ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Dec. 5: As aid to southern Gaza slowed by intense fighting, Israel says UN to blame

Israel publishes footage of Hamas commanders in tunnels * IDF says it is proving it can abide by international law as troops surround Khan Younis * Troop deaths raise toll to 82

  • Palestinians arrive in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, December 5, 2023. (AP/Hatem Ali)
    Palestinians arrive in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, December 5, 2023. (AP/Hatem Ali)
  • People take part in a rally organized by Rome's Jewish community against antisemitism and terrorism and calling for the return of hostages held in Gaza, in Rome, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP/Andrew Medichini)
    People take part in a rally organized by Rome's Jewish community against antisemitism and terrorism and calling for the return of hostages held in Gaza, in Rome, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP/Andrew Medichini)
  • Smoke rises above buildings in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, as battles between Israel and Hamas terrorists rage on December 5, 2023. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
    Smoke rises above buildings in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, as battles between Israel and Hamas terrorists rage on December 5, 2023. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
  • Gal Hirsch, the government's point man on missing and kidnapped citizens, left, speaks to a relative of a captive Israeli ahead of a meeting with families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza and Israelis who were released from Hamas captivity in Herzliya, December 5, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Gal Hirsch, the government's point man on missing and kidnapped citizens, left, speaks to a relative of a captive Israeli ahead of a meeting with families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza and Israelis who were released from Hamas captivity in Herzliya, December 5, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
  • Rockets are launched by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, in Gaza, October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Hatem Moussa)
    Rockets are launched by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, in Gaza, October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Hatem Moussa)
  • Damage to a home hit by a rocket in Ashkelon, December 5, 2023. (Edi Israel/Flash90)
    Damage to a home hit by a rocket in Ashkelon, December 5, 2023. (Edi Israel/Flash90)
  • IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from southern Israel, December 5, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from southern Israel, December 5, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
  • The father of Israeli soldier Staff Sergeant Tuval Yaakov Tsanani, who was killed in Gaza, mourns during the funeral in Kiryat Gat, on December 5, 2023. (Flash90)
    The father of Israeli soldier Staff Sergeant Tuval Yaakov Tsanani, who was killed in Gaza, mourns during the funeral in Kiryat Gat, on December 5, 2023. (Flash90)
  • Friends and relatives of Israeli Idan Shtivi, held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since the October 7 onslaught, take part in a cavalcade from Modiin to Jerusalem, on December 5, 2023, calling for the release of all hostages still in captivity, amid continuing battles between Israel and the terror group Hamas. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP)
    Friends and relatives of Israeli Idan Shtivi, held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since the October 7 onslaught, take part in a cavalcade from Modiin to Jerusalem, on December 5, 2023, calling for the release of all hostages still in captivity, amid continuing battles between Israel and the terror group Hamas. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP)
  • Yelena Trufanova (center), and her mother, Irena Tati (second from left), who were both freed from Hamas captivity, arrive for a meeting with members of the war cabinet, in Herzliya, December 5, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Yelena Trufanova (center), and her mother, Irena Tati (second from left), who were both freed from Hamas captivity, arrive for a meeting with members of the war cabinet, in Herzliya, December 5, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
  • A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5, 2023, amid renewed cross-border tensions amid the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
    A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5, 2023, amid renewed cross-border tensions amid the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
  • Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attends a situational assessment regarding the security situation on Israel's northern border, December 5, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Israel Defense Ministry)
    Defense Minister Yoav Gallant attends a situational assessment regarding the security situation on Israel's northern border, December 5, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Israel Defense Ministry)
  • An IDF soldier operates in the Gaza Strip in this handout photo published by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF)
    An IDF soldier operates in the Gaza Strip in this handout photo published by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF)
  • This composite photo (L-R) shows Cpt. Yahel Gazit, Master Sgt. (res.) Gil Daniels, Cpt. Eitan Fisch, Sgt. Yakir Yedidya Schenkolewski, and Staff Sgt. Tuval Yaakov Tsanani, who the Israel Defense Forces announced on December 5, 2023, were killed fighting against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
    This composite photo (L-R) shows Cpt. Yahel Gazit, Master Sgt. (res.) Gil Daniels, Cpt. Eitan Fisch, Sgt. Yakir Yedidya Schenkolewski, and Staff Sgt. Tuval Yaakov Tsanani, who the Israel Defense Forces announced on December 5, 2023, were killed fighting against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF tanks operate in the Gaza Strip in this handout photo published by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF)
    IDF tanks operate in the Gaza Strip in this handout photo published by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF)
  • Troops fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, in a picture released by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF Spokesperson)
    Troops fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, in a picture released by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF Spokesperson)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers remarks on December 5, 2023. (Screen capture: PMO)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers remarks on December 5, 2023. (Screen capture: PMO)

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

IDF issues rare apology after strike kills Lebanese soldier

A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

In a rare statement, the Israel Defense Forces expresses regret for killing a Lebanese soldier while carrying out a strike earlier today.

According to the army, Israeli forces “were working to neutralize a tangible threat that was identified” at a Hezbollah launch and observation post along the border.

“The IDF received a report that a number of soldiers in Lebanon’s army were injured during the attack. Lebanese army forces were not the target of the attack,” the statement says. “The IDF is sorry for the incident, and it will be investigated.”

Liberman claims he offered to join cabinet, doesn’t mention demands

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on July 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset on July 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

After the possibility of his Yisrael Beytenu party joining the wartime coalition is broached at a press conference, Avigdor Liberman claims he’s always been ready to join up.

“Immediately when the war erupted, I announced that if the prime minister asked me to join the war cabinet, I would do so without a second thought, because the people of Israel come first,” he writes on X. “It’s a shame that once again Netanyahu doesn’t know, doesn’t hear, doesn’t see.”

In fact, on October 8, Liberman delivered a statement to the press in which he said he would join the government, but only if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi “stand in front of the cameras and inform the Jewish people” that the government intends to “eliminate the Hamas terror organization and all its terrorist leaders.”

The strings, he said, were non-negotiable.

Though Netanyahu, Gallant and Halevi have all vowed to eliminate Hamas’s leadership, it’s not clear if any proffer was ever made to Liberman to join the government, or if he ever sought to make good on his offer.

Liberman notes that if he were to join, his participation would only last as long as Israel’s war with Hamas.

Israel booting top UN humanitarian official Hastings

Lynn Hastings, of Canada, United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the West Bank and Gaza, speaks during a news conference on May 23, 2021, in Gaza City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Lynn Hastings, of Canada, United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the West Bank and Gaza, speaks during a news conference on May 23, 2021, in Gaza City. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen says on X that he has canceled a visa for Lynn Hastings, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories, over her refusal to speak out against Hamas.

Hastings has been a vocal critic of Israel’s offensive in Gaza and has led appeals for increased humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Israel has consistently panned the UN for its response to Hamas’s atrocities on October 7, further straining an already frayed relationship.

According to Ynet, Cohen has given Hastings, who is based in East Jerusalem, two weeks to leave the country.

“Whoever does not condemn Hamas over the massacre of 1,200 Israelis, kidnapping of old people and babies, horific torture and rape, and the use of Gazans as human shields, but does condemn Israel, a democratic country that defends its citizens, cannot serve the UN and will not enter Israel,” Cohen writes on X.

The UN said last week that it was informed by Israel that Hastings’s visa would not be renewed when it expires later this month, according to Reuters.

Soldier in friendly fire killing released to house arrest

Israeli security at the scene of a terror in Jerusalem, November 30, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Israeli security at the scene of a terror in Jerusalem, November 30, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The reserves soldier accused of shooting civilian Yuval Castleman to death while responding to a terror attack has been ordered to be released to house arrest.

The decision to free Staff Sgt. (res.) Aviad Frija is made after a military court judge notes questions regarding the strength of the prosecution’s evidence, according to the Ynet news site.

Frija was one of two off-duty troops who responded to a terror attack at a Jerusalem bus stop on Thursday, shooting at the two assailants but also at Castleman, an armed civilian who had also opened fire at the terrorists.

Yuval Castleman. (Courtesy)

Frija is accused of firing at Castleman after he had put his gun down and was holding his hands in the air. He was questioned Sunday and arrested the next day.

A lawyer representing Castleman expresses dismay over the decision.

“The fact is Yuval was shot to death while he was putting his hands up, had pushed away his gun, opened his jacket and took out his wallet to show that he had an Israeli ID, while yelling in Hebrew not to shoot,” the attorney says, demanding an “appropriate punishment.”

UN claims aid deliveries to southern Gaza hampered by fighting

The United Nations says limited humanitarian aid is being delivered to the Rafah region in southern Gaza because of intense hostilities. It also says that all telecom services have shut down due to cuts in the main fiber routes.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says only 100 aid trucks with humanitarian supplies and 69,000 liters of fuel entered Gaza from Egypt on Monday, about the same amount as Sunday.

That is well below the daily average of 170 trucks and 110,000 liters of fuel that entered Gaza during the humanitarian pause from November 24-30, he says.

Dujarric quotes Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories, saying “shelters have no capacity, the health system is on its knees, and there is a lack of clean drinking water, no proper sanitation and poor nutrition.”

On X, COGAT, the Israeli body that coordinated the aid deliveries, also quotes Hastings’ claim that the conditions for the delivery of aid do not exist, publishing a picture showing a line of dozens of trucks outside the Strip.

“The conditions required to deliver aid to the people of Gaza exist. We’ve completed all the necessary logistics to make it happen. Now, the #UN has to keep up,” it says.

Dujarric says that there are no safe places in Gaza and that “those places that fly the UN flag are not safe either.”

The main telecommunication provider in Gaza announced the shutdown of all telecom services Monday night, Dujarric says.

Netanyahu says humanitarian aid doesn’t weaken leverage for hostage releases

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) and Minister Benny Gantz deliver remarks on December 5, 2023. (Screen capture: PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) and Minister Benny Gantz deliver remarks on December 5, 2023. (Screen capture: PMO)

Still taking questions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is asked about Israel allowing additional humanitarian aid and fuel into Gaza, and whether that reduces Israel’s leverage over Hamas regarding hostages.

He says that “the main card” Israel has to return the hostages is the war effort and the ground operation, and that the humanitarian aid supports that.

“There is no contradiction” between the war effort and the accompanying humanitarian aid, as it all combines to help regarding the hostages, the prime minister says.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says he told the IDF and the coordinator of activities in the territories to close off “the electricity, the water and the fuel [that Israel supplies to Gaza], and halt the entrance of workers” on October 7. He was moving, he said, toward severing all Israeli government responsibility for Gaza.

When the ground operation began, Gallant says, he knew that the pressure was the path to bring home the hostages.

The ground operation requires and enables humanitarian aid, he says — “minimal humanitarian aid in order to enable the military pressure.”

Regarding letting fuel into Gaza, as Israel is doing, Gallant says that, in return, Israel has the “right to demand” that Hamas honor its obligation to allow the Red Cross to visit the hostages or at least convey medicines and other such requirements.

Netanyahu zips lips on potential plan to flood Hamas tunnels

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keeping mum about the possible use of seawater to deluge Hamas’s tunnels, saying he won’t “volunteer information to the enemy,” following a report on the possible plan and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy’s public endorsement of it earlier.

He also says he won’t go into technical and operational details regarding IDF operations endangering hostages.

Netanyahu says he assumes National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir will tell him what his plans are regarding the imminent end of the current police commissioner’s tenure.

The premier says the possibility of allowing West Bank Palestinians to return to work in Israel is being weighed, a policy opposed by Ben Gvir.

There are reasons not to allow their return because of fears raised by October 7, he says, and reasons to allow it because of the needs of the building and agriculture industries and the need to avoid rising tension in the territories because of economic issues.

Regarding the possibility of Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman joining the war coalition, Netanyahu says, “I’d be pleased to hear from him.”

Minister Benny Gantz says there is a place reserved in the war cabinet for Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, and that he has “no objection” to Liberman joining the coalition.

After Gantz pressure on budget update, Netanyahu says there’s enough money for all

After being publicly urged by fellow war cabinet minister Benny Gantz to rethink a budget update that leaves over NIS 1 billion in discretionary coalition funds for political favors intact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims there is plenty of money to go around for everyone.

“It’s a giant budget. There is no shortage of money” for the war effort, Netanyahu says, noting that it allocated NIS 30 billion to the war effort for the final month and a half of the year.

In the future, there will be more money allocated, he adds.

Despite the disagreement, Netanyahu and Gantz claim that there is “full cooperation” within the war cabinet.

Netanyahu also says he and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are “working with full cooperation” even though they held separate press conferences on Saturday night.

He says Gallant shares all three of his war aims — destroying Hamas, returning the hostages and ensuring no future threat from Gaza.

Gallant is widely reported to have wanted Israel to first tackle Hezbollah in the north before turning to Hamas in Gaza, and to have been blocked by Netanyahu.

The premier vows that security will be restored to both the north and south.

He cites “active deterrence” in the north against Hezbollah, while the IDF pursues crushing victory in the south. “This is the path to the victory we seek.”

He again says that “after the war, everyone, including me, will have to give answers” about the debacle of October 7.

Until then, “I will continue to lead” Israel through the war, and “everyone can see how things are advancing.”

“Of course, we could give Hamas what it wants… You know exactly what it wants,” Netanyahu says, implying that Hamas wants to see him gone and the reemergence of a governmental and social crisis in Israel.

“I don’t think we should give it what it wants. I think we have to bring what we want — crushing victory, the return of the hostages, and a promise that the continuation [in Gaza] will be different.”

Gallant says he, as defense minister, is responsible for what happened before, on and after October 7.

“This team,” he says of himself and his colleagues, can bring victory. After that, there will be a lot of questions to answer and lessons to be learned, he says.

Regarding just-announced US sanctions on settler extremists, Gantz urges the US not to speak of “settler violence” because, he says, “more than 99 percent of them are normative, law-abiding people.” He condemns settler extremist violence.

Gallant says only the IDF, police and security hierarchies have the right to use force. “There are extremists,” he says, “some of whom are not from the settlements.”

“We have to restrain all illegal violence,” Gallant says, adding that Israel doesn’t need others to tell it to do so.

Settler leader claims there are barely any extremists for the US to sanction

The head of the Yesha settlers council claims the US is blowing settler violence out of proportion “in the holy name of balance,” denying that any such phenomenon exists beyond a few people.

(A senior Israeli government official told The Times of Israel earlier this month that the number is no more than several hundred.)

The comments from Yesha come after the US announces that it will subject Israeli and Palestinian extremists in the West Bank to entry bans, accusing Israel of not doing enough to address a rise in cases of settlers attacking Palestinians.

“While Israel is in a fight for its home, a war of light against darkness, the US is trying to put a few cases of criminals who took the law into their own hands onto the other side of the scale,” Yesha head Shlomo Neeman says in a statement. “When they stop a maximum of 10 people, the truth will come out and the world will understand that there is no such phenomenon as settler violence.”

A US official said earlier that the State Department would not publish the names of sanctioned individuals, meaning those who are blacklisted may not know about it until they try to travel.

Washington has repeatedly raised alarms over heightened violence by settler extremists against Palestinians, which has been raised even further in the wake of the October 7 attacks. In some cases, groups of armed vigilantes have rampaged through Palestinian towns following terror attacks, attacking civilians and setting structures on fire.

Gantz tells Netanyahu not too late to fix budget, send coalition money to war effort

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) and Minister Benny Gantz deliver remarks on December 5, 2023. (Screen capture: PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left), Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) and Minister Benny Gantz deliver remarks on December 5, 2023. (Screen capture: PMO)

War minister Benny Gantz, speaking at a press conference following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, says it is “not too late” to amend a wartime budget update, and redirect funding from non-war coalition interests to the war effort.

“In days like these, leadership is tested, and we need to show it,” he says, turning to Netanyahu. “Wider national considerations” must take precedence, he adds.

Gantz says the expansion of the ground offensive to southern Gaza disproves the doubters who thought the war would not resume after last week’s truce.

“Only Israel will determine its fate,” he says, noting that Israel will act, in the south and the north, as it sees necessary.

He sends condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers and discusses the “complicated, painful and important” meeting earlier this afternoon with the families of hostages and with returned hostages, saying the cabinet must keep its door open to them 24/7.

He praises the soldiers risking their lives in the mission to return hostages, and the families for their “inspirational struggle.”

Even when the war ends, Gantz says, there will be “months and years” of IDF operations and “stabilizing the reality.”

He says the solidarity of returned hostages for those whose loved ones are still in Gaza is a testament to the strength of Israeli society and urges his cabinet colleagues to display leadership.

“Through our military and social strength, we will win. With our unity, the courage of our soldiers, and the leadership we will display, we will overcome our enemies,” he says.

Gallant says no legitimacy to quit fighting, claims Hamas losing power, support

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says it would be “illegitimate” for Israel to halt its offensive aimed at toppling the Hamas terror group.

“There is only one legitimate thing: to defeat Hamas… and bring home the hostages,” he says, at a press conference alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister Benny Gantz.

“There is no more justified war than this,” Gallant says. “We are fighting a war of no choice, because if we do not end it with victory, our lives in this region will not be lives,” he says.

Speaking after the IDF updated its death toll since the start of the ground offensive to 82, Gallant mourns the fallen soldiers, many of whom he says he knew personally.

“There is only one way to justify the sacrifice — victory,” he says.

Gallant proclaims that “Hamas is gradually losing control” and that the IDF is fighting “at the height of our power.”

Noting that five days have passed since the ground operation resumed, he says the IDF has widened its operations from the north to the south of the strip.

“What happened in Gaza City is happening now in Khan Younis… with impressive results,” says the minister, noting that he has been observing IDF operations in northern Gaza.

“The leaders of Hamas now well understand that nobody is coming to save them — not the Iranians and not Hezbollah,” Gallant says.

There will not be a single battalion left that can constitute a threat, he promises.

Gallant adds that the IDF is “carrying out pinpoint efforts, some of them at high risk to IDF soldiers, in order to create the intelligence and operational conditions” for the return of hostages.

Recalling a meeting earlier with the families of the hostages and some of those freed, he adds that Israel is “fully obligated to return all the hostages.”

“The IDF is creating the conditions for this,” he says. “We are turning up the pressure.”

Biden: World cannot look away from horrific Hamas atrocities against women’s bodies

US President Joe Biden says at a fundraiser in Boston that the world must condemn sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas terrorists, recounting testimony of horrific rape and mutilation carried out against Israeli women on and after October 7.

“Reports of women raped — repeatedly raped — and their bodies being mutilated while still alive — of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them. It is appalling,” he says.

“The world can’t just look away at what’s going on. It’s on all of us — government, international organizations, civil society and businesses — to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation. Without equivocation, without exception,” he adds.

He says Hamas breached a truce he helped broker by refusing to release civilian women between 20 and 39 it is holding.

“These women and everyone still being held hostage by Hamas need to be returned to their families immediately,” he says. “We’re not going to stop — we’re not going to stop until we bring every one of them home and it’s going to be a long process.”

Netanyahu claims half of Hamas’s battalion commanders killed

Speaking at a press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he sympathizes with the intolerable suffering of those whose loved ones are still being held hostage.

He says there is “a vast intelligence factory” working 24 hours a day on every scrap of information, as part of the effort “to return all of the hostages safely — female and male soldiers, male and female citizens, young and old.”

“We’re on the right path,” he says.”We managed to bring 110 hostages home,” he says, because of the ground operation and the diplomatic effort combined.

“That’s the only way to get the rest of the hostages home,” he says.

“Hamas wanted to tear us apart; we are tearing it apart.”

Netanyahu highlights the IDF’s achievements in killing “about half of Hamas’s battalion commanders.”

The terror group is understood to have some 24 battalions fighting in Gaza.

“We are settling accounts with all those who kidnapped, participated, murdered, slaughtered, raped and burned the daughters of our people. We will not forget and we will not forgive.”

As the ground operation has proceeded in the past days, he says, “the ground shook” in Khan Younis and Jabaliya — “we surrounded both… There is nowhere we do not get to.”

Netanyahu mourns the fallen soldiers, and says “they did not fall in vain.”

He vows that Gaza will “never again pose a threat to Israel. There will be no forces that support terror, educate for terror, finance terror and the families of terrorists,” he says, in an implied reference to the Palestinian Authority.

Gaza “must be demilitarized,” he says. “And the only force that can ensure this is the IDF. No international force can be responsible for this… I’m not prepared to close my eyes and accept any other arrangement.”

The prime minister urges Gaza noncombatants to evacuate areas where the fighting is taking place.

Addressing “our friends in the world who are pressing for a fast end to the war,” he says that “the only way for us to end the war, and end it quickly, is to use crushing force against Hamas — crushing force in order to destroy it.”

Those who want a quick end to the war must understand this, he says. Switching to English, he says they must “stand with us, stand with Israel, stand with civilization.”

US will not publish names of banned West Bank extremists

The United States will not be publishing the names of the dozens of Israeli settlers and Palestinians involved in West Bank attacks against whom it is imposing an entry ban, US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller says.

Instead, those individuals and some of their family members who currently have visas to the US will be informed that they are no longer valid. Blacklisted individuals who do not currently have documentation to enter the country will only learn that they’ve been sanctioned when they apply for a visa or travel authorization and are denied, Miller says.

While Palestinians still need a visa to enter the US, Israel recently entered the visa waiver program, a streamlined process that requires only less onerous ESTA authorization to enter the country days before travel.

The decision not to publish the list of targeted individuals is meant to serve as a deterrent against those considering taking part in West Bank violence who won’t know whether they’ve been blacklisted or not, a US official told The Times of Israel earlier this week.

‘Where the hell are you?’ Netanyahu pans rights groups for silence on Hamas rape

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers remarks on December 5, 2023. (Screen capture: PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers remarks on December 5, 2023. (Screen capture: PMO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu castigates human rights groups, women’s groups and the UN for failing to speak out about the rapes and other atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli women.

Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv alongside Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz, the prime minister notes that he met earlier with released hostages and with relatives of those still held hostage, a meeting described as hostile and stormy by those present.

“I heard heartbreaking stories of abuse,” he says. “I heard, as you have heard, about sexual abuse and unprecedented cases of cruel rape.”

But, he says, he hasn’t heard women’s groups and human rights groups “scream” about this.

“Were you silent because it was Jewish women?” he asks.

Switching to English, Netanyahu says: “I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation? Where the hell are you?” he asks.

“I expect all civilized leaders, governments, nations to speak up against this atrocity,” he adds, before switching back to Hebrew.

Treasury rolls out controversial wartime budget update ahead of Knesset vote

The Finance Ministry has submitted its controversial wartime budget update to the Knesset.

The NIS 30 billion budgetary reshuffle, meant to support Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas and to prop up the home front, is expected to come for its first of three votes on Wednesday.

Opposition parties and minority members of the coalition have lashed out against the budget, because it preserves about NIS 1 billion of discretionary funds to flow toward political promises, rather than reabsorbing those funds for the war effort.

The Knesset’s Finance Committee announces that it will be on standby to begin rapid discussions to prepare the bill for its second and third, final readings, expected next week.

IDF proving in Khan Younis it can fight while respecting laws of war, spokesman says

Palestinians arrive in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP/Hatem Ali)
Palestinians arrive in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP/Hatem Ali)

IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari says Israel’s ground offensive respects international law and keeps fighting within its bounds despite the large number of civilians in southern Gaza.

“We are proving that our forces are surrounding the center of Khan Younis while respecting international law… we are showing the world that we can do this, simultaneous with humanitarian efforts,” he says.”This will allow us to manage the fighting over time. To strike a terrorist group that uses civilians as human shields, and hides underground, we need time.”

Hagari also says the military is expecting a “long war”

In response to a question, Hagari calls those kidnapped by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip “heroes.”

“They acted courageously, both before and after [being released]. They fought cowardly, vile terrorists who took children and women hostage in Gaza,” he says in response to a question.

Army publishes picture of Hamas commanders in a room in a tunnel; says 5 of them killed

The IDF and Shin Bet security agency reveal never-before-seen footage showing senior Hamas commanders inside the terror group’s tunnels in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

An image released by the IDF and Shin Bet shows the senior command of Hamas’s northern Gaza brigade sitting in a narrow room around a table of food, which it says was taken several months ago. Though decorated with tile floors and wall outlets, an arch in the back can be seen indicating that the room is part of Hamas’s vast underground network.

According to the IDF, five of those in the picture were killed in Israeli airstrikes since the war began, including Wael Rajab, the deputy commander of Hamas’s northern Gaza brigade.

Another video released shows Rajab walking through a tunnel in the Strip.

The IDF says the footage was obtained from findings seized in the Gaza Strip by troops and analyzed by the Military Intelligence Directorate.

Number of hostages upped to 138 after new intel, IDF says

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari raises the number of hostages being held by the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip to 138.

He says this comes after the military declared one of those who have been missing since October 7 as a hostage, following new intelligence information.

Hamas says Gaza death toll over 16,000

Hamas health authorities in Gaza say the death toll from Israeli attacks on the Strip has risen to 16,248, including more than 7,000 children and nearly 5,000 women.

Over 43,000 more are injured, and some 7,000 are missing and buried under rubble, Hamas claims.

The numbers cannot be verified, and do not differentiate between fighters and civilians.

They likely also include those killed by errant rocket fire launched by Gazan terror groups.

War cabinet observer Deri: Hamas had far more devastating plans for October 7

File: Shas leader Aryeh Deri, in an interview with the Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat, September 13, 2023. (Screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
File: Shas leader Aryeh Deri, in an interview with the Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat, September 13, 2023. (Screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Aryeh Deri, who sits as an observer in the war cabinet, says in an interview that Hamas had plans for its October 7 onslaught that would have been far more devastating.

In an interview (Hebrew link) with the Kikar HaShabbat website published earlier today, Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party in the coalition, says, “We know now what we didn’t know then.”

He elaborates that since the start of the ground operation, “the IDF has gone into Hamas [command] posts and seized vast amounts of material. We now see, in black on white, what their plans were for Simhat Torah — for many Simhat Torahs, heaven help us.” (Simhat Torah is the Jewish festival that coincided this year with October 7.)

“The grand plan was completely different,” he says, indicating that the terrorists had far greater and more devastating ambitions.

He adds that Iran and Hezbollah are furious with Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, because he didn’t tell them about the timing of the onslaught.

“Try to imagine what would have happened if in the north, in Judea and Samaria, if in those cities… that was their original plan,” says Deri without elaborating further.

US announces visa ban on settler extremists, says Israel must do more

The State Department announces travel bans on extremist Jewish settlers implicated in a rash of recent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken does not announce individuals named under the visa bans, but officials said those would be coming this week and could affect dozens of settlers and their families.

“We have underscored to the Israeli government the need to do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank,” Blinken says in a statement. “As President Biden has repeatedly said, those attacks are unacceptable.”

“Today, the State Department is implementing a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities,” Blinken says.

He says the US would continue to seek accountability for settler violence against Palestinians as well as Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank and Israel, particularly as tensions are extremely high due to the conflict in Gaza.

“Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have the responsibility to uphold stability in the West Bank,” Blinken says. “Instability in the West Bank both harms the Israeli and Palestinian people and threatens Israel’s national security interests.”

Watch: Pedestrians narrowly dodge falling rocket fragment in Tel Aviv

Surveillance camera footage from Tel Aviv highlights the importance of IDF Home Front Command instructions to remain in a bomb shelter for 10 minutes after rocket sirens sound, even if an interception blast is heard.

The clip shows two people walking down a street when a large fragment of an intercepted rocket crashes down just a hair away.

Shrapnel from Iron Dome interceptions, including both pieces of rockets and interceptor missiles, tend to take a few minutes to fall to the ground after the projectiles are blown up mid-air.

Damage from interception shrapnel during the same attack also apparently caused damage to a school in the city.

US sends second plane loaded with aid for Gaza

White House Principal Deputy Secretary Olivia Dalton says the US has organized a second aid flight for Gaza with 36,000 pounds (16,329 kilograms) of food and medical supplies.

An Air Force C-17 aircraft delivered the items to Egypt, where they were to be transported into Gaza and distributed by United Nations agencies, Dalton says.

USAID administrator Samantha Power is in Egypt to meet with local officials and Egyptian and international humanitarian organizations.

US to slap visa bans on settler extremists as soon as today — report

Border Police officers stop Israeli settlers from entering the Palestinian West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Border Police officers stop Israeli settlers from entering the Palestinian West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

The US plans to announce sanctions on several West Bank settlers who have taken part in attacks against Palestinians, Axios reports, citing two US officials.

The moves, which could be announced as soon as today, will ban those named from traveling to the US, according to the report.

Sanctions on Palestinians involved in attacks on Israelis are also slated to be announced, Axios reports.

The move comes weeks after US President Joe Biden said in an op-ed that the US was prepared to levy “visa bans against extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank.”

According to the report, Washington decided to take the step after concluding that Israel had come up short in cracking down on the phenomenon and prosecuting those responsible.

The last time sanctions were levied against settler extremists was during former US president Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s, according to Axios.

IDF chief says flooding Gaza tunnels with seawater ‘a good idea’

IDF troops operate in northern Gaza near the mouth of a Hamas tunnel in this handout photo released on November 23, 2023. (IDF)
IDF troops operate in northern Gaza near the mouth of a Hamas tunnel in this handout photo released on November 23, 2023. (IDF)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi comments on reports that Israel aims to flood Hamas’s tunnel network in the Gaza Strip, saying “It’s a good idea.”

“We are seeing a lot of underground infrastructure in Gaza, we knew there would be a lot. Part of the goal is to destroy this infrastructure,” Halevi says in response to a question regarding a report in The Wall Street Journal.

“We have various ways [to deal with the tunnels], I won’t talk about specifics, but they include explosives to destroy, and other means to prevent Hamas operatives from using the tunnels to harm our soldiers,” he says.

“Therefore, any means which give us an advantage over the enemy that [uses the tunnels], deprives it of this asset, is a means that we are evaluating using. This is a good idea, but I won’t comment on its specifics,” Halevi adds.

Responding to another question regarding the entry of aid to the Gaza Strip amid the ground offensive, Halevi says the IDF is making “great efforts” to ensure it is only fighting Hamas, and not harming the Palestinian civilian population.

“Our enemy is Hamas, not the population in the Gaza Strip, and therefore there is humanitarian aid including fuel which allows the hospitals, water pumps, purification plants, to prevent diseases which can spread,” he says.

“It is important to note, that the State of Israel, and the IDF, are operating in a justified war, and we live in a world which enables us to do this, and understand our justified war. As long as we differentiate between the enemy and the population, we will be able to deepen our achievements, to fight more, find more [Hamas] commanders, to destroy more infrastructure,” Halevi adds.

Two soldiers killed in Gaza, raising IDF toll to 82

Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Damari (left) and Master Sgt. (res.) Ilay Eliyahu Cohen. (Courtesy)
Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Damari (left) and Master Sgt. (res.) Ilay Eliyahu Cohen. (Courtesy)

The IDF announces the deaths of two more soldiers killed during fighting in the Gaza Strip, bringing the toll of the ground operation to 82.

The two are named as Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Damari, 31, a squad commander in the 215th Artillery Regiment’s reconnaissance company, from Dimona; and Master Sgt. (res.) Ilay Eliyahu Cohen, 23, of the 551st Brigade’s 7008th Battalion, from Beit Nehemia.

Lebanon says soldier killed in Israeli bombing amid border clashes

A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5, 2023, amid renewed cross-border tensions amid the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows Israeli shelling around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 5, 2023, amid renewed cross-border tensions amid the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

Lebanon says one of its soldiers has been killed by Israeli fire on a military post near the country’s border Tuesday, the first such death since cross-border hostilities began in October.

“An army military position in the… Adaysseh area was bombarded by the Israeli enemy, leaving one soldier martyred and three others injured,” the Lebanese army says in a statement.

The IDF earlier said it had carried out airstrikes on a string of Hezbollah sites along the restive border.

The day has seen several incidents of cross-border fire, including a recent rocket attack on Kiryat Shmona. Israel generally shells the source of fire after such incidents.

Video shows gunmen stealing from aid trucks, shooting at Gaza civilians

A video circulating on social media shows armed people, presumably Hamas members, looting humanitarian aid trucks crossing into the Gaza Strip from Rafah.

The video was filmed Monday by Gazan civilians as they threw stones at the looters wearing civilian fatigues, who shot back in response.

The civilians can be heard insulting the looters, and shouting “This is all being filmed!”

A Gazan dissident living in Europe with over 100,000 followers on Facebook shares the video, with a caption lambasting Hamas: “This is how you treat the patient and steadfast people you have starved to death? By shooting at them?”

Some Gazan social media users claim that the men belong to local Rafah gangs who steal from aid trucks and resell their booty on the black market.

A similar video emerged in recent weeks of Hamas terrorists in military uniforms stealing from aid convoys and beating up civilians as they try to access the food.

Don’t shoot someone surrendering, army head says after Jerusalem friendly fire killing

Soldiers should not shoot at someone putting their hands up, IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi says, days after a friendly fire incident during which civilian Yuval Castleman was killed by reserves troops who mistook him for a terrorist.

Halevi says the military shows its appreciation for Castleman’s “brave” action in taking down the Hamas gunmen. “This is heroism,” he says.

“At the same time, we emphasize the need to stick to the basic and required rules in complex situations like these, shooting in a civilian environment,” he says. “Do not shoot when the threat is lowered, and we do not shoot at those who put their hands up.”

Yuval Castleman is fatally shot after preventing the continuation of a deadly terror attack in Jerusalem on November 30, 2023. (X screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

He notes that the incident, during a Jerusalem terror attack, is still under investigation.

Video from the scene appeared to show Castleman attempting to put his hands up before being shot and killed.

IDF’s Halevi: We’re trying to make amends for shortcomings

IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi says the IDF is working to allow civilians to return to their homes in border communities in the north and south as soon as possible.

“We know we will need more forces on the border, better abilities… This is what we will do,” he says.

“We will do everything to amend what was harmed. For the murdered, it’s too late. But for the living, for the continued living in Israel, these amends are necessary,” he says.

Responding to a question on the well-being of the hostages, Halevi says the IDF is working constantly to find out information on the hostages.

“We don’t have full information of course. We are working to release them, and not to harm them,” he says.

“Regarding the female hostages, we have great concern for everyone who is held by Hamas. And we know why we are worried,” he adds, in an apparent reference to claims of sexual violence against those being held in Gaza.

IDF chief says Khan Younis surrounded, announcing new phase of Gaza invasion

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from southern Israel, December 5, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to the press from southern Israel, December 5, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi says the military is encircling southern Gaza’s Khan Younis as it launches the third stage of its ground offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In a press conference, Halevi also says the military knew in advance that Hezbollah would resume its attacks on Israel’s north following the weeklong truce with Hamas.

“After 60 days since the beginning of the war, our forces are surrounding the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza. At the same time, we are working to deepen the achievement in the northern part of the Strip. Anyone who thought that the IDF would not know how to resume the fighting after the truce was mistaken. Hamas is feeling this strongly,” Halevi says.

“In the last few days, many operatives, including senior commanders, were eliminated,” he says.

Halevi says the IDF has moved to the “third phase” of the ground operation.

“We captured many Hamas strongholds in northern Gaza, and now we are operating against its centers of gravity in the south,” he says.

“We are operating with professionalism, clearing the [Palestinian] population ahead of time from the combat areas. We are striking Hamas above and below ground, from the air, land and sea,” he says.

The commander of the army’s southern command said earlier that troops were operating “in the heart of Khan Younis,” calling Tuesday the most intense day of fighting yet.

“They ask us a lot about the destruction in Gaza. Hamas is the address, Sinwar is the address. Our forces find in nearly every home weapons, terrorists. We understand that part of their way of operating is to leave weapons in the homes, a terrorists comes to the home in civilian clothing, and fights from there,” Halevi says.

“This requires heavy firepower, to strike the enemy and to protect our forces. That’s why they are operating with great power, but at the same time working to avoid harm to those who are uninvolved, as much as possible,” he says.

He says the IDF’s military pressure on Hamas has advanced the goals of the war, including the return of the hostages.

“We are doing everything to return the hostages,” he says.

Though the army’s focus remains on the Gaza Strip, he says operations are continuing in the north, where hostilities have also resumed since a weeklong truce ended on Friday.

“We prepared for this, and we are operating with determination against anyone who is preparing or carrying out attacks on civilians or soldiers,” he says. “We are exacting a heavy price from Hezbollah, which the group tries to hide, it knows why.”

On the West Bank, Halevi says the military has seen major success against terror. He says more than 1,200 Hamas members were arrested, and many others who were planning attacks, or had carried them out, were killed.

IDF appears to push back on ‘irresponsible’ US claim Hamas refusing to release raped hostages

The Israel Defense Forces says public discussions about the state of captives held in Gaza has moved into reckless territory, urging those responsible to knock it off.

“The conversation around the issue is irresponsible, inaccurate and should be avoided,” the IDF says in a rare statement.

The pushback is apparently in response to comments from US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller Monday that Hamas terrorists likely held back on freeing female hostages because it did not want them to speak publicly about being subjected to rape and other sexual violence.

The army says it is closely tracking what intelligence it can on the hostages and calls for access to both female and male hostages by international bodies to report on their wellbeing.

“Every moment in captivity endangers our hostages. We’re doing all we can to bring them home,” the IDF says.

Rocket sirens sound in Kiryat Shmona and other areas near Lebanon

Rocket sirens sound in Kiryat Shmona and other areas near the Lebanon border, though it was not immediately clear what set them off.

Reports: Freed hostages and family members clash with Netanyahu in meeting

Yelena Trufanov, right, speaks next to her mother Irena Tati at a rally calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Yelena Trufanov, right, speaks next to her mother Irena Tati at a rally calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, December 2, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Reports emerging from a meeting of the family members of hostages — including recently freed captives — with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of the war cabinet indicate the gathering is markedly tense and hostile and that some families have left early.

Several Hebrew media reports quote Netanyahu telling the families “there is no possibility right now to bring everyone home. Can anyone really imagine that if that was an option, anyone would refuse it?” — a statement met with anger from many.

Ronen Tzur, one of the heads of the Hostage Families Forum, tells Channel 12 news that some of those present told Netanyahu about the horrors they underwent during their time held captive in Gaza.

Ynet reports that Netanyahu read most of his comments from a paper and didn’t answer any questions.

According to Channel 12, the daughter of hostage Chaim Peri, 79, tells Netanyahu that those still held there are “living on borrowed time,” earning cheers from the others gathered there, and she also suggests returning the captives home should be a higher priority than the ongoing war against Hamas.

According to Ynet, the freed hostages attending the meeting include Raz Ben Ami, whose husband is still held captive, Sharon Cunio, whose husband is also still there, and Yelena Trufanov, whose son Sasha is still a hostage.

Yesterday the family members demanded the meeting with Netanyahu, saying they felt ignored.

Film of Hamas atrocities being screened for Arab Israeli community leaders

The Prime Minister’s Office says it will screen this evening a 43-minute long video of Hamas atrocities for leaders of Israel’s Arab community “as part of its public advocacy.”

The heads of Arab cities and local councils, community center administrators, media figures, journalists and “thought leaders” are among those invited to the screening.

The film, which includes disturbing scenes from the October 7 massacre taken from cameras worn by the terrorists and other sources, has been shown in limited screenings around the world as part of Israel’s efforts to rally support for its war on Hamas.

The screening, presented by Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli, will take place in Nazareth.

Erdogan: Netanyahu government endangering region ‘to extend its political life’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Israel should not be allowed to “get away” with alleged crimes committed in Gaza.

In an address Tuesday to a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Doha, Erdogan also accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is entangled in legal troubles, of putting the entire region in danger for his alleged political survival.

“The Netanyahu administration is endangering the security and future of our entire region in order to extend its political life,” Erdogan said in televised comments.

“The loss of life of 17,000 Palestinians, mostly children and women, is a crime against humanity and a war crime. Israel should not get away with these crimes,” he adds, citing an even higher toll than Hamas’s claim of over 15,800 dead.

Hamas does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but says 70% of the dead were women and children. Its numbers cannot be confirmed and likely include those killed by rocket misfires from within the Strip.

A vocal critic of Israel’s actions in Gaza, Erdogan has repeatedly called for Netanyahu to be put on trial for alleged war crimes.

IDF: Troops fighting in heart of Khan Younis in most intensive battles since ground op began

Troops fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, in a picture released by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF Spokesperson)
Troops fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, in a picture released by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF Spokesperson)

The military says troops have reached the center of Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, days after Israel expanded its ground offensive beyond northern Gaza.

Israeli officials have much of the Hamas leadership may be hiding out in Khan Younis, a Hamas stronghold.

Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, head of the Southern Command, says that troops are involved in the heaviest fighting seen since the start of the ground invasion over a month ago.

“We are in the heart of Jabaliya, in the heart of Shejaiya and from this evening, also in the heart of Khan Younis,” he says in a statement distributed by the Israel Defense Forces, referencing Hamas strongholds near Gaza City in the north of the Strip.

“This is the most intense day [of battles] since the start of the [ground] maneuver, in terms of terrorists killed, the number of engagements and the use of fire from the ground and the air,” he adds. “We plan to continue attacking to deepen achievements.”

The army says that troops have managed to raid a number of Hamas posts in Jabaliya and Shejaiya, taking out arms caches and “terror infrastructure both above ground and below.”

“In the past day, infantry, armor, engineering and air forces have cooperated to fight terrorists face to face, and many terrorists were assassinated,” the army statement says,

Some weapons were found in civilian structures, the army notes.

Man lightly hurt as shrapnel falls in Tel Aviv area

The Magen David Adom rescue service says it is treating a man in his 40s for injuries from falling shrapnel in the Tel Aviv area.

Footage published online shows a large fragment of a rocket lying on a busy sidewalk in the Tel Aviv area.

A video also appears to show smoldering wreckage in a park next to a school.

According to the Ynet news site, some 15 rockets were fired from Gaza at the Tel Aviv area in the barrage.

Sirens sound in north

Rocket sirens have sounded in several communities in northern Israel near the border with Lebanon.

In Tel Aviv, initial reports indicate that there may be injuries from shrapnel following a large barrage at central Israel a few moments ago.

Rocket alarms sound in central Israel, including Tel Aviv

Rocket alarms sound in Tel Aviv and many of its suburbs, indicating a barrage from Gaza directed at central Israel.

There are no immediate reports of impacts or injuries.

WATCH: Emilia Aloni, 5, returns to kindergarten after being held hostage in Gaza for 7 weeks

Freed hostage Emilia Aloni, 5, returns to kindergarten on December 5, 2023 (X screenshot, used in accodance with clause27a of the copyright law)
Freed hostage Emilia Aloni, 5, returns to kindergarten on December 5, 2023 (X screenshot, used in accodance with clause27a of the copyright law)

A heartwarming video shows the return of five-year-old Emilia Aloni — freed from Gaza on November 24 along with her mother after being held there by terrorists for seven weeks — returning to her kindergarten for the first time.

 

Accompanied by her grandfather and by an unidentified woman filming the scene, the girl is embraced enthusiastically by the kindergarten teacher who says she wants to start singing in celebration.

The girl is then welcomed and hugged by fellow children.

“I missed you,” say some.

“I haven’t seen you for a very long time,” says a girl.

“I saw you on television,” a boy remarks.

Medics say 2 women lightly hurt by Ashkelon rocket shrapnel

The scene of a rocket from Gaza that hit a building in Ashkelon on December 5, 2023. (Magen David Adom)
The scene of a rocket from Gaza that hit a building in Ashkelon on December 5, 2023. (Magen David Adom)

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says two women in their 60s sustained light wounds from shrapnel after a rocket fired by terrorists from Gaza directly hit a building in Ashkelon.

It says three others, including two children, suffered acute anxiety attacks but are physically unharmed.

Fire and Rescue Service officers are at the scene, searching for people who might be trapped.

Rocket from Gaza directly hits Ashkelon building; several suffer anxiety attacks

A rocket fired from Gaza in a 2 p.m. barrage that triggered alarms in the city of Ashkelon has directly hit a building in the city.

Initial reports say there are no casualties directly harmed by the projectile, but that several people have suffered acute anxiety attacks.

Hamas drugged freed Gaza hostages to make them seem calm and happy — Health Ministry

Health Ministry officials Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, left, and Prof. Ronit Endevelt attend a Knesset Health Committee discussion at the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 5, 2023. (Screenshot: Knesset Channel)
Health Ministry officials Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, left, and Prof. Ronit Endevelt attend a Knesset Health Committee discussion at the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 5, 2023. (Screenshot: Knesset Channel)

A Health Ministry representative tells the Knesset Health Committee that the hostages freed from Hamas captivity were given tranquilizer pills before being handed over to the Red Cross for transfer to Israel. The drugging would have aimed to make the hostages appear calm, happy and upbeat after suffering physical abuse, deprivation and psychological terror for more than 50 days in Gaza.

Dr. Hagar Mizrahi, head of the Health Ministry’s medical division, specifically names the drug Clonazepam. Known as Clonex in Israel and sold under the brand names Klonopin and Rivotril elsewhere, the drug is used to prevent and treat anxiety disorders, seizures, bipolar mania, agitation associated with psychosis, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The ministry representative does not disclose whether the drugging has been confirmed by blood tests done on the released hostages at Israeli hospitals, or from the freed hostages’ testimony, or both.

Families of hostages speaking earlier to the committee were the first to raise the issue.

Shas MK Yonatan Mashriki urges the Health Ministry to send health organizations around the world an official report detailing the evidence of the drugging and other medical findings following the released hostages’ return.

UN claims ‘not possible’ to create safe zones in Gaza

The United Nations claims it is impossible to create safe zones for civilians to flee to inside the Gaza Strip, amid Israel’s military campaign against the Hamas terror group.

“The so-called safe zones… are not scientific, they are not rational, they are not possible, and I think the authorities are aware of this,” James Elder, spokesman for the UN children’s agency UNICEF, tells reporters in Geneva via video-link from Cairo.

Elder doesn’t suggest alternative ways for Israel to fight Hamas. The Palestinian terror group carried out the massacres of October 7 and has vowed to repeat similar onslaughts time and time again, given the chance, until it achieves its stated goal of destroying Israel.

IDF says sappers inspecting ‘hostile’ drone that crashed after entering from Lebanon

The IDF says a “hostile” drone that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon crashed near the northern community of Margaliot earlier today.

It says sappers are examining the device.

There are no injuries in the incident.

Medical residents lament having to work 26-hour shifts, pay for babysitter with spouses in reserves

Mirsham, an organization for medical residents in Israel, demands that the Health Ministry and hospitals quickly find a way to improve the extremely difficult work conditions of trainees during the war.

Hundreds of medical residents have been on their own, some with kids to look after, with their life partners serving in the IDF reserves since October 7. Required to work 26-hour shifts, they find themselves unable to do their work properly and provide sufficient attention to their children.

In one letter shared by Mirsham, a resident writes that she is seriously considering taking leave without pay because of the situation.

“The system has abandoned me, my husband in the reserves, and our young children… I work in an internal medicine ward that demands that I show up at 7 a.m…. I rely on a babysitter to [take care] of the children [from morning through the night] — and I won’t even get into the expense of it all,” she writes.

“The senior doctors in the department don’t seem to care who is with my children at night or whether I can function with them after a long, intensive shift,” she continues.

The resident also shares her concern for her children’s psychological health, with both their parents away from the home so much while the whole country is suffering from trauma and uncertainty.

Some hospitals have daycare and educational frameworks for employees’ children, but many do not. Those that do have such facilities are not necessarily set up to run them long-term.

Qatar’s emir accuses Israel of ‘genocide’ and ‘systematic killing of innocent civilians’

Qatar's  Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C-L) and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C-R) posing for a group picture with Gulf leaders and officials meeting in Doha on December 5, 2023. (Turkish presidency press office / AFP)
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (C-L) and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C-R) posing for a group picture with Gulf leaders and officials meeting in Doha on December 5, 2023. (Turkish presidency press office / AFP)

Qatar’s ruler accuses Israel of carrying out “crimes of genocide” in Gaza, and hits out at what he labels “shameful” international inaction over the Israel-Hamas war.

“It is shameful for the international community to allow this heinous crime to continue for nearly two months, during which the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent civilians continues, including women and children,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani says, as he opens a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Doha.

“All religious, ethical and humanitarian values have been violated in occupied Palestine through crimes the occupation forces are committing against humanity,” he says.

Israel says it is seeking to destroy Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, after 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists murdered 1,200 people, most of them civilians massacred amid brutal atrocities, in southern Israel on Oct. 7, and took 240 hostages.

Qatar’s emir says self-defense “doesn’t permit the crimes of genocide that Israel is committing.”

The war has killed over 15,000 people in Gaza, 70% of them women and children, according to unverified figures issued by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Israel denies targeting civilians, saying it is making extraordinarily extensive efforts to protect them and accusing the Palestinian terror group of building its entire strategy around using civilians as human shields to protect its members from being targeted by Israel.

Qatar has long hosted a Hamas political office, and some of the group’s top leaders are based there.

In an audio recording released this week, Ronen Bar, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, threatened to target Hamas leaders everywhere, including in Qatar.

France freezes assets of Hamas leader Sinwar

Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, delivers a speech during a meeting with people at a hall on the sea side of Gaza City, April 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, delivers a speech during a meeting with people at a hall on the sea side of Gaza City, April 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

France freezes all assets belonging to the Hamas terror group’s top leader in Gaza, effective for the next six months.

Yahya Sinwar is considered the mastermind of the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught on Israel.

A decision published in the Official Journal of the French Republic says that “funds and economic resources owned, held or controlled” by Sinwar are being frozen. The total value of Sinwar’s assets in France is not provided.

IDF announces 2 more soldier deaths, bringing ground op toll to 80

This composite photo shows Cpt. Yahel Gazit (left) and Master Sgt. (res.) Gil Daniels, who the Israel Defense Forces announced on December 5, 2023, were killed fighting against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
This composite photo shows Cpt. Yahel Gazit (left) and Master Sgt. (res.) Gil Daniels, who the Israel Defense Forces announced on December 5, 2023, were killed fighting against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces announces the deaths of two more soldiers killed during fighting in the Gaza Strip, bringing the toll of the ground operation to 80.

They are:

Cpt. Yahel Gazit, 24, a deputy company commander in the 188th Armored Brigade’s 53rd Battalion, from Rakefet.

Master Sgt. (res.) Gil Daniels, 34, of the 261st Brigade’s 6261 Battalion, from Ashdod.

IDF says it has struck several Hezbollah targets in response to attacks from Lebanon

The IDF says fighter jets have carried out strikes against several Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon, including observation posts, weapons depots, and other military sites used by the terror group’s operatives.

The strikes come in response to repeated attacks carried out by the Iran-backed group on northern Israel.

Earlier today, several rockets and missiles were fired from Lebanon at different areas along the northern border. The IDF says all the projectiles landed in open areas, causing no injuries.

Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for at least four attacks on IDF positions on the border today.

Netanyahu, other war cabinet ministers to meet relatives of Gaza hostages at 3 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara at his side, meets with representatives of families whose loved ones are being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, October 28, 2023. (GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara at his side, meets with representatives of families whose loved ones are being held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, October 28, 2023. (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other war cabinet ministers will meet families of hostages held by terrorists in Gaza at 3 p.m. today, the Prime Minister’s Office announces.

“Messages with details have been sent to invitees,” a statement says. “Attending the meeting will also be senior representatives of government ministries that are working for the benefit of hostages’ families and returnees.”

The meeting comes amid criticism that Netanyahu has been reluctant to meet relatives of abductees, many of whom have been highly critical of his conduct.

Knesset speaker says planned salary hikes for lawmakers should be nixed due to war

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana holds a press conference at the Knesset, September 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana holds a press conference at the Knesset, September 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana requests that a planned salary raise for lawmakers be frozen in light of the ongoing war with Hamas.

“At this time, when the state and many of its citizens are dealing with the economic consequences of the war, just as I worked to cut NIS 80 million [$20.5 million] from the Knesset budget, I think it would be right for Knesset members to also be partners in the economic effort, which should be focused on rehabilitating communities and their residents,” Ohana writes in a letter to the professional committee responsible for recommending lawmaker wage hikes.

Lawmakers are scheduled to get a pay raise on January 1, linked to average market wage levels.

In January 2023, lawmaker salaries were raised by 5.1%, after the Knesset was urged to veto a proposed 12.5% salary hike, amid mounting inflation and a cost of living crisis. Before the 2023 raise, salaries were frozen in 2020 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hamas likely has extra-deep fortified tunnels for key infrastructure, Israeli engineer tells UK paper

Hamas has likely built multiple layers of underground tunnels, with the lower-level tunnels better defended and likely housing the most significant infrastructure belonging to the Palestinian terror group, an IDF reservist who is a civil engineer has told the UK’s Financial Times.

Yehuda Kfir, an expert in underground warfare, has been quoted saying Hamas likely learned this tactic from previous Israeli airstrikes in 2021 that used “bunker-busters.”

“The lesson Hamas likely learned from the 2021 air strikes… was to dig deeper and to encase the tunnel system with reinforced concrete,” he is quoted as saying. “Hamas [has] likely built different layers of tunnels: An upper ‘defensive’ level with booby-traps, very narrow [tunnels] and the blast-proof doors we’ve already seen, and a lower ‘offensive’ level that is deeper and wider and hold things like logistics centres, living quarters and weapons stores.”

Russia’s Putin to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE tomorrow

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates tomorrow, the Kremlin has announced, to shore up bilateral ties and discuss energy and regional politics.

“President Putin will go on a working visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia tomorrow,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says, adding that the Russian leader will discuss relations, the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and international politics.

Kremlin says Iranian president to meet Putin in Russia on Thursday

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk / SPUTNIK / AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders' summit in Samarkand on September 15, 2022. (Alexandr Demyanchuk / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will visit Russia on Thursday for talks with Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin says, as the two countries strengthen economic and military ties in the face of Western sanctions.

“I can confirm. There will be Russian-Iranian negotiations on December 7,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters when asked about media reports of Raisi’s impending visit.

Some Netanyahu trial hearings nixed, after defense lawyer said PM doesn’t have time due to war

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) talks with attorneys Micha Fettman (L) and Amit Hadad (R) inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020 (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) talks with attorneys Micha Fettman (L) and Amit Hadad (R) inside the courtroom as his corruption trial opens at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020 (Ronen Zvulun/ Pool Photo via AP)

Weekly hearings in the corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer will go down to two per week instead of the current three, after the court acceded to a request by the premier’s lawyer who cited the leader’s lack of availability to prepare for the testimonies of new key witnesses in light of the ongoing war against Hamas.

Tomorrow’s planned hearing has therefore been canceled.

Attorneys for fellow Case 4000 defendant Shaul Elovitch requested yesterday that hearings be held in that case on two days per week, down from three, to accommodate for legal staff called up for reserve duty amid the war.

In response, the Jerusalem District Court suggested yesterday reducing the Case 4000 hearings to two per week alongside holding one weekly hearing on Cases 1000 and 2000, on which testimonies are currently due to start being heard next month.

But Netanyahu attorney Amit Hadad wrote that he objects to this since it would mean questioning new key witnesses, and the prime minister doesn’t have time to prepare for this.

“A significant portion” of witnesses set to be heard in those cases “are significant witnesses, whose testimony requires preparation in coordination and together with the prime minister,” Hadad wrote.

“In the current situation, in the middle of the Swords of Iron war, there is no possibility of having the necessary contact with the prime minister to prepare for the questioning of the expected witnesses,” he added in his request, which has now been accepted.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims that the charges were fabricated in a witch hunt led by the police and state prosecution.

He refused to step down when the indictments were filed, arguing that he is capable of standing trial while also leading the country.

The trial has been ongoing for over 3.5 years, and has faced criticism over the slow pace of proceedings.

IDF maps terrorist’s West Bank home ahead of razing, arrests 21 wanted Palestinians overnight

The IDF says it has measured two homes belonging to a Palestinian terrorist involved in the killing of Meir Tamari near the West Bank settlement of Hermesh in May, ahead of a potential demolition.

Troops operated in the Jenin refugee camp to map the homes of Ahmed Barakat, one of the terrorists behind the deadly shooting.

Israel regularly destroys the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks.

The IDF says that as troops detained two wanted Palestinians in Qalandiya, a violent riot broke out. It says troops responded with riot dispersal means and “hits were identified.” The Palestinian Authority health ministry has said a 25-year-old Palestinian man was killed.

The IDF says that during the overnight operations, engineering vehicles ripped up roads that explosive devices were thought to be planted under.

Two suspects were detained in Jenin, and soldiers returned fire at Palestinian gunmen and others hurling explosives at them, the IDF says.

Troops operated elsewhere in the West Bank overnight, with the IDF saying it shut down two “printing houses that printed inciting materials, including for Hamas” in a village near Jerusalem, seized an assault rifle in the town of Surif near Hebron, and a makeshift submachine gun in the town of Talfit near Jenin.

In all, 21 wanted Palestinian were arrested overnight, the IDF says.

IDF says troops encircling Gaza’s Jabaliya, have raided Hamas’s general security HQ

An IDF soldier operates in the Gaza Strip in this handout photo published by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF)
An IDF soldier operates in the Gaza Strip in this handout photo published by the military on December 5, 2023. (IDF)

The IDF says troops have advanced in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, with the 551st Brigade and the Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit raiding Hamas’s general security headquarters in the area.

According to the IDF, the 162nd Division began to operate deeper in Jabaliya after completing the encirclement of its refugee camp in recent days.

It says that over the last day, the troops operated in Jabaliya to destroy Hamas assets. The soldiers located rockets and other weapons, and directed airstrikes on Hamas operatives.

The IDF says that in a joint operations carried out with the Shin Bet, reservists of the 551st Brigade and Shayetet 13 commandos raided the Hamas general security headquarters in Jabaliya, and found weapons, various equipment and intelligence.

The Air Force continued to carry out strikes in Gaza, with the IDF saying that yesterday it struck a group of elite Hamas Nukhba operatives during a joint operation with the Paratroopers Brigade. The troops also found a cache of rockets, according to the IDF.

The Navy also carried out dozens of strikes along the Gaza coast, aiding the ground forces, the IDF adds.

Likud minister said planning to run against Netanyahu, saying party ‘needs change’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Nir Barkat (R) at a campaign event in Tel Aviv on February 16, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud MK Nir Barkat (R) at a campaign event in Tel Aviv on February 16, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Economy Minister Nir Barkat, a senior member of the ruling Likud party, is reportedly intending to challenge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 18-year leadership of the party after the ongoing war, saying the party “needs change” and urging that national elections be held after the war is over.

“I won’t support Netanyahu again. After the war we must turn to the people and get its trust anew. Likud needs change,” Barkat told Likud activists last week at a bike store in Kiryat Gat, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

“I’m acting in accordance with an agenda, and it is nearing its end,” he added. Kan says this means running for the leadership of the Likud party, even if Netanyahu doesn’t step down, adding — without citing a source — that Barkat has confirmed in private meetings that this is his intention.

Barkat responds to the report by saying: “I don’t intend to cooperate with political officials who have an ulterior motive. It is no secret that I have professional criticism that relates to the issue of the budget, which I believe will be solved.”

Barkat has threatened to vote against the wartime budget update this week, publicly decrying it as insufficient to answer wartime economic needs. A source close to the economy minister has said that the budget, as presented, “will lead to economic collapse.”

Kan notes that its report, however, has nothing to do with the budget issue.

Report: IDF believes Hamas used spy to compile detailed map of base ahead of invasion

Among the Hamas attack plans used during the October 7 onslaught and found by the IDF is a detailed map of an Israeli military base that was almost certainly compiled using a spy, The Guardian quotes an unnamed Israeli intelligence source as saying.

The UK news site says findings on the Palestinian terror group’s invasion plans have been presented to foreign journalists, including a map of a base that is “more detailed than would have been required by the IDF itself.”

“Compiling such a map could only have been done using ‘inside knowledge’ – almost certainly from a Hamas spy,” the report cites the intelligence source as saying.

A military correspondent for Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, however, says at this stage, Israeli intelligence officials have no indication that there were spies in Israel who worked for Hamas before the war.

The Guardian report, according to Kan’s correspondent, stemmed from a briefing for foreign media outlets during which officials said the IDF was investigating all possibilities regarding the planning of the October 7 attacks.

The IDF says that after the war is over, it will investigate the circumstances that led to Hamas’s attack on October 7.

PA says man killed by IDF fire, 4 injured in separate overnight West Bank raids

The Palestinian Authority health ministry says that a 25-year-old Palestinian was killed by IDF fire in the West Bank’s Qalandiya.

It adds that four were injured at the Dheisheh camp near Bethlehem, including one in very serious condition.

There is no immediate information from the Israeli military on its overnight operations.

More rocket sirens sound in Gaza border towns; no reports of impacts in morning barrages

More air raid alarms have sounded in the Gaza border area Israeli kibbutzim of Nir Oz and Nirim, both of which have been evacuated since being devastated by Hamas terrorists on October 7.

There are no immediate reports of impacts, damage or casualties.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says, meanwhile, that it received no reports of impacts or casualties from the earlier sirens in Beersheba.

Rocket sirens activated in Beersheba, nearby airbase

Rocket warning sirens are activated in the southern city of Beersheba and Hatzerim, a nearby kibbutz and airbase.

IDF announces officer, 2 soldiers from tank brigade killed fighting in Gaza

This composite photo shows Sgt. Yakir Yedidya Schenkolewski (L), Cpt. Eitan Fisch (C) and Staff Sgt. Tuval Yaakov Tsanani, who the Israel Defense Forces announced on December 5, 2023, were killed fighting against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
This composite photo shows Sgt. Yakir Yedidya Schenkolewski (L), Cpt. Eitan Fisch (C) and Staff Sgt. Tuval Yaakov Tsanani, who the Israel Defense Forces announced on December 5, 2023, were killed fighting against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military announces the deaths of three more troops killed fighting Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, raising the death toll since Israel’s ground offensive began in late October to 78.

They are:

Sgt. Yakir Yedidya Schenkolewski, 21, from Migdal Oz, a soldier in the 188th Armored Brigade’s 53rd Battalion.

Cpt. Eitan Fisch, 23, from Peduel, an officer in the 188th Armored Brigade’s 53rd Battalion.

Staff Sgt. Tuval Yaakov Tsanani, 20, from Kiryat Gat, a soldier in the 188th Armored Brigade’s 53rd Battalion.

The Israel Defense Forces said another four soldiers were seriously wounded while fighting in northern Gaza.

Kushner and Ivanka Trump organized meeting between Qatari PM, Jewish business figures — report

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump walk on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, November 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump walk on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, November 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump organized a meeting in New York last week between Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and prominent American Jewish business figures, the Axios news site reports.

The report, citing three sources with knowledge of the meeting, says Al-Thani addressed Qatari efforts to secure the release of the hostages taken by Hamas on October 7 and fielded questions about his country’s relations with the Gaza-ruling terror group.

Al-Thani reportedly said Qatar began hosting Hamas in 2006 with the encouragement of the Bush administration, and that the Obama and Trump administrations also encouraged the Gulf state to maintain ties with Hamas, and added that Qatari aid for Gaza in recent years was transferred with Israel’s consent.

“Many of us came in with a negative perception of Qatar based on what we have been reading, and came away with a more nuanced understanding of the role they have been playing in Gaza, both historically and currently,” one of the participants tells Axios.

“We were impressed by the prime minister’s willingness to answer tough questions.”

But another participant says some who took part in the meaning continue to have questions about whether Qatar’s relations with Hamas will change after the war.

“It was an intense conversation at times and there was some skepticism among some of us at the end of the meeting,” the participant says.

Army denies telling WHO to empty aid warehouse in southern Gaza

Illustrative: Workers unload medical aid from the World Health Organization at the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 23, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Illustrative: Workers unload medical aid from the World Health Organization at the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 23, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Israeli army has denied telling the UN health agency WHO to empty an aid warehouse in southern Gaza before ground operations in the area render it unusable.

“The truth is that we didn’t ask you to evacuate the warehouses and we also made it clear (and in writing) to the relevant #UN representatives,” the Defense Ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, COGAT, says on X, formerly Twitter.

IDF says fighter jets struck launch sites, other Hezbollah targets in Lebanon

The Israel Defense Forces says it struck a number of Hezbollah sites in Lebanon, following cross-border attacks by the terror group.

An IDF statement says fighter jets hit several launch sites, “terror infrastructure” and a Hezbollah military structure.

It also says a projectile was launched at the border town of Zarit, leading Israeli forces to shell the source of the fire.

“Additionally, IDF artillery fire attacked a number of areas in Lebanese territory to remove the threat,” the statement adds.

Israel has set up pumps in Gaza for flooding Hamas tunnels with seawater — WSJ

IDF troops operate in northern Gaza near the mouth of a Hamas tunnel in this handout photo released on November 23, 2023. (IDF)
IDF troops operate in northern Gaza near the mouth of a Hamas tunnel in this handout photo released on November 23, 2023. (IDF)

Israel has readied plans to flood Hamas’s system of tunnels under the Gaza Strip with water pumped from the Mediterranean Sea, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Citing US officials, the report says the Israel Defense Forces last month set up five large water pumps near the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, which are capable of flooding the subterranean network within weeks by pumping thousands of cubic meters of water per hour into the tunnels.

The officials say Israel alerted the US about the plan last month, but has not yet decided on whether to implement it.

According to the report, opinions in Biden administration were mixed, with some officials expressing concern about the Israeli plan while others say they back Israel’s efforts to destroy the tunnels and say there isn’t necessarily any American opposition.

Among the concerns cited in the report were potential damage to Gaza’s aquifer and soil, if seawater and hazardous substances in the tunnels seeps into them.

“We are not sure how successful pumping will be since nobody knows the details of the tunnels and the ground around them,” a person familiar with the plan is quoted as saying. “It’s impossible to know if that will be effective because we don’t know how seawater will drain in tunnels no one has been in before.”

IDF said to carry out intensive strikes in Khan Younis, elsewhere in Gaza

A picture taken from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Srip, shows flares dropped during an Israeli bombardment on December 4, 2023, amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Said Khatib/AFP)
A picture taken from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Srip, shows flares dropped during an Israeli bombardment on December 4, 2023, amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Israel is carrying out intensive strikes in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, according to Palestinian media reports, as Israeli forces hit Hamas-linked target in the Strip overnight.

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