants GAP and Adidas parted ways with West after previous antisemitic remarks.

Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in nearly 25 years damages buildings, leaving 4 dead

In this image taken from a video footage run by TVBS, a partially collapsed building is seen in Hualien, eastern Taiwan on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 (TVBS via AP)
In this image taken from a video footage run by TVBS, a partially collapsed building is seen in Hualien, eastern Taiwan on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 (TVBS via AP)

Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in a quarter century rocked the island during the morning rush hour, damaging buildings and highways and causing the deaths of four people.

Taiwan’s national fire agency says four people died in Hualien County and at least 57 were injured in the quake that struck just before 8 a.m. The local United Daily News reports three hikers died in rockslides in Taroko National Park near the offshore epicenter.

A five-story building in Hualien appeared heavily damaged, collapsing its first floor and leaving the rest leaning at a 45-degree angle. In the capital Taipei, tiles fell from older buildings and in some newer office complexes, while debris fell from some building sites. Schools evacuated their students to sports fields, equipping them with yellow safety helmets. Some also covered themselves with textbooks to guard against falling objects as aftershocks continued.

Train service was suspended across the island of 23 million people, as was subway service in Taipei, where a newly constructed above-ground line partially separated. The national legislature, a converted school built before World War II, also has damage to walls and ceilings.

Traffic along the east coast is at a virtual standstill, with landslides and falling debris hitting tunnels and highways in the mountainous region. Those caused damage to vehicles, though it isn’t clear if anyone was hurt.

Palestinians officially revive application to become full UN member state

The Palestinians have officially revived their application to become a full member state in the United Nations, according to a letter from their UN envoy dated Tuesday and seen by AFP.

The Palestinians, who have had observer status at the world body since 2012, have lobbied for years to gain full membership, which would amount to recognition of Palestinian statehood.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour requested “upon instructions of the Palestinian leadership” that an application dating back to 2011 be reconsidered this month by the Security Council.

The letter has been transmitted to the council, according to the documents seen by AFP.

Mansour has repeatedly said in recent months that in the face of Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas, UN membership was a priority for the Palestinians.

Any request to become a UN member-state must first be recommended by the council, then endorsed by a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly.

Defending Israel, Blinken recalls that it ‘withdrew from Gaza in 2005’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay during a meeting at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Blinken is in Paris for talks on Ukraine, Gaza and stabilizing Haiti. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla, Pool)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay during a meeting at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. Blinken is in Paris for talks on Ukraine, Gaza and stabilizing Haiti. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla, Pool)

Pressed on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prosecution of the war against Hamas is endangering Israel, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken uses a common Israeli talking point, noting that it “withdrew from Gaza in 2005.”

“There have been attacks on Israel by Hamas in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2021, 2023,” Blinken says during an interview with the French network LCI/TF1, adding that the US supports Israel’s right to pursue the terror group but that “how Israel goes about this mission is also important.”

“What we’ve seen with the loss of life — the children, the women, the men who find themselves in the middle of this confrontation — the damage is terrible. At the same time, the fact that humanitarian aid isn’t enough for the people of Gaza — that’s a danger and an immediate necessity,” Blinken says.

He asserts that the US goal is to see the establishment of a Palestinian state, even though that goal remains far off.

“There should be a real agreement between Palestinians and Israelis, not an agreement that is applied unilaterally by other countries,” he clarifies.

“But there also needs to be leadership from the world’s major countries to try and reach this destination,” Blinken adds, pointing to the US effort to broker a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which would have to include “calm in Gaza” and an Israeli commitment to establish a pathway to an eventual Palestinian state.

Police identify suspect in Kochav Yair ramming attack as 26-year-old from nearby Arab town

Police identify the suspect in the overnight ramming attack targeting police officers at a checkpoint near Kochav Ya’ir as a 26-year-old resident of the neighboring Arab Israeli town of Tira. He was not immediately named.

He first struck four officers at a checkpoint near the Kochav Yair Junction, which is near the Green Line before proceeding to the nearby Eliyahu Crossing that divides between Israel and the West Bank. There he attempted to stab security guards operating the checkpoint who managed to shoot him. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said, adding that they have already determined that the attacker had acted alone.

The officers hit by the suspect near Kochav Yair had been operating a flying checkpoint aimed at preventing car theft, police added, clarifying that the incident was still being probed as a terror attack and not a criminal case.

‘We are sorry’: IDF chief says ‘misidentification’ led to strike on aid convoy

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi gives a video statement on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi gives a video statement on April 3, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi issues an apology for last night’s deadly Israeli strike on an aid convoy in Gaza, adding that it was a result of a “misidentification,” which was being investigated and learned from.

“Last night, seven employees of the World Central Kitchen were killed,” Halevi says in a video statement — his first response to the strike that killed seven WCK workers.

“WCK is an organization whose people work across the globe, including in Israel to do good in difficult conditions. The IDF works together closely with the World Central Kitchen and greatly appreciates the important work that they do.”

He says that the IDF has already completed its preliminary probe into the strike and that the findings were shared with him at the IDF’s Southern Command base.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification, at night, during a war, in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” Halevi clarified, adding that there was no “intention of harming WCK aid workers.”

The IDF has established a new humanitarian command center “to improve the way we coordinate aid distribution in Gaza,” the army chief says. “We will continue taking immediate actions to ensure that more is done to protect humanitarian aid workers.”

An “independent” body will also investigate the incident and will present its findings in the coming days, Halevi says, adding that the IDF will immediately implement its conclusions and share them with the WCK along with other relevant international organizations.

“This incident was a grave mistake. Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the people of Gaza,” Halevi asserts.

“We are sorry for the unintentional harm to the members of WCK. We share in the grief of their families as well as the entire World Central Kitchen organization from the bottom of our hearts.”

“We see great importance in the continued delivery of humanitarian aid, and we will keep working to facilitate this vital effort,” he adds in an apparent plea aimed at convincing aid groups not to abandon Israel shortly after WCK suspended its operations in Gaza.

US denies involvement, foreknowledge of alleged Israeli strike on Iranians in Syria

White House national security spokesman John Kirby dismisses Iranian charges of US responsibility for an alleged Israeli bombing of an Iranian mission in Damascus as “nonsense,” and warns that Washington will respond to any retaliatory attacks.

“Let me make it clear. We had nothing to do with the strike in Damascus,” he tells a press conference. “We weren’t involved in any way.”

Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh says Israel provided no advance warning of the strike on the Iranian mission in the Syrian capital.

“We were not notified by the Israelis about their strike or the intended target of their strike in Damascus,” Singh says at a briefing, adding that Iran had been privately told the US was not behind the strike.

Shortly before the attack, Israel notified the US that it would be operating in Syria, but used vague language that did not identify a target, two officials say on condition of anonymity.

Israel “did not include any details on who they were targeting or where it would be conducted, and the strike was already under way before word could be passed through the US government,” says one official.

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