ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Dec. 20: UN says Israel has ordered further evacuations in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis

Army says it’s fighting in new areas of Strip * UN Security Council vote on ceasefire postponed again * In message to Houthis, Gallant in Eilat says Israel ‘won’t tolerate threats’

  • A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip during an Israeli bombardment on December 20, 2023, amid the ongoing between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Said Khatib/AFP)
    A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip during an Israeli bombardment on December 20, 2023, amid the ongoing between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Said Khatib/AFP)
  • Israeli troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a photo released December 20, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a photo released December 20, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
  • This handout picture provided by the Iranian foreign ministry on December 20, 2023, shows Qatar-based Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh speaking to journalists as he welcomes the Iranian foreign minister (not in the picture), in Doha. (Photo by Iranian Foreign Ministry / AFP)
    This handout picture provided by the Iranian foreign ministry on December 20, 2023, shows Qatar-based Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh speaking to journalists as he welcomes the Iranian foreign minister (not in the picture), in Doha. (Photo by Iranian Foreign Ministry / AFP)
  • Israeli troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a photo released December 20, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli troops operate in the Gaza Strip in a photo released December 20, 2023 (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Master Sgt. (res.) Uriel Cohen, left, and Cpt. (res.) Lior Sivan (Israel Defense Forces)
    Master Sgt. (res.) Uriel Cohen, left, and Cpt. (res.) Lior Sivan (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Armed members of the Hamas terror group ride atop a humanitarian aid truck in Rafah, Gaza Strip, December 19, 2023. (AP)
    Armed members of the Hamas terror group ride atop a humanitarian aid truck in Rafah, Gaza Strip, December 19, 2023. (AP)
  • Smoke rises after rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel, in the Mount Dov area, December 20, 2023. (Ayal Margolini/Flash90)
    Smoke rises after rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel, in the Mount Dov area, December 20, 2023. (Ayal Margolini/Flash90)
  • IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to soldiers in northern Israel, December 20, 2023 (IDF)
    IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to soldiers in northern Israel, December 20, 2023 (IDF)

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

UN says Israel has ordered further evacuations in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis

A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip during an Israeli bombardment on December 20, 2023, amid the ongoing between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Said Khatib/AFP)
A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip during an Israeli bombardment on December 20, 2023, amid the ongoing between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Israel has ordered the evacuation of large areas of Gaza’s main southern city, the United Nations says.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says Israel had released maps showing new areas covering about 20 percent of the Khan Younis city that have been marked for evacuation.

Before fighting broke out, the area was home to more than 110,000 people, OCHA says.

The area also includes 32 shelters that housed more than 140,000 internally displaced persons, the vast majority of whom were previously displaced from the north, it adds.

The Israeli army said Wednesday that “ground, aerial and naval operations were carried out on dozens of terrorists and terrorist infrastructure” on military command and control centers in Khan Younis.

Ben Gvir voices support for guards being probed over suspected fatal beating of security prisoner

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset, December 18, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset, December 18, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir voices support for prison guards who have been questioned by police over the suspected fatal beating of a Palestinian security prisoner last month.

“I won’t conduct a field trial for the guards. They have the presumption of innocence and there is no place to decide their fate because a thorough probe is being carried out,” Ben Gvir, who heads the ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party, says in a statement.

He adds: “We need to remember that our prison guards are dealing with the scum of the earth, murders, who pose a security threat.”

Hezbollah claims responsibility for overnight rocket fire at Kiryat Shmona

The Hezbollah terror organization claims responsibility for the overnight rocket fire at Kiryat Shmona, not long after warning sirens were activated in the northern city and a number of nearby towns along the Lebanese border.

A statement from the Iran-backed group says it launched Katyusha rockets at Kiryat Shmona in response to Israel’s continued targeting of villages and civilian homes, while vowing not to allow harm to civilians or for Lebanese communities to become no man’s land.

There is no immediate statement from the Israel Defense Forces on the rocket fire. The salvo included at least eight rockets, five of which were intercepted, according to Hebrew media reports. The other three projectiles landed in open areas.

There are no reports of injuries. A spokesman for the Kiryat Shmona Municipality says a building was struck, causing damage.

Guards probed on suspicion of fatally beating Palestinian security prisoner last month

Illustrative: Ketziot Prison, August 2009. (Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Ketziot Prison, August 2009. (Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)

Police reveal that 19 prison guards have been questioned in connection to the suspected fatal beating of a security prisoner last month.

A statement from police says investigators questioned the guards over a suspected “violent incident” at a prison in southern Israel, and that the guards have seen been released from custody under conditions.

According to Hebrew media reports, several of the officers are suspected of entering Tair Abu Asab’s cell at Ketziot Prison him and beating him, hours before the Prison Service announced his death on November 19.

The service said at the time that the circumstances of his death were being investigated.

Abu Asab, a member of the Fatah movement, had been jailed since 2005 on charges of attempted murder relating to a terror attack.

Rocket warning alerts activated in Kiryat Shmona, other towns near Lebanon border

Shortly after midnight, rocket warning sirens sound in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona and a number of other communities near the border with Lebanon.

Macron says fighting terror does not mean ‘to flatten Gaza’

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a press conference after a joint cabinet meeting of the German and French Government in Hamburg, Germany, October 10, 2023. (Markus Schreiber/AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a press conference after a joint cabinet meeting of the German and French Government in Hamburg, Germany, October 10, 2023. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron says that fighting terrorism does not mean “to flatten Gaza,” referring to Israel’s response to an unprecedented attack by Hamas militants on October 7.

“We cannot let the idea take root that an efficient fight against terrorism implies to flatten Gaza or attack civilian populations indiscriminately,” Macron tells the France 5 broadcaster.

He calls on Israel “to stop this response because it is not appropriate, because all lives are worth the same and we defend them.”

While acknowledging “Israel’s right to defend itself and fight terror,” Macron says France calls for the protection of civilians and “a truce leading to a humanitarian ceasefire.”

Will & Grace’s Debra Messing, actor Brett Gelman visit Oct. 7 victims at hospital

Actors Debra Messing (2L) and Brett Gelman (1R) meet Noam Ben David (center) at Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital in Ra’anana, December 20, 2023 (Courtesy Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital)
Actors Debra Messing (2L) and Brett Gelman (1R) meet Noam Ben David (center) at Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital in Ra’anana, December 20, 2023 (Courtesy Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital)

Hollywood actor Debra Messing, best known for her role as Grace Adler in the hit TV sitcom “Will & Grace,” visits patients at Loewenstein Rehabilitation Hospital in Ra’anana today.

Messing was accompanied by “Stranger Things” star Brett Gelman and his fiancée singer Ari Dayan.

While at the hospital, the three had an emotional meeting with Noam Ben David, a young woman who survived the Hamas massacre at the Supernova music festival near Re’im. Ben David, whose life partner was murdered, shared with the American visitors her experiences from October 7 and spoke about her injuries and recovery.

While in the hospital courtyard, Messing, Gelman and Dayan met Capt. Hadar, an officer in the reserves from the Givati Brigade who fought in Gaza and was seriously injured.

Messing is among Jewish celebrities who have been outspoken in support of Israel and against the rising tide of antisemitism in the US and worldwide. She took to the stage and made a strong speech at the March for Israel on the Mall in Washington, DC on November 14. Her solidarity visit to Israel follows soon after ones by comedians Michael Rapaport and Jerry Seinfeld.

Report: Hamas rejects Israeli offer for 7-day truce, release of 40 hostages

Hamas has rejected an Israeli proposal for a week-long truce in Gaza in exchange for the release of some 40 hostages, including all women and children the terror group still holds, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The organizations reportedly told Egyptian mediators Israel must halt its offensive in the Strip before it will discuss any potential deal. Even then, it said, Israel will need to free all Palestinian prisoners for the release of all remaining hostages — estimated at some 100.

Israel has said it will not halt its military campaign, and that this condition is a non-starter for talks.

Israel hits Hezbollah command center in Lebanon; 4 rockets from Syria target Golan

The IDF says fighter jets struck a Hezbollah command center in southern Lebanon in response to repeated attacks on the border.

Meanwhile, four rockets were fired from Syria at the Golan Heights, setting off sirens in Mas’ade and Ein Quiniyye.

The IDF says it shelled the source of the fire and targeted a Syrian Army position in response.

Troops also opened fire at a number of terror operatives who approached the Lebanon border, close to Metula, the IDF says.

Blinken speaks to European diplomats, stresses commitment to a Palestinian state

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the Biden administration’s commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state during his joint call with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

The talking point has been used in overdrive since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, as the US has viewed Hamas’s potential eradication in Gaza as an opportunity to reunite the Strip and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority in what could pave a path toward a two-state solution.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of the Israeli government are very much not on board with the idea, but are increasingly reliant on support from the US, especially as it seeks to prevent the opening of a second front with Lebanon.

During the joint call with his British, French and German counterparts, Blinken “stressed the importance of urgently addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza, the imperative of minimizing civilian casualties, and the need to prevent the conflict’s further escalation,” his office says.

He “also condemned attacks by the Houthis on commercial vessels operating in the Red Sea and urged cooperation among all partners to uphold maritime security.”

Amnesty demands probe into Gaza ‘enforced disappearances’

Amnesty International calls for an urgent probe into Israel’s “enforced disappearance” of Palestinian detainees from Gaza, following reports of deaths in military detention centers.

Hundreds of Palestinians are being held in detention centers in southern Israel, having been arrested in military operations across the Gaza Strip since the war with Hamas erupted on October 7.

“The Israeli military must urgently disclose the fate and whereabouts of everyone that it has detained since October 7,” Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, says in a statement.

“Israeli forces must specify the grounds of arrest for those detained and make every effort to provide families of those in its custody with information, particularly in light of the telecommunications blackouts that have cut off Gazans.”

Amnesty demands an investigation into the “inhumane treatment and enforced disappearance” of the detainees from Gaza.

The Israeli army yesterday said it was investigating the deaths of detainees arrested in Gaza. It did not provide details regarding how many detainees had died or the circumstances of their deaths.

UN Security Council vote on Gaza ceasefire call postponed again

A UN Security Council vote on a resolution calling for a pause to the Israel-Hamas war has been postponed again as members wrangle over wording.

“The Security Council has agreed to continue negotiations today to allow for additional time for diplomacy. And the presidency will reschedule the adoption for tomorrow (Thursday) morning,” says Ecuador’s Jose Javier De La Gasca Lopez-Dominguez, who holds the council’s rotating presidency.

Members of the council have been grappling for days to find common ground on the resolution, a vote on which was pushed back several times throughout Tuesday, after being postponed Monday.

Israel, backed by its ally the United States, a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member, has opposed the use of the term “ceasefire.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier today there will be no ceasefire in Gaza until the “elimination” of Hamas.

Likud, Smotrich continue to tussle over Palestinian policies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich during a press conference, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on April 30, 2023. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich during a press conference, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on April 30, 2023. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich continue to publicly trade barbs over who has taken a harder line with the Palestinians.

Religious Zionism snaps back at Likud’s criticism of Smotrich’s functioning as finance minister and the insinuation he didn’t assist Israeli civilians soon enough after the war with Hamas began.

“The only taps the prime minister tried to pressure the finance minister into opening through different tricks are the ones designed to send money to the Palestinian Authority in order to transfer them to Hamas. Good thing that the finance minister stood firm and set a red line,” the Religious Zionism party retorts to Likud’s earlier jibe.

The reference is to Smotrich’s refusal to transfer part of the tax funds Israel has collected for the Palestinian Authority, which are designated for paying government salaries and for various services and utilities in Gaza, as well as for stipends to the families of convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails.

Netanyahu is thought to be in favor of transferring the funds, but Smotrich implied on Monday he would resign from the government if that happened.

Following Religious Zionism’s riposte, Likud one again responds: “We appreciate Smotrich’s support for the policies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading for the day after Hamas is eliminated — we won’t replace Hamastan with Fatahstan.”

IDF says it’s started fighting Hamas in new areas of Gaza City

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says the military is beginning to fight Hamas in the Gaza City neighborhoods of Daraj and Tuffah, adjacent to Shejaiya, as it nears the end of the ground offensive in northern Gaza, with most of the terror group’s battalions in the area dismantled.

On the Hamas tunnel network found hidden beneath Palestine Square in Gaza City, Hagari says “senior Hamas members managed the fighting on October 7 [from the area].”

“From this infrastructure, they were able to spread across Gaza. From the heart of Gaza City, senior Hamas officials were able to reach Shifa Hospital, leave there in an ambulance to travel south, and return to Shifa Hospital, enter the [tunnel] network, and go north to Rantisi Hospital,” he says.

Speaking on new details of a probe into the mistaken killing of three hostages in Gaza last week, Hagari says a video obtained from an army canine which recorded the hostages calling for help, but was found only after their deaths, will be soon shown to the families.

He says that when the investigation into the incident is complete, “we will present it to the families — all the materials, including the video.”

“We owe it to the families, the investigation and the truth,” Hagari adds.

In message to Houthis, Gallant in Eilat says Israel ‘won’t tolerate threats’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant boards the INS Magen Sa'ar 6-class corvette at the Eilat port, December 20, 2023 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant boards the INS Magen Sa'ar 6-class corvette at the Eilat port, December 20, 2023 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant toured an Israel Navy Sa’ar 6-class corvette at the Eilat port today, saying Israel “will not tolerate threats and attempts to attack Eilat,” in a message to the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

“We will not tolerate threats on the State of Israel, if they continue to provoke us, try to attack Eilat with missiles or other means, we will know what to do,” Gallant says.

“We are getting ready, the troops here are ready for every mission and every command. The State of Israel, via the Navy and the Air Force, will know how to defend itself,” he adds.

Beyond attacking ships in the Red Sea, the Houthis in Yemen have fired several cruise missiles, drones, and ballistic missiles at Eilat, though they have all been intercepted by Israeli air defenses or missed their target.

Hamas says Palestinian death toll in Gaza war has hit 20,000

People search through the rubble after an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 20, 2023 (Mahmud HAMS / AFP)
People search through the rubble after an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 20, 2023 (Mahmud HAMS / AFP)

Hamas’s media office in the Gaza Strip says at least 20,000 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory since the war with Israel began.

The number cannot be independently confirmed.

The IDF assesses at least one-third of those killed are Hamas operatives. Hamas’s toll also includes those killed in failed Palestinian rocket attacks.

Hamas says some 8,000 children and 6,200 women are among the dead, as the conflict continues to rage more than two months after it broke out on October 7.

Of note, Hamas counts as children anyone below 18, while the IDF says many Hamas gunmen taking part in combat are minors in their late teens.

Israel says it is making an effort to avoid harm to civilians while fighting a terror group embedded within the civilian population. It has long accused Gaza-based terror groups of using Palestinians in the Strip as human shields, operating from sites, including schools and hospitals, which are supposed to be protected.

Swiss upper house seeks to ban racist, extremist symbols amid antisemitism rise

File: Swiss Federal Councillor Elisabeth Baume-Schneider speaks in Athens, Greece, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023 (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
File: Swiss Federal Councillor Elisabeth Baume-Schneider speaks in Athens, Greece, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023 (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Switzerland’s upper house of parliament takes steps toward banning the use of racist symbols that excuse violent or extremist behavior, including speech, gestures and the display of flags that stir hatred, as well as the public wearing of symbols reminiscent of Nazi tyranny in Europe.

The Council of States votes 23-16, with three abstentions, on a proposal that aims to criminalize displays of such symbols and gestures in the public space. Lawmakers say they still need to flesh out just how far the legislation will go.

The measure now moves on to the lower house, the National Council.

Such a measure, if passed, would put Switzerland on track to join several of its European neighbors that have similar bans against incitement to hatred.

While the legislative effort has been in the works for months, it comes as much of Europe has seen a rise in antisemitism, following Israel’s military response in Gaza after Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 assault.

“There’s no place for symbols that make apologies for violence in our society,” said Federal Councilor Elisabeth Baume-Schneider, who heads the federal justice and police department, during a parliamentary hearing.

She acknowledged the “tragic creativity” that some people have found to incite violence, hatred or recognition of Nazi symbols. She said a full ban was hard to imagine because such symbols could have a place in education or awareness-raising in a cultural context.

IDF offers new details on Hamas leaders’ use of Gaza tunnel network

Military correspondent Emanuel Fabian reports new details from Hamas’s vast underground tunnel network in northern Gaza, and its use by Hamas’s leaders, following a visit to troops inside the Strip yesterday.

Read the story here.

IDF Southern Command chief: Army at ‘significant phase of the offensive, in new areas’

Head of IDF Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman speaks to troops in the Gaza Strip, December 20, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Head of IDF Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman speaks to troops in the Gaza Strip, December 20, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The head of IDF Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman says the military is at “another significant phase of the offensive, in new areas.”

“This offensive will continue and keep moving forward. It will continue with pressure against the enemy above ground and underground,” he says during a tour of the frontline in southern Gaza with the commander of the 98th Division, Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus.

“We will continue to advance here and in additional areas in which we have not yet maneuvered,” Finkelman adds.

Blinken takes issue with world focusing on demands of Israel, not Hamas

US Secretary of State Blinken takes issue with what he says is the international community’s sole focus on making demands of Israel regarding the war in Gaza while remaining silent on Hamas’s own agency in the conflict.

“What is striking to me is that even as we hear many countries urging an end to this conflict… I hear virtually no one demanding of Hamas that it stop hiding behind civilians, that it lay down its arms, that it surrender. This would be over tomorrow if Hamas does that,” Blinken says.

“How can it be that there are no demands made of the aggressor, and only demands made of the victim. It would be good if there was a strong international voice pressing Hamas to do what is necessary to end this,” he adds.

The secretary insists that “any other country in the world faced with what what suffered on October 7 would do the same thing.”

‘Not your fault’: Mother of hostage slain in error sends love, support to soldiers who killed him

Yotam Haim, left, and his mother, Iris Haim. Yotam was taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 to Gaza; the IDF spokesman said he was killed in error by IDF forces in Shejaiya, when trying to escape, on December 15 (Courtesy)
Yotam Haim, left, and his mother, Iris Haim. Yotam was taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 to Gaza; the IDF spokesman said he was killed in error by IDF forces in Shejaiya, when trying to escape, on December 15 (Courtesy)

Iris Haim, whose son Yotam was shot dead in error by IDF troops in northern Gaza on December 15, records a message for the soldiers who killed him, telling them that she and her family love them and do not blame them for his death.

Yotam, 28, was abducted by Hamas terrorists from Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7. He was shot dead, together with two other hostages, Alon Shamriz and Samar Talalka, by IDF troops who mistakenly identified them as a threat, in a tragic incident that is the subject of an ongoing IDF investigation.

Addressing herself to the soldiers of the Bislamach Brigade’s 17th Battalion, Yotam’s mother says: “This is Iris Haim. I am Yotam’s mother. I wanted to tell you that I love you very much, and I hug you here from afar.

“I know that everything that happened is absolutely not your fault, and nobody’s fault except that of Hamas, may their name be wiped out and their memory erased from the earth,” she continues.

“I want you to look after yourselves and to think all the time that you are doing the best thing in the world, the best thing that could happen, that could help us. Because all the people of Israel and all of us need you healthy,” she says.

“And don’t hesitate for a second if you see a terrorist,” she urges. “Don’t think that you killed a hostage deliberately. You have to look after yourselves because only that way can you look after us.”

(From L-R) Hostages Yotam Haim, Samar Talalka and Alon Lulu Shamriz, who were killed mistakenly by IDF troops in Gaza on December 15, 2023. (Courtesy)

“At the first opportunity,” Iris Haim continues, “you are invited to come to us, whoever wants to. And we want to see you with our own eyes and hug you and tell you that what you did — however hard it is to say this, and sad — it was apparently the right thing at that moment.

“And nobody’s going to judge you or be angry. Not me, and not my husband Raviv. Not my daughter Noya. And not Yotam, may his memory be blessed. And not Tuval, Yotam’s brother. We love you very much. And that is all.”

Blinken: Ending Gaza war ‘as quickly as possible’ a top priority for administration

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a year-end briefing with reporters, December 20, 2023 (video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a year-end briefing with reporters, December 20, 2023 (video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says bringing the Israel-Hamas war to an end “as quickly as possible” is a top priority for the Biden administration in the year ahead.

The goal is listed as the number four priority set by Blinken for the coming year in a year-end briefing with reporters. Supporting Ukraine in the war against Russia, combating China and coalition building are priorities listed ahead of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which in previous years was even lower down the Biden administration’s list.

“It’s clear that this conflict needs to move — will move — to a lower intensity phase,” Blinken says. “We expect to see, and want to see, a shift to more targeted operations, with a smaller number of forces that are really focused on dealing with the leadership of Hamas, the tunnel network and a few other different things.”

“As that happens, you’ll see the harm done to civilians decrease significantly,” the US secretary of state adds.

Blinken says that the US will continue helping Israel to “ensure that what happened on October 7 can never happen again.”

The Biden administration says it will work to swiftly end the war, “while minimizing loss of life and the suffering of civilians, getting the remaining hostages back home to their families, preventing the conflict from spreading, and breaking the devastating cycle of violence and moving toward durable, lasting peace.”

He adds that the US is interested and is working to secure another hostage deal and that Israel wants one too but that “the problem is Hamas,” which reneged on the terms of the previous agreement.

Separately, US President Joe Biden tells reporters that “there’s no expectation at this point” of an imminent hostage deal but, “We’re pushing it.”

IDF chief: Israel won’t return to previous situation on the northern border

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to soldiers in northern Israel, December 20, 2023 (IDF)
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi speaks to soldiers in northern Israel, December 20, 2023 (IDF)

Touring the north today, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi says Israel “will not return to the previous situation” on the border, and will ensure “another, far safer condition” for residents of border communities.

“However things go, there will be a lot done here in the coming year,” he says.

Israel has increasingly warned that if the international community does not push Hezbollah forces away from its border through diplomatic means, it will take action.

Seinfeld visits Israelis wounded on Oct. 7 at hospital

American comedian Jerry Seinfeld continues his solidarity visit to Israel with a trip to Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan to visit victims of the October 7 Hamas attack.

MK Danon: Critics of war should remember Palestinian civilians joined in Hamas attack

Criticism over the mounting death toll in Gaza should be tempered with the knowledge that Palestinian civilians joined in Hamas’s brutal attack on southern Israel on October 7, MK Danny Danon tells reporters in Kfar Aza, arguing for the creation of a three-kilometer-wide buffer zone in Gaza.

Standing next to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee within sight of the Strip, the Likud lawmaker states that while it was Hamas “who broke through the fence” within a short period “so-called ordinary Gazans,” including “women, children [and] families” were “coming into Israel, taking part in the crimes committed.”

“So when we attack now we are not targeting civilians but we have to remember that when we are being criticized [for] attacking people who are not involved, that thousands of people in Gaza celebrated what happened here,” he says, complaining that the Palestinian Authority “hasn’t condemned the attacks yet” and railing against what he describes as “a culture of hate.”

Smotrich criticizes talks for new hostage deal with Hamas

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset on December 4, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset on December 4, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich hits out at negotiations for another hostage release deal with Hamas, in response to a report that the war cabinet gave permission for Mossad head David Barnea to discuss freeing high-level security prisoners in return for Israeli captives held in Gaza.

“The war cabinet should send the head of the Mossad to eliminate Hamas leaders wherever they are, and not to talk with them and conduct negotiations,” says Smotrich, who is a member of the security cabinet but not the war cabinet.

The Likud party scolds the finance minister in response, saying it’s “sad” that Smotrich posted comments on “things that have no basis.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu has already instructed the Mossad to eliminate Hamas leaders wherever they are, just as he instructed the finance minister to open the taps and ensure that funds gets to citizens, businesses, soldiers and reservists,” it says. The jibe is an apparent reference to criticism by the State Comptroller this week that hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, especially evacuees from the north and south, were left in dire financial straits by the state’s failure to speedily provide evacuees with economic assistance.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo today to conduct talks with Egyptian officials thought to be focused on a possible truce in the Israel-Hamas war and a deal to release some of the hostages.

A report by Israel Hayom today states that the war cabinet had allowed Barnea to discuss the release of “quality terrorists,” although the assertion was removed when the article was later updated.

IDF strikes Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon; sirens sound in north

The IDF says it carried out another wave of strikes on Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon today.

It says the targets included military buildings, rocket launch sites, a command center and a weapons depot belonging to the terror group.

The IDF says it also carried out tank and artillery shelling at areas along the Lebanon border to “remove threats.”

Additionally, sirens sounded in northern Israel after two surface-to-air missiles were fired from Lebanon at an Israeli aircraft. The IDF says the aircraft was not hit in the incident.

Several rockets were also fired at Israel during the incident, and the IDF used an interceptor missile.

Earlier today, rockets were fired at Goren and Menara, with no reports of injuries or damage.

More southern towns get weapons and combat equipment to help defend them

A community security squad in southern Israel receives new defense equipment from authorities on December 20, 2023 (Defense Ministry)
A community security squad in southern Israel receives new defense equipment from authorities on December 20, 2023 (Defense Ministry)

The IDF and the Defense Ministry begin distribution of weapons and combat equipment to civilian security squads in another 13 towns in the Gaza border region, following the roll-out of the program to other communities earlier this month.

The squads are receiving firearms, ceramic vests and helmets, while logistical and medical equipment will be delivered at a later date.

Civilian Security Squads in 23 communities will be fully kitted out by the end of this week, the army and ministry say in a joint statement.

The distribution of equipment is part of the “Mashiv Haruach” program which began on December 7, in which the IDF and the ministry are distributing weapons and military kits to civilian security squads of some 12 towns and communities in the region every week.

Some security squads played a crucial role in killing and warding off Hamas terrorists from communities on October 7. But squads were severely hampered by a lack of assault rifles which had been taken away from them by the IDF due the widespread theft of these weapons, leaving them outgunned by the terrorists.

The program to re-equip these squads, and training courses for them which have been conducted since the beginning of the current war, “are a central component in restoring security to residents [of the Gaza border region] the military and defense ministry state,” the military and Defense Ministry state.

Yemen’s Houthis warn they will hit back at US if attacked

Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi speaks about the Gaza war in December 2023 (video screenshot)
Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi speaks about the Gaza war in December 2023 (video screenshot)

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have launched missiles and drones at multiple cargo ships in the Red Sea amid the war in Gaza, warn that they will strike back if attacked by US forces.

“If the Americans intend to escalate further, get more involved and commit foolishness by targeting our country… we will target them,” says rebel leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi.

“We will make American battleships, American interests and American navigation a target for our missiles and drones,” he says in a speech broadcast on the rebel’s Al-Masirah television.

His comments come after the United States said it was building up a multinational naval task force to protect vessels transiting the Red Sea from Houthi attacks carried out in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has entered the Gulf of Aden, according to a US Navy spokesperson.

The rebels have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 merchant vessels, according to the Pentagon, from the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country.

US defense secretary makes unannounced visit to aircraft carrier defending Israel

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, talks with the commanding officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford, Navy Capt. Rick Burgess, during an unannounced visit to the ship on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023 (AP Photo/Tara Copp)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, talks with the commanding officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford, Navy Capt. Rick Burgess, during an unannounced visit to the ship on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023 (AP Photo/Tara Copp)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin flies out to the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier to meet with the sailors he has ordered to remain at sea to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spilling over into a deadlier regional conflict.

Austin is in the region to press Israel to shift its offensive in Gaza to a more limited campaign and more quickly transition to address Palestinian civilians’ dire humanitarian needs.

At the same time, the US has been concerned that Israel will launch a military operation along its northern border with Lebanon to expel Hezbollah terrorists who have been carrying out daily attacks along the frontier, potentially opening a second front and widening the war.

Austin ordered the carrier to the Eastern Mediterranean to be closer to Israel the day after Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people. The aircraft carrier’s more than 4,000 sailors and the accompanying warships were supposed to be home in early November.

Using the public address system of the Ford, which is sailing a few hundred miles off the coast of Israel, Austin thanks the sailors and their families for giving up spending the holidays together because of the mission.

“Sometimes our greatest achievements are the bad things we stop from happening,” Austin tells the crew. “In a moment of huge tension in the region, you all have been the linchpin of preventing a wider regional conflict.”

Dan Shapiro exits position as Abraham Accords envoy, takes Pentagon’s top Mideast role

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (left) meets with Dan Shapiro, the new US envoy on the Abraham Accords, in Jerusalem on July 30, 2023. (Courtesy)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (left) meets with Dan Shapiro, the new US envoy on the Abraham Accords, in Jerusalem on July 30, 2023. (Courtesy)

Dan Shapiro will replace Dana Stroul as the Pentagon’s most senior official responsible for the Middle East, vacating his role at the State Department where he served as Abraham Accords envoy.

Shapiro will now serve as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, the Pentagon announces in a statement about Stroul’s departure after nearly three years.

A former US ambassador to Israel, Shapiro had only rejoined the administration last June as Abraham Accords envoy. No announcement has been made regarding who might refill the position, which Congress is working to elevate to an ambassador-level post.

Efforts to expand the accords hit a major snag with the arrival of a hardline government in Israel, compounded by the war in Gaza.

In first for war, 24 hours go by without any Gaza rocket alerts

In a landmark of sorts, Israel has for the first time since October 7 gone through 24 hours without a single rocket launch alert from the Gaza Strip (excluding the seven-day truce in late November).

The last rocket alert as of now was yesterday at 3:59 p.m.

IDF footage shows strike on Hamas cell preparing to launch kamikaze drones at Israel

The IDF releases footage showing a strike on a Hamas cell preparing to launch explosive-laden drones at Israel, as part of efforts against the terror group’s aerial array.

The commander of the aerial array was killed in an Israeli airstrike in late October. Many other top members of the array were killed during the war, according to the IDF.

Also at the beginning of the fighting, the IDF said it destroyed Hamas’s “aerial detection capabilities.”

The IDF says it has also foiled attempts by Hamas to fire missiles at Israeli aircraft and rockets at troops operating in the Gaza Strip, as well as targeting drone launch sites on the roofs of civilian buildings.

Blinken tells Jordan US administration committed to a Palestinian state

Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks at the UN General Assembly at United Nations headquarters on October 26, 2023, in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)
Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks at the UN General Assembly at United Nations headquarters on October 26, 2023, in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state during a phone call yesterday with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi, the State Department says.

Safadi has taken to attacking US policy regarding the Israel-Hamas war over the past two months, refusing to cooperate with Washington’s efforts to plan for who will temporarily govern Gaza after the war so long as the fighting continues.

However, the US has avoided hitting back at Jordan, ostensibly wary of the perennially fragile state of the regime in Amman.

During his call with Safadi, Blinken “underscored the US commitment to providing and facilitating increased and sustained humanitarian assistance into Gaza and expressed appreciation for Jordan’s leadership in providing aid.”

The pair also “discussed efforts to prevent the conflict from spreading and the need to do everything possible to protect civilians in Gaza and stop extremist settler violence in the West Bank.”

Strangely, the line in the readout about establishing a Palestinian state was not presented as a joint goal, though Jordan has long supported this end.

Blinken has held a series of calls with Arab counterparts in recent days, with largely identical readouts issued by his office.

Brig. Gen. Yaki Dolf enters role of head of IDF’s West Bank division

Brig. Gen. Yaki Dolf (right), the new head of the Judea and Samaria Division, during a handover ceremony with the head of the Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox (center) and outgoing head of the division Brig. Gen. Avi Blot, December 20, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Brig. Gen. Yaki Dolf (right), the new head of the Judea and Samaria Division, during a handover ceremony with the head of the Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox (center) and outgoing head of the division Brig. Gen. Avi Blot, December 20, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Brig. Gen. Yaki Dolf has entered the role of head of the IDF’s West Bank division, replacing Brig. Gen. Avi Blot, who held the position for more than two years.

The handover ceremony took place at the Judea and Samaria Division’s base in the northern West Bank, and was attended by the head of Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox.

Dolf, who previously served as military secretary to the defense minister, was reprimanded over the deaths of two soldiers in separate incidents in recent years.

Blot will go on to head the IDF Command and Staff College.

PA’s al-Sheikh walks back criticism of Hamas: ‘The real terrorism is the occupation’

FILE - Newly appointed secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO, Hussein al-Sheikh gives an interview to The Associate Press, at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, June 13, 2022. Al-Sheikh, who serves as the Palestinian civil affairs minister, is seen as a potential successor to the 87-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)
FILE - Newly appointed secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, PLO, Hussein al-Sheikh gives an interview to The Associate Press, at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, June 13, 2022. Al-Sheikh, who serves as the Palestinian civil affairs minister, is seen as a potential successor to the 87-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

Senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh appears to walk back his recent criticism of Hamas, rejecting calls that it is a terror organization.

“Even as the world talked and demanded that Hamas be designated as a terror organization, who stood up the world? Was it not Abu Mazen who stood in front of the UN and declared, ‘No, Hamas is not a terror organization?'” al-Sheikh says, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The real terrorism is the Israeli occupation. The real terrorism are the settlements. The real terrorism is the crime being committed against the Palestinian people. We’ve done our homework… and know very well what our priorities are and how to defend our internal front,” al-Sheikh adds.

Last week, al-Sheikh told Reuters that Hamas needs to reconsider its approach following the ongoing war. It was the latest comment made by a senior PA official criticizing Hamas, which has seen a major boost in popularity in the West Bank since October 7 at the PA’s expense.

In an attempt at damage control, al-Sheikh says that his words to Reuters were “distorted.”

“The Palestinian Authority was the first to defend the resistance,” he tells Al Jazeera.

“What we need now is the isolation on the international stage of the extremist Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu,” he continues. “The Oslo Accords have died and been buried under the chains of Israeli tanks.”

The remark falls in line with what Netanyahu has said in recent weeks, vowing not to repeat the Oslo formula in which Israel and the PLO recognized one another and took steps toward Palestinian self-determination alongside Israel.

He defends the PA’s inability to stand up to the more powerful Israeli government, saying Ramallah is under “the Israeli hammer” and does not have a “million soldiers” to confront Israel. Al-Sheikh adds that the PA doesn’t want to see the same level of killing and displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank that it is currently seeing in the Gaza Strip.

He acknowledges that the “path of negotiations” with Israel advocated by the PA has hit difficulties due to the “extreme right-wing Israeli government” and says the Palestinian people should decide in elections “whether the national doctrine is armed resistance [against Israel] or a political settlement [with Israel].”

PM: Anyone who thinks we’ll stop war is unmoored from reality; Hamas must surrender or die

Palestine Square in Gaza City's Rimal neighborhood, December 19, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
Palestine Square in Gaza City's Rimal neighborhood, December 19, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

In a statement to the media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says: “We’re continuing the war to the end. It will continue until Hamas is destroyed — until victory… until all the goals we set are met: destroying Hamas, releasing our hostages and removing the threat from Gaza.

“Anyone who thinks we’ll stop is unmoored from reality… We’re raining fire on Hamas, hell fire,” he adds.

“All Hamas terrorists, from first to last face death. They have two options only: surrender or die.”

Rocket sirens sound in Western Galilee communities

Rocket sirens have sounded in the Western Galilee for the first time today.

Alerts were heard in a number of communities including Ma’alot-Tarshiha, Shomera, Abirim and Kfar Vradim.

There are no immediate reports of anyone being hurt in the apparent attack.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tours devastated Gaza community

Mike Huckabee (center) stands with former Israeli envoy to the UN Danny Danon in Kfar Aza, December 20, 2023 (Sam Sokol)
Mike Huckabee (center) stands with former Israeli envoy to the UN Danny Danon in Kfar Aza, December 20, 2023 (Sam Sokol)

“If we don’t stand with Israel, we stand for chaos,” former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee tells reporters in the Gaza border community of Kfar Aza on Wednesday, calling the experience of walking through the kibbutz decimated by Hamas on October 7 a “gut punch.”

In Israel on a pre-Christmas solidarity mission with a number of other prominent retired American evangelical politicians, Huckabee expresses the desire to serve as a witness to what happened there, explaining that he had to see the devastation with his own eyes.

Standing outside a row of burned and shattered homes 75 days after Hamas’s brutal attack, with artillery and machine gun fire in Gaza booming in the background, Huckabee, a long-time supporter of Israel, tells The Times of Israel that the 22-year old niece of an old friend was among those killed on October 7 and calls Hamas’s actions on that day “an act of barbarianism that the world shouldn’t have to deal with anymore.”

“This was a gut punch to see it up close. As governor I walked through scores of communities that had been hit by tornadoes, ripped apart and leveled to the ground. And I was used to seeing that kind of destruction but that’s because a weather system hit and hurt. What I’m seeing here happened because people who claimed to be human beings acted like something other than human beings and did an evil,” he says.

“I’m stunned,” agrees Sam Brownback, a former Kansas governor who also served as US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, standing amid the rubble and charred walls of the kibbutz’s Youth Village.

“I’ve been in Israel many times. I’m stunned at the demonstration of hatred, the depth of hatred, that you see here.”

A look at the dealings of Abdelbasit Hamza, Sudanese Hamas financier

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reports on Sudan-based Hamas financier Abdelbasit Hamza and his network of business interests that allegedly benefited the terror group.

The report covers Hamza’s “extensive” business in Europe and his stake in a Cypriot firm involved in gold mining in Egypt.

Hamza was sanctioned on October 18 by the US Treasury Department, which cited his “longstanding ties to terrorism financing, including historic ties to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden-linked companies in Sudan.”

The ICIJ notes that Hamza has not been sanctioned by European authorities, other than the UK.

Hamza tells the ICIJ he has no ties to Hamas or al-Qaeda, but the report notes his well-documented ties to extremism.

Ben Gvir: Freeze move to allow 8,000 Palestinian laborers to work in settlements

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir calls on Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzahi Hanegbi to freeze a decision to allow some 8,000 Palestinian laborers to work in West Bank settlements and Area C of the territory.

Normally, tens of thousands of Palestinians enter Israel every day for work, but the practice was halted due to security concerns since Hamas’s October 7 attacks and the start of the war in Gaza.

Israeli employers in the agricultural and construction sector in the West Bank have asked Israeli authorities to allow Palestinian laborers to be given permits to work in Israeli-controlled parts of the territory due to a manpower shortage

“Allowing Palestinian laborers from the terror-supporting Palestinian Authority into the State of Israel endangers citizens’ lives and opens the door for a repeat of the events of October 7,” says Ben Gvir.

“The blood of the residents of Judea and Samaria is not worth less than that of other Israeli citizens… I request that the entry of these workers be halted immediately, and the security cabinet be convened urgently to discuss the issue.”

The Times of Israel previously reported that 8,000 Palestinian laborers had been given permission to work in the settlements earlier this month.

Knesset passes bill to fully cover cost of degree for combat soldiers

Legislation to fully cover the costs of an academic degree for discharged combat soldiers is passed into law by the Knesset, by 17 votes to 0.

The law amends the “From Uniform to University” bill passed by the last Knesset, which covered 75 percent of the costs of higher education tuition for discharged soldiers.

The benefit is awarded to combat soldiers, as well as a few other special categories including lone soldiers, new immigrants and minorities.

The amended legislation means that a full scholarship for the entire sum of annual tuition fees will now be provided by the state for eligible soldiers, who will be able to take advantage of the benefit for up to five years after they finish their military service.

According to the principal authors of the bill — Likud MKs Ophir Katz and Eli Dalal, together with Yisrael Beytenu MK Sharon Nir and National Unity MK Michael Biton — it is designed to help discharged soldiers deal with the pressures of civilian life and increase their economic security.

The program was originally funded by private donors and intentionally left a self-funded portion of tuition fees in order to encourage commitment among scholarship recipients, leading to some criticism of the new version.

Rockets go quiet as Hamas leaders start talking truce

Palestinians inspect a house after it was hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. (AP/Fatima Shbair)
Palestinians inspect a house after it was hit by an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. (AP/Fatima Shbair)

Skies over Israel have been unusually calm, without a single rocket attack over the last 17.5 hours, a rare respite from the near-constant stream of sirens triggered by rocket and drone launches from Gaza and Lebanon.

The period of calm comes as Hamas’s leaders are in Egypt for talks revolving around a possible pause in the fighting and the release of hostages held by terror groups in the enclave.

Large fusillades of rockets which were fired regularly during the war’s early weeks have faded as Gazan terrorists have seemingly run low on ammunition and places to fire from as the Israeli military presses its ground offensive in the Strip, squeezing Hamas and its allies. Yesterday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said mop-up operations were taking place in northern Gaza, indicating the army had essentially conquered half of the enclave.

Israel has continued pounding sites in Gaza, according to Palestinian reports, with a number of strikes reported in Rafah and elsewhere.

Palestinian report names driver killed by troops in suspected ramming attempt

The official Palestinian news outlets says a Palestinian driver shot by troops when he allegedly attempted to ram them in the West Bank earlier today was killed.

Basel Wajeeh al-Muhtasib, 28, “died as a result of being shot by occupation bullets” as he drove through Bait Anoun junction, north of the city of Hebron, Wafa reports.

Israeli security forces cordoned off the area preventing Muhtasib from being taken to hospital, the report claims.

It also says troops raided Muhtasib’s home and questioned members of his family.

There is no immediate comment from the IDF.

Report: Egypt to pressure Hamas, Islamic Jihad to accept humanitarian pause

Egyptian officials say they will put pressure on Hamas to accept proposals for a humanitarian pause in fighting in Gaza, the Palestinian Quds news outlet reports.

Hamas, whose leader Ismail Haniyeh is in Cairo for talks related to a possible deal to free hostages, has demanded a full ceasefire, but Israel says it will not end the fighting until Hamas is completely crushed.

The news site reports that Islamic Jihad will also be pressured to accept the truce, with leader Ziad al-Nakhala expected to visit Egypt within days.

 

 

 

IDF dog recorded escaped hostage yelling for help five days before erroneous slayings — probe

(From L-R) Hostages Yotam Haim, Samar Talalka and Alon Lulu Shamriz, who were killed mistakenly by IDF troops in Gaza on December 15, 2023. (Courtesy)
(From L-R) Hostages Yotam Haim, Samar Talalka and Alon Lulu Shamriz, who were killed mistakenly by IDF troops in Gaza on December 15, 2023. (Courtesy)

A dog from the military’s Oketz canine unit recorded one of three escaped hostages yelling for help, according to new details from the military’s investigation, the latest indication of how far the trio went to signal their identities to the Israel Defense Forces before they were mistakenly shot to death by troops.

According to the probe, on December 10, troops of the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit encountered a group of Hamas operatives who opened fire at them from a building.

During the gun battle, an Oketz dog was sent into the building, which the army later determined was where the hostages were being held. The dog was killed by the Hamas gunmen, who were in turn killed by the Golani soldiers, allowing Alon Shamriz, Yotam Haim and Samar Talalka to escape captivity, according to the investigation.

An IDF dog leads troops during a live-fire exercise as part of an International Operational Innovation Conference at Tze’elim military base in Israel, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (AP/ Maya Alleruzzo)

During the battle, a camera mounted on the dog recorded the voice of a hostage, apparently Alon Shamriz, shouting “Help” and that there were hostages there. They are not seen on the footage. The feed from the dog’s body camera was not being monitored live and was only discovered on December 18 after the body of the canine was recovered.

Five days later, Shamriz, Haim, and Talalka attempted to approach troops, but were instead shot and killed.

The escaped hostages also left a sign in Hebrew reading “SOS” and “3 hostages. Help,” on another building in the area, but soldiers believed it was booby-trapped.

Hamas official: ‘We will not play this game’ of freeing hostages and getting bombed later

Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad tells Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera that the terror group is not interested in releasing hostages just to get pummeled by Israel afterward, and appears to confirm the organization’s interest in reconciling with rival Fatah on Gaza’s postwar future, though it may not be mutual.

Hamad says a permanent ceasefire is the group’s “priority.”

“Israel will take the card of the hostages and after that they will start a new round of mass killing and massacres against our people,” he is quoted saying. “We will not play this game.”

But he says Hamas is ready for a “big compromise” should the war stop.

He also claims that the terror group has reached out to Fatah to “take decisions together” many times, to no avail, blaming Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, for the cold shoulder.

“We are open to sit with him, to talk with him and with all Palestinian factions, first as a priority to stop the aggression and after that we can think how we can deal with the situation either in the West Bank or Gaza in order to rearrange the Palestinian home, in order to have one political system, one Palestinian authority,” he says.

A Fatah alliance with the terror group could trigger US sanctions against Ramallah. The US says it wants a revitalized PA to run Gaza, backing Israel’s push to destroy Hamas, while Israel argues that Fatah is already too close to Hamas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hamas official has also addressed reports of the group’s leaders having talks with leaders from the rival Palestinian faction Fatah about what Gaza would like at the end of the war.

Hamad told Al Jazeera that Hamas has called on Fatah and other Palestinian factions “many times” in order to have discussions and

“The problem is still the president of the Palestinian Authority [Mahmoud Abbas], who is still rejecting these calls from Hamas,” he argued. “We are very interested to meet our brothers from Fatah and the Palestinian factions in order to think how we can deal with the current situation in Gaza, either politically or the humanitarian aspect or these American attempts in order to change the situation.”

Since the start of the war, US President Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants to see a revitalised Palestinian Authority take charge in Gaza once the conflict is over.

Hamad said that until now, there have been “no good steps” taken from Fatah “in order to come close to Hamas”.

“We are open to sit with him [Abbas], to talk with him and with all Palestinian factions, first as a priority to stop the aggression and after that we can think how we can deal with the situation either in the West Bank or Gaza in order to rearrange the Palestinian home, in order to have one political system, one Palestinian authority,” he added.

“This is I think in our interest but I hope and I expect from our brothers in Fatah to show more positive steps in this direction.”

Herzog meets soldiers in Hebron Hills, says fringe extremists must be shown ‘enough is enough’

President Herzog meets with soldiers serving in the Har Hebron Regional Council, December 20, 2023. (Office of the President)
President Herzog meets with soldiers serving in the Har Hebron Regional Council, December 20, 2023. (Office of the President)

President Isaac Herzog met with soldiers serving in the Hebron Hills and condemned “a vocal minority group” who are damaging the reputation of the settlement movement and the IDF, his office says.

“It is important to me on this occasion to strengthen Central Command head Yehuda Fox, who is going through difficult days of blatant, insolent and ugly personal attacks,” Herzog tells the soldiers.

“The IDF is doing everything – as I see here with the Yehuda Brigade – everything to protect the residents. The residents and the IDF are one in so many ways,” he continues.

“There is a vocal minority group that is causing terrible damage to the settlement movement and the IDF and it is extremely important that we stand up to them and make it clear to them that enough is enough.”

“I would like to strengthen the war cabinet headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and all the members of the cabinet for the balanced and responsible decisions,” he adds.

 

Hamas using psychological pressure, security expert warns; hostages’ brother demands deal ‘at any cost’

Former Shin Bet official Ilan Lotan tells Kan radio that Hamas is “trying to exert psychological pressure” amid ongoing hostage negotiations and is trying to find Israel’s weak points.

“Hamas is setting conditions that I don’t know anybody would be willing to accept,” he says.

However, Liran Berman, the brother of twins Ziv and Gali Berman who are held hostage in Gaza, believes Israel must make a deal for their release “at any cost,” he tells Kan radio.

He says that he hasn’t received any information about his siblings in a month and that the family is “doing everything to return them.”

 

Reports suggest sides still not close to deal, but Hamas claims breakthrough possible

Israel and Hamas aren’t close to reaching a second ceasefire agreement, an Israeli official tells CNN.

“For the time being, it’s still negotiations. There is nothing final,” the report quotes the official as saying.

A report from Reuters contradicts CNN, citing a Palestinian official as saying that a “breakthrough could be possible within days.”

Hamas hasn’t changed its negotiating stance, the source says, laying out demands Israel isn’t prepared to meet.

“Hamas’s stance remains they don’t have a desire for humanitarian pauses. Hamas wants a complete end to the Israeli war on Gaza,” the official says.

IDF requests additional delay to start of academic year, currently slated for December 31

IDF officials are requesting that Israel’s universities delay the start of the academic year until mid-January instead of the currently scheduled date of December 31.

The universities are said to be opposed to the request as they believe any additional delays could potentially cancel the entire year.

The start of the academic year was originally scheduled for October 15 but has been delayed several times due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The Association of University Heads says another possibility would be to keep the December 31 opening in place but implement a second start date of January 20 for returning reserve soldiers.

The request to delay the opening applies to Israel’s major public research universities: the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa, Ariel University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

 

EU court upholds sanctions slapped on Roman Abramovich for ties to Russia-Ukraine war

Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich sits in his box before their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, on December 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich sits in his box before their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, on December 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

Former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich loses in his legal attempt to overturn sanctions slapped on him by the European Union for his ostensible role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with an EU court dismissing his claim.

In 2022, Abramovich filed a lawsuit at the EU’s general court against the European Union Council, which imposed punishment on the 57-year-old oligarch as part of measures targeting Russia and President Vladimir Putin’s close allies.

Abramovich’s economic activities have provided substantial revenues to the Russian government, the EU previously said.

“The General Court dismisses the action brought by Mr Abramovich, thereby upholding the restrictive measures taken against him,” the court says.

“The Council did not in fact err in its assessment by deciding to include, then maintain Mr Abramovich’s name on the lists at issue, in the light of his role in the Evraz group and, in particular, its parent company.”

The EU sanctions against Abramovich were announced after a BBC investigation revealed evidence about alleged corrupt deals that made the Russian businessman’s fortune.

Abramovich can choose to appeal the ruling.

A response to the court’s decision on Abramovich’s behalf says he is “disappointed with today’s ruling” but notes that the court did not accept “false” arguments that he has benefitted financially or otherwise from the Russian government, and that the sanctions “were never justified by a direct connection to the war.” It argues that he “does not have the ability to influence the decision making of any government, including Russia.”

“The court’s decision to maintain the sanctions against Mr. Abramovich were based purely on the court defining Mr. Abramovich as a ‘Russian businessman,’ which under today’s very broad EU regulations is sufficient to remain sanctioned,” it says.

Abramovich’s lawyer says he will review the decision and decide on further potential action.

Source close to Hamas confirms proposal on table to free 40 hostages for weeklong truce

A source close to Hamas confirms an Axios report from overnight, telling AFP the talks in Egypt on a possible hostage deal will focus on proposals including a weeklong truce that would see the release of 40 hostages, including women, children and male noncombatants.

The truce would be open to extension if there is agreement on new conditions for further releases, the source says, adding that the proposals have been discussed between Qatar and Israel with the knowledge of the US administration.

IDF says troops find long-range rockets inside Hamas truck in Jabaliya

Long-range rockets found inside a truck in northern Gaza's Jabaliya, in a handout image published December 20, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Long-range rockets found inside a truck in northern Gaza's Jabaliya, in a handout image published December 20, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says troops of the Nahal and 551st brigades raided several Hamas sites in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya this morning, discovering a truck with long-range rockets inside.

Other weapon caches were found in the area, it says.

Additionally, the IDF says the 551st Brigade identified several Hamas operatives hiding in buildings in the Jabaliya area and directed airstrikes on them.

Another strike was carried out against a building previously used to launch anti-tank missiles at troops, the IDF adds.

In southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the IDF says troops of the 7th Armored Brigade raided the homes of senior Hamas officials, finding tunnel shafts.

State comptroller to probe October 7 security failings, but only after war

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman addresses the Knesset Finance Committee, December 20, 2023. (Courtesy State Comptroller’s Office)
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman addresses the Knesset Finance Committee, December 20, 2023. (Courtesy State Comptroller’s Office)

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman says Israeli citizens were abandoned in the face of Hamas’s savage October 7 assault on Israel, and that “the great failure” of that day will be eventually reviewed by his office, leveling harsh criticism over the breakdown of Israel’s defenses.

“On October 7, the borders of the State of Israel were breached, and cursed Hamas terrorists did whatever they liked in towns of this country. Thousands of Israeli citizens were slaughtered, raped and kidnapped, and were left to their fate on Simchat Torah,” Englman tells the Knesset Finance Committee.

The state comptroller points to a report his office released yesterday about the government’s failure to address civilians needs on the home front, saying, “The failures that were exposed in the security response on the day of the massacre continued in a series of deficiencies in the civilian response to the hundreds of thousands of evacuees [resulting from] the outbreak of war.”

Englman says his review of the functioning of the security services surrounding the events of October 7 will begin when developments in the ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza allow it, stating it would be impossible to conduct this probe with the IDF carrying out intense military operations.

“It is already clear, though, that the government of Israel and the security forces must conduct a thorough internal inspection as to how the great failure on October 7 happened,” says the comptroller.

‘Intensive’ talks on hostage deal reported in Egypt

The Reuters news agency reports that “intensive” talks are taking place in Egypt over a possible deal for the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, citing a source with knowledge of the negotiations.

According to the report, prisoners accused of serious offenses could be included among those released. Israel continues to insist that Hamas complete the release of women, as in a previous truce, and the infirm.

Reserves commander killed in southern Gaza

Master Sgt. (res.) Uriel Cohen. (Courtesy)
Master Sgt. (res.) Uriel Cohen. (Courtesy)

The IDF announces the death of a soldier killed during fighting in the southern Gaza Strip, bringing the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 134.

He is named as Master Sgt. (res.) Uriel Cohen, 33, a logistics commander in the Givati Brigade, from Tzur Hadassah.

WSJ: Hamas holding secret talks with Fatah about teaming up under PLO

Fatah and Hamas officials wait for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, February 12, 2019. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)
Fatah and Hamas officials wait for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, February 12, 2019. (AP/Pavel Golovkin)

Doha-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and former chief Khaled Mashaal are in contact with top Palestinian official Hussein Al-Sheikh from rival Palestinian faction Fatah about an alliance under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Participating in the secret talks, which are seen as a sign of pressure on the beleaguered Hamas terror group, is also Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah apparatchik exiled from Gaza who maintains powerful links in the Gulf and Egypt, and former Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad, the paper reports, citing Hamas official Husam Badran, also based in Doha.

Dahlan confirmed that he was involved in the talks, the latest in a long line of bids to conciliate Fatah and Hamas. All have been unsuccessful.

“I am no friend of Hamas,” he is quoted saying. “But do you think anybody is going to be able to run to make peace without Hamas?”

Mohammed Dahlan during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

According to the report, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, ordered an end to the talks once he got wind of them. The disagreement underlines divisions between the goals of the Gaza-based group, which describes its raison d’etre as Israel’s destruction, and those of its Qatar-based politburo, who have seemingly shifted stances and are now open to a political solution.

“We don’t fight just because we want to fight. We are not partisans of a zero-sum game,” Badran is quoted telling the paper. “We want the war to end.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has argued that the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority is not suited to run Gaza after the war, given the points of agreement between PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s party and Hamas.

Army confirms attempted West Bank ramming, no troops hurt

The IDF confirms that soldiers “neutralized” a Palestinian driver who attempted to ram them at a West Bank junction outside Hebron.

The army says troops from a reserves battalion were guarding the junction at the time of the attack; none were hurt.

Army footage shows airstrike on RPG-toting Hamas member

The IDF releases footage showing a Hamas operative armed with an RPG being identified and hit in an airstrike in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis.

It says the Border Defense Corps’ 414th Combat Intelligence Collection Unit identified the operative coming out of a building used by Hamas, and called in an airstrike.

Hamas leader Haniyeh arrives in Cairo for talks on possible hostage deal

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tours the site of a destroyed building in Gaza City, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tours the site of a destroyed building in Gaza City, March 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Hamas announces that its leader Ismail Haniyeh has arrived in Cairo this morning to conduct talks with Egyptian officials on the latest developments in the war in Gaza and on “other files,” according to a statement released by the terror group.

A source close to Hamas told AFP yesterday that the talks will focus on a possible ceasefire in Gaza and a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

Haniyeh, based in Qatar, arrives in Cairo accompanied by a “high-level” Hamas delegation, and will hold meetings with Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and other officials to discuss “the delivery of humanitarian aid, the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Gaza Strip and the return of displaced persons to their towns and villages in the north,” the source added.

Haniyeh’s visit is his second to Egypt since the brutal Hamas attack and the start of the war on October 7, following a trip in early November.

Ramming attack reported in West Bank, driver shot

The Hatzalah rescue organization says a Palestinian driver was shot and critically wounded by soldiers while attempting to ram his vehicle into troops guarding a southern West Bank intersection.

There is no confirmation from the military or Palestinian authorities about the incident at Beit Anoun junction outside of Hebron.

A video appears to show shots being fired when the car has already stopped, after it seemingly crashed into a fence near the troops.

MIT head attends screening of Hamas horror compilation

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) president Sally Kornbluth speaks during a hearing of the US House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, December 5, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) president Sally Kornbluth speaks during a hearing of the US House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, December 5, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Sally Kornbluth, who came under fire after her testimony on the university’s response to antisemitism, attended a screening of a compilation film showing Hamas atrocities carried out on October 7, Prof. Retsef Levi says on X, formerly Twitter.

Levi, a critic of Kornbluth, says he also attended the screening, as did chairman of the MIT board Mark Gorenberg and other faculty.

The screening of the tightly controlled film, which was put together by the IDF, was hosted by the MIT Chabad house, Levi says.

“We each have to make a choice about this. No grey, only black or white! No ambiguity, no context, but never again,” he tweets.

Kornbluth was widely criticized along with Harvard president Claudine Gay and since-ousted Penn president Liz Magill when they testified to a Congressional committee that decisions about whether a call for Jewish genocide broke school rules depended on the context.

Jewish students at many universities have reported feeling unsafe as campuses host protests against Israel over its campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

There is no comment from Kornbluth or Gorenberg about the film.

IDF says it hit Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon, in rare preemptive strike

The IDF says it carried out airstrikes against a series of Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon, amid the ongoing border skirmishes with the terror group.

The sites include military sites where Hezbollah members operated and other infrastructure, according to the IDF.

It is rare for Israel to strike first amid the ongoing clashes with Hezbollah, though not unheard-of.

Army said it hit over 300 sites in Gaza over past day

The IDF says it carried out strikes against more than 300 targets in the Gaza Strip over the past day.

Some of the strikes were directed by ground forces against Hamas operatives amid battles.

The IDF says Air Force and Navy strikes over the past day have killed dozens of Hamas operatives, as well as destroyed the terror group’s infrastructure.

One of the airstrikes targeted a Hamas rocket launcher used to fire long-range projectiles at central Israel yesterday, the IDF says.

Meanwhile in southern Gaza, the IDF says troops of the 55th Brigade raided Hamas sites in Khan Younis after they came under fire from them.

It says the soldiers located a large weapons cache, including firearms, ammunition, explosive devices, and around 20 mortars.

Report: US wants Israel to downshift war by January 1, sees Palestinian/UN force securing Gaza

The Washington Post reports that Biden administration officials want Israel to move to a less intense stage of battle soon, “ideally” within the next 11 days, despite US insistence that it is not putting a timetable on Israel’s military campaign.

According to columnist David Ignatius, a 20-page document drawn up by the State Department lays out options for a post-ar Gaza, increasingly managed by Palestinians.

The report says security in Gaza could be handled by “Palestinians who aren’t affiliated with Hamas and are willing to cooperate with the Israeli troops still ringing the border. Ideally, this policing force would be bolstered by foreign troops, operating under a UN mandate.”

Ignatius also reports that Israel is exploring the possibility of creating “humanitarian islands” in northern Gaza as fighting increasingly shifts south.

Lebanese reports claim Israeli strikes near border

Lebanese media is reporting on Israeli airstrikes near the border towns of Aita al-Shoub and Ramieh, opposite the Israeli communities of Zarit and Shtula.

There are no immediate reports of casualties.

Pictures from the scene appear to show large clouds of smoke following the reported strike.

There is no immediate comment from the military.

Israeli sources claim IDF was well aware Hamas’s Deif wasn’t missing legs

A leaflet apparently airdropped by the IDF in Gaza offers monetary rewards for information on Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, his brother Muhammed, Rafaa Salameh and Muhammad Deif. (Screenshot from X used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A leaflet apparently airdropped by the IDF in Gaza offers monetary rewards for information on Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, his brother Muhammed, Rafaa Salameh and Muhammad Deif. (Screenshot from X used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Army Radio reports that the army was not surprised by the discovery of video appearing to show Hamas military wing leader Mohammed Deif with all of his limbs intact.

According to the report, citing two unnamed “Israeli sources,” the Israel Defense Forces has known about Deif’s condition for several years, despite the popular conception that he lost both his legs and an arm in a series of Israeli strikes over a decade ago intended to kill him.

A report in Maariv suggested that video found by troops in Gaza showing Deif walking around had shifted what Israel knows about the elusive arch-terrorist.

Israel’s military has been put on the defensive regarding its knowledge of what is happening inside Gaza following intelligence failures exposed by Hamas’s brutal October 7 assault on southern Israel.

According to Army Radio, Minister Avi Dichter reported nearly 20 years ago that Deif was partially paralyzed. Dichter made the comment when departing the Shin Bet, which he led until 2005. The strike reported to take Deif’s legs occurred a year later, but Dichter’s comment was the last official Israeli comment on him.

Ambassador to US says Israel ready to pause fighting to get hostages out

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog speaks during Israel's Independence Day reception, hosted by the Israeli embassy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, June 6, 2023. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)
Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog speaks during Israel's Independence Day reception, hosted by the Israeli embassy to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, June 6, 2023. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog says Israel is prepared to pause fighting in Gaza in exchange for the freedom of as many hostages as possible, CNN reports.

But Herzog also tells the outlet that it’s too early to say if there is a deal, noting Hamas’s wider demands than in the last truce.

“They were hoping for a permanent ceasefire, but I hope that under the pressure of what we’re doing on the ground, plus the pressure from the Qataris, they will agree to do a deal, but it’s premature at this phase,” he is quoted saying by the US network.

On Tuesday, Herzog’s brother, President Isaac Herzog, told a group of envoys much the same.

“I can reiterate the fact that Israel is ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages. And the responsibility lies fully with [Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya] Sinwar and the leadership of Hamas,” he said.

Videos said to show reports of Deif’s paraplegic status are greatly exaggerated

Hamas military wing commander Muhammad Deif (courtesy)
Hamas military wing commander Muhammad Deif (courtesy)

An Israeli report suggests that elusive Hamas military wing leader Mohammed Deif is not only alive, but in better shape than many had previously thought.

The report by Ben Caspit of Maariv cites video evidence of Deif apparently found by troops in Gaza recently, showing the arch-terrorist walking under his own power with what appear to be his own legs, albeit with a slight limp.

Little is known of Deif, but oft-repeated reports in Israel for over a decade have described him as missing both his legs and an arm, the result of an Israeli airstrike, one of at least five failed Israeli attempts on his life.

Aside from legs, Deif also appears to have his arm. The report does not say if reports of him losing an eye in an earlier assassination attempt are also exaggerated.

Unlike many others in Hamas, Deif has lived his life in the shadows, and pictures or videos of him are extremely rare.

The Shin Bet security service “wouldn’t recognise him if they passed him on the street,” investigative journalist Shlomi Eldar told The Economist recently.

There is no confirmation of the Maariv report.

Envoy says UN chief watched film of Hamas atrocities, hopes it changes stance

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan confirms a report that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres watched the IDF’s 47-minute film of Hamas atrocities screened as part of Jerusalem’s campaign for international support.

Erdan says Guterres called it “humanity at its worst.”

“Now we will see if his public statements change and if he truly understands Israel’s mission to eradicate this evil from the face of the earth and bring home the hostages,” he writes. “If the UN held to its founding principles, we would have heard this on the first day of the war.”

There is no comment from Guterres.

Hamas chief Haniyeh meets with Iranian FM in Qatar before leaving for Egypt

Before departing for Egypt for talks on a ceasefire and hostage release deal, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh meets in Doha with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

IDF says reserve officer killed fighting in Gaza; ground op toll at 133

Cpt. (res.) Lior Sivan (Israel Defense Forces)
Cpt. (res.) Lior Sivan (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF announces that another soldier has been killed fighting against Hamas terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip, bringing the ground toll in Israel’s ground offensive to 133.

The soldier is named as Cpt. (res.) Lior Sivan, 32, from Beit Shemesh, an officer in the Harel Brigade’s 363 Batallion.

The army says that an infantryman in the Givati Brigade’s Rotem Batallion was seriously wounded during battles in southern Gaza and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

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