ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Dec. 8: Israel hails US for vetoing Security Council resolution seeking Gaza ceasefire

Gallant cites signs Hamas ‘is beginning to break’ as army says more operatives surrendering * 2 troops seriously hurt in op to rescue hostages * IDF ground offensive toll at 93

  • US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood (2nd R) raises his hand during a United Nations Security Council vote about a ceasefire in Gaza at UN headquarters in New York on December 8, 2023. The United States vetoed a resolution that would have called for an immediate ceasefire in the intense fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Wood, said the resolution was "divorced from reality." (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)
    US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood (2nd R) raises his hand during a United Nations Security Council vote about a ceasefire in Gaza at UN headquarters in New York on December 8, 2023. The United States vetoed a resolution that would have called for an immediate ceasefire in the intense fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Wood, said the resolution was "divorced from reality." (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP)
  • This handout photo from the Israel Defense Forces on December 8, 2023, shows Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
    This handout photo from the Israel Defense Forces on December 8, 2023, shows Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • A car damaged by rocket shrapnel in Tel Aviv on December 8, 2023. (Courtesy)
    A car damaged by rocket shrapnel in Tel Aviv on December 8, 2023. (Courtesy)
  • Palestinians try to rescue a woman stuck under the rubble of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)
    Palestinians try to rescue a woman stuck under the rubble of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)
  • War cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot, family and friends attend the funeral of his son Gal in Herzliya on December 8, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    War cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot, family and friends attend the funeral of his son Gal in Herzliya on December 8, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center-left) consoles war cabinet minister minister and former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot (center in white kippa) at the funeral of Eisenkot's son, Master Sgt. (res.) Gal Meir Eisenkot, in Herzliya on December 8, 2023. Gal Eisenkott was killed December 7 during an IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center-left) consoles war cabinet minister minister and former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot (center in white kippa) at the funeral of Eisenkot's son, Master Sgt. (res.) Gal Meir Eisenkot, in Herzliya on December 8, 2023. Gal Eisenkott was killed December 7 during an IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
  • A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 8, 2023, shows smoke rising above buildings during an Israeli strike in northern Gaza, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas. (Jack Guez / AFP)
    A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 8, 2023, shows smoke rising above buildings during an Israeli strike in northern Gaza, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas. (Jack Guez / AFP)
  • Israeli soldiers are seen near the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
    Israeli soldiers are seen near the border with the Gaza Strip, southern Israel, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
  • Weapons found by Israeli troops during a raid in Gaza City's Al-Azhar University, in a handout photo published December 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Weapons found by Israeli troops during a raid in Gaza City's Al-Azhar University, in a handout photo published December 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows shells exploding over hills around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 8, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
    A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows shells exploding over hills around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 8, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

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

US State Department denies forbidding Palestinian Authority FM from speaking to media

From left to right: Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyadh Malki, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry participate in an Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee briefing session on the current situation in Gaza, in Washington, on December 8, 2023. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)
From left to right: Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyadh Malki, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry participate in an Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee briefing session on the current situation in Gaza, in Washington, on December 8, 2023. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)

WASHINGTON — The US State Department denies an allegation that it has forbidden a visiting Palestinian official from speaking to reporters in Washington.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki had joined his Arab and Turkish counterparts in traveling on a rare joint mission to Washington. The foreign ministers said they wanted to push the Biden administration to drop its objections to an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terror group.

At a press conference by the Arab and Turkish diplomats, a reporter asked Malki about a Bloomberg story that quoted PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh as saying he hoped Hamas would be a junior partner to governing Palestinian officials.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan quickly intervened. The US government, the Saudi diplomat said, had imposed visa “restrictions on his excellency that do not allow him to respond to media questions.”

Prince Faisal said he believed the ban was a “historical” practice with the Palestinian official in the US, and that violating it would bring legal repercussions.

No such thing, the State Department says in a statement later. “We have imposed no restrictions that prohibit individuals from speaking to the press.”

Israel hails US for vetoing Security Council resolution seeking Gaza ceasefire

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations thanks American President Joe Biden for “standing steadfastly” with Israel, after the US vetoed a Security Council resolution seeking an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“A little light rejected a lot of darkness,” Ambassador Gilad Erdan says in a statement, alluding to Hanukkah.

“It is shocking that when Hamas is firing rockets at Gush Dan from population centers in southern Gaza, the UN is busy with a disconnected deliberation about a distorted resolution that is directed at the wrong side and does not even condemn Hamas,” the ambassador adds.

“A ceasefire is possible, only with the return of all the hostages and destruction of Hamas.”

US vetoes UN Security Council resolution calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

A general view shows a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AFP)
A general view shows a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AFP)

The United States exercises its veto at the UN Security Council to block a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Thirteen members of the council vote in favor of the motion, while the United Kingdom abstains.

The US deputy representative at the UN, Robert Wood, says the resolution is “divorced from reality” and “would have not moved the needle forward on the ground.”

The Arab-backed measure, which was slammed by Israel, described the humanitarian situation in Gaza as “catastrophic.” It called for the protection of civilians, the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages Hamas is still holding, and humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.

Biden said to ask Congress for approval to sell 45,000 tank shells to Israel

IDF tanks roll near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 3, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Hamas terror group. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
IDF tanks roll near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 3, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Hamas terror group. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

The Biden administration has asked Congress to approve the sale of 45,000 shells for Israeli Merkava tanks amid the ongoing war in Gaza against Hamas, according to a Reuters report.

Six French teens convicted for roles in Islamic extremist’s beheading of teacher

PARIS — A French juvenile court convicts six teenagers for their roles in the beheading of a teacher by an Islamic extremist that shocked the country.

Teacher Samuel Paty was killed outside his school in 2020 after showing his class cartoons of the prophet of Islam during a debate on free expression. The attacker, a young Chechen who had radicalized, was killed by police.

The court finds five of the defendants, who were 14 and 15 at the time of the attack, guilty of staking out the teacher and identifying him for the attacker. Another defendant, 13 at the time, is found guilty of lying about the classroom debate in a comment that aggravated online anger against the teacher.

The teenagers — all students at Paty’s school — testified that they didn’t know the teacher would be killed. All are handed brief or suspended prison terms, and required to stay in school or jobs during the duration of their suspended terms with regular medical checkups.

They left the courtroom without speaking. Some had their heads down as they listened to the verdicts. One appeared to wipe tears.

Paty’s name was disclosed on social media after a class debate on free expression during which he showed prophet caricatures published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The publication had triggered a deadly extremist massacre in the Charlie Hebdo newsroom in 2015.

Paty, a history and geography teacher, was killed on October 16, 2020, near his school in a Paris suburb by attacker Abdoullakh Anzorov.

The five who identified Paty to the attacker are convicted of involvement in a group preparing aggravated violence.

The sixth defendant wrongly claimed that Paty had asked Muslim students to raise their hands and leave the classroom before he showed the class the prophet cartoons. She was not in the classroom that day, and later told investigators she had lied. She is convicted of making false allegations.

Her father shared the lie in an online video that called for mobilization against the teacher. He and a radical Islamic activist who helped disseminate virulent messages against Paty are among eight adults who will face a separate trial for adults suspected of involvement in the killing, expected late next year.

Israel said to believe IDF needs 3-4 weeks to complete operations in Khan Younis

Troops of the 98th Division operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout photo released December 6, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the 98th Division operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout photo released December 6, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military needs another 3-4 weeks to complete the military offensive in Khan Younis and a similar amount of time after that to wrap up the first stage of the war in Gaza against Hamas, the Walla news site reports.

Citing a senior Israeli official, the report says the US has not given Israel a hard deadline but notes Washington has told Jerusalem that time is running out. The official adds that the sides disagree by a month on how long the war should continue, without further specifying.

According to the official, the Bide administration would be happy for the IDF to finish intensive operations by the end of the month but Israel believes it needs until the end of January.

“The American message is that they would like to see us finish the fighting sooner, with less harm to Palestinian civilians and more humanitarian assistance for Gaza. We would also like this to happen, but the enemy does not always agree,” the official is quoted as saying.

“The Americans understand this and we are working together. We need them and they need us,” the official adds.

In call with Netanyahu, France’s Macron urges reopening of Gaza border crossing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) as they hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem on October 24, 2023. (Christophe Ena/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) as they hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem on October 24, 2023. (Christophe Ena/Pool/AFP)

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open a major border crossing to deliver much-needed aid into Gaza.

Macron’s call came to reopen Kerem Shalom comes a day after a senior Israeli official said the crossing to Gaza would operate to inspect humanitarian aid trucks for the first time since the Israel-Hamas war began. The move, slated to be implemented in the coming days, is meant to facilitate an increase in the number of aid trucks that can enter Gaza each day.

While Israel will use the Kerem Shalom facilities to inspect the trucks, they will still need to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing between the Strip and Egypt.

During a telephone conversation between the two leaders, Macron also spoke of “the need to protect civilians in Gaza and stressed the importance of achieving a lasting ceasefire,” says the Elysee.

He adds that “Israel must take the necessary measures to put an end to the violence committed by settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.”

There is no immediate readout on the call from Netanyahu’s office.

3 Lebanese troops hurt by Israeli shelling — medical sources

BEIRUT — Three Lebanese soldiers were lightly injured today by Israeli shelling in southern Lebanon, medical sources say, while the Lebanese army reports no casualties in a second attack on a hospital.

Hezbollah also announces the death of four of its fighters today.

“Israeli artillery fire targeted the vicinity of a Lebanese army post in Ras el-Naqura, lightly injuring three soldiers,” a medical source tells AFP.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw the soldiers lying on stretchers, exhibiting signs of breathing difficulties but with no open wounds.

On Tuesday, two people, including a Lebanese soldier, were killed in Israeli cross-border shelling — the first among Lebanese army personnel to be killed since the start of almost daily exchanges of fire on the border between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah.

The Israel Defense Forces acknowledged the incident and expressed “regret,” saying it was targeting a Hezbollah position and not the army.

The Lebanese armed forces, deployed to the border area, reported a second attack on Friday.

“On December 8, 2023, the military hospital in the town of Ain Ebel was bombed by the Israeli enemy, causing material damage but no casualties,” it says in a statement.

Israeli envoy tells UN that Hamas ‘solely responsible’ for humanitarian situation in Gaza

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AFP)
Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AFP)

Addressing the UN Security Council, Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan says the forum should call on Hamas to hold fire if it wants to end the fighting in Gaza.

“Why is this draft resolution not directed at Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh?” he says, referring to the terror group’s leaders. “Do you not know who was responsible for ending the previous ceasefire and reigniting hostilities?”

Erdan says Hamas is “solely responsible” for the humanitarian situation in Gaza and should be held “fully accountable” by the Security Council.

He also notes the start of Hanukkah last night.

“I pray that we see another Hanukkah miracle here in the UN, and that the almighty will allow the truth and light to prevail here in this council,” he says.

Army says increasing number of Hamas operatives surrendering in Gaza

Palestinian men said to have surrendered to the IDF in the Jabaliya area of northern Gaza on December 7, 2023. (Social media: used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Palestinian men said to have surrendered to the IDF in the Jabaliya area of northern Gaza on December 7, 2023. (Social media: used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says the military is seeing more Hamas operatives surrendering to forces during the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

“Our troops are operating in the heart of Hamas’s ‘centers of gravity’ in south and northern Gaza simultaneously, in Jabaliya, Shejaiya, and in the Khan Younis area,” he says.

“We are engaged in fierce battles with Hamas terrorists, who hide underground. We are killing many terrorists, and seeing more and more terrorists surrendering in battle, and turning themselves into our forces,” Hagari says.

He says that in the last 48 hours, the IDF has arrested more than 200 suspects in the Gaza Strip.

“Dozens of them have been handed over for interrogation by the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504 and Shin Bet in Israel, including Hamas commanders and Nukhba operatives,” Hagari says.

IDF says 2 troops seriously hurt in Gaza during failed operation to rescue hostages

This handout photo from the Israel Defense Forces on December 8, 2023, shows Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
This handout photo from the Israel Defense Forces on December 8, 2023, shows Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says two soldiers were seriously wounded during an operation to rescue hostages in the Gaza Strip overnight.

“The troops raided a Hamas site, killed terrorists who took part in the abduction and holding of the hostages,” he says.

He says the operation failed and no hostages were rescued.

“We will continue to act in a number of ways, operationally and with intelligence, with the Shin Bet, to return all the hostages home, and to obtain information on them,” he adds.

Hamas urges UN Security Council to end ‘brutal’ war in Gaza that it started with Oct. 7 attack

Palestinian terror group Hamas, which is engaged in deadly fighting with Israel, calls for the United Nations Security Council to end the “brutal war” in the Gaza Strip that was sparked by the mass atrocities it committed on October 7.

“We call on the Security Council, the international community and all countries around the world to end this brutal war and save the Gaza Strip before it is too late,” the Hamas government’s media office in the Palestinian territory says, as the Security Council prepared to vote on a draft resolution calling for a ceasefire.

WATCH: Dramatic footage shows IDF troops battling Hamas operatives in Gaza City school

Troops of the LOTAR Unit battle Hamas operatives in a school in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, in a video published by the IDF on December 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the LOTAR Unit battle Hamas operatives in a school in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, in a video published by the IDF on December 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF releases dramatic footage of troops of the elite LOTAR Unit battling Hamas operatives in a school in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood.

According to the IDF, troops of the 188th Armored Brigade’s 74th Battalion, along with the LOTAR soldiers, encountered a Hamas cell as they searched the school building.

“The terrorists tried to draw the forces into an ambush, with gunfire and explosives, and were eliminated by the troops of the LOTAR Unit and tank fire of the 74th Battalion,” the IDF says.

The IDF says the troops later searched the school and found a tunnel shaft inside one of the classrooms. It says the tunnel, used by the Hamas operatives, led to a nearby mosque.

IDF troops inspect a tunnel shaft in a school in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, in a handout image published on December 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Gallant cites indications that Hamas ‘is beginning to break in Gaza’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant lights Hanukkah candles with troops on the Gaza border, December 8, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant lights Hanukkah candles with troops on the Gaza border, December 8, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says he sees “signs that indicate [Hamas] is beginning to break in Gaza.”

His remarks are made during Hanukkah candle lighting with troops of the Border Defense Corps’ Caracal Battalion — a mixed-gender light infantry unit — and Armored Corps on the Gaza Border.

“It is impossible to ignore the strong, prominent, and successful female presence [in the war]. Women have not really fought in the IDF since 1948, this is the first time this has happened, after 75 years, in massive fighting,” he says to the troops. “The results are very impressive.”

“I see the signs that indicate [Hamas] is beginning to break in Gaza. You all play a key role in this matter,” he adds.

Harvard president apologizes for saying context matters when urging genocide of Jews

Harvard President Claudine Gay speaks during a hearing of the US House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, December 5, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Harvard President Claudine Gay speaks during a hearing of the US House Committee on Education on Capitol Hill, December 5, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

WASHINGTON — The president of Harvard University has apologized for her remarks at a congressional hearing on antisemitism, saying she got caught up in a heated exchange and failed to properly denounce threats of violence against Jewish students.

In an interview with The Crimson student newspaper, President Claudine Gay clarifies her response to a line of questioning that asked whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate Harvard’s code of conduct. At the Tuesday hearing, Gay said it depended on the context, adding that when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies.”

Gay’s response has drawn intense national backlash, as have similar responses from the presidents of MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, who joined Gay in testifying before the Republican-led House Education and Workforce Committee. Wealthy donors and some members of Congress in both parties have called for their resignations.

Gay tells The Crimson she was sorry, saying she “got caught up in what had become at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures.”

“What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged,” Gay says.

IDF strikes Hezbollah sites in Lebanon after repeated cross-border attacks

A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows shells exploding over hills around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 8, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
A picture taken from the Israeli side of border with Lebanon shows shells exploding over hills around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 8, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The IDF says it struck several Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon today, in response to repeated attacks on the border.

It says that several rockets were fired at northern Israel in the last hour, setting off sirens in the Galilee.

Troops shelled the launch sites with artillery, the IDF adds.

Visiting Washington, Arab diplomats call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during a UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters on November 29, 2023, in New York City. (Andrea Renault/AFP)
Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during a UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters on November 29, 2023, in New York City. (Andrea Renault/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Chief diplomats from a grouping of Arab and Islamic nations, on a visit to Washington, call Friday for end to fighting in the Gaza Strip.

“Our message is we believe it is absolutely necessary to end the fighting immediately,” says Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on behalf of the group, appealing for the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Bin Farhan is in Washington as part of a visit of the Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee.

US stresses opposition to immediate Gaza ceasefire at UN Security Council meeting

Deputy US Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood speaks during a Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AFP)
Deputy US Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood speaks during a Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS — The United States tells a UN Security Council meeting that it opposes an immediate ceasefire in the fighting raging in Gaza.

“While the United States strongly supports the durable peace, in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security, we do not support calls for an immediate ceasefire,” says Deputy US Ambassador Robert Wood.

IDF says soldier was hurt in West Bank shooting attack, troops searching for assailants

Illustrative: Military vehicles are seen during an IDF raid in the Far'a refugee camp, northeast of Nablus, in the West Bank, December 8, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Illustrative: Military vehicles are seen during an IDF raid in the Far'a refugee camp, northeast of Nablus, in the West Bank, December 8, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The IDF confirms an Israeli soldier was wounded in the shooting attack earlier near the West Bank town of Yabed and the settlement of Mevo Dotan.

“The soldier received initial medical treatment at the scene and was evacuated to a hospital to receive further medical treatment,” the IDF says.

It says troops have launched a manhunt for the assailants, setting up roadblocks in the area.

Rocket warning sirens activated in Galilee towns

Rocket warning sirens activated in a number of Galilee communities located near the border with Lebanon.

IDF says army post along Lebanon border fired upon; troops respond with artillery

The IDF says an army post on the Lebanon border, close to the community of Mattat, came under fire.

It does not provide information on potential causalities.

The IDF says troops shelled the source of the fire with artillery.

Ambulance service says no reported injuries in latest rocket attacks on central Israel

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it hasn’t received any reports after a barrage of rockets fired from Gaza at central Israel.

Police are searching the area in an effort to locate rocket fragments.

Rocket warning sirens sound across central Israel, including Tel Aviv

Warning sirens are activated in Tel Aviv and other cities across central Israel due to an apparent rocket barrage launched by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Video shows Iron Dome interceptions over the area.

Israeli man said lightly hurt in suspected shooting attack in West Bank

An Israeli man is reportedly lightly injured in a suspected shooting attack in the West Bank.

According to Hebrew-language media, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at an army post near the settlement of Mevo Dotan.

The reports say the man was hit in the leg, and IDF troops are scanning the area.

The military has not yet issued a comment on the incident.

UN chief: Hamas brutality ‘can never justify collective punishment’ of Palestinians

A handout picture released by the Cuban presidency press office showing the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a press conference at the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 2, 2023. (Photo by Alejandro Azcuy / PRESIDENCIA CUBA / AFP)
A handout picture released by the Cuban presidency press office showing the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a press conference at the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 2, 2023. (Photo by Alejandro Azcuy / PRESIDENCIA CUBA / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that Hamas brutality can never justify “collective punishment” of Palestinians as Israel presses its campaign against the terror group in the Gaza Strip.

“Some 130 hostages are still held captive. I call for their immediate and unconditional release, as well as their humane treatment and visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross until they are freed,” Guterres says at an emergency meeting of the organization’s Security Council.

“At the same time, the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

Biden administration said to demand Israel conclude war against Hamas by end of year

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

Citing three anonymous officials in Tel Aviv, Politico reports that US President Joe Biden’s administration has told Israel it has until the end of 2023 to conclude the war in Gaza against Hamas.

The US news outlet notes Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s reported warning last week that Israel likely has “weeks” to wrap up the fighting, but also highlights comments yesterday by Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer that Washington has not given a “firm deadline” to Jerusalem.

A senior Israeli official appears to brush off the prospect of a US deadline.

“They advised us not to go into Gaza, but we did,” the official tells Politico. “We went into Gaza because that was the only way we could destroy Hamas and free our hostages. They told us, don’t go into the terror tunnels. But if we don’t go into the terror tunnels, there’s no way we can destroy Hamas. They told us not to go into the hospitals despite them being used by Hamas as command and control centers, but we went into those hospitals, and we did what we needed to do.”

“And we’ll do what we need to do to reach decisive victory,” the official adds.

EU adds Hamas military chiefs Mohammed Deif, Marwan Issa to terror blacklist

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

BRUSSELS — The European Union adds two of Hamas’s top military commanders to its terrorist blacklist, linking them directly to the October 7 attacks on Israel.

Brussels says Mohammed Deif, commander-general of Hamas military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and his deputy Marwan Issa, have been added to its sanctions list.

Police arrest suspect for setting fire to protest tent set up by relatives of Oct. 7 victims

Police announce the arrest of a suspect for setting fire to a protest tent near the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem that was set up by relatives of those killed and taken hostage in the Hamas onslaught on October 7.

The blaze was quickly extinguished by citizens after causing light damage to the tent, according to police.

A police statement says the suspect, a resident of southern Israel in his 50s, was brought to a station in Jerusalem for questioning.

After PA PM speaks of future Hamas role, Netanyahu repeats PA ‘is not the solution’ for Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 27, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 27, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assails the Palestinian Authority after PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told Bloomberg he hopes Hamas will serve as a partner in governing Gaza following the war between Israel and the terror group.

“There will not be a Hamas, we will eliminate it,” Netanyahu says in a statement. “The the fact that this is the Palestinian Authority’s proposal only strengthens my policy: The Palestinian Authority is not the solution.”

IDF shoots down ‘suspicious aerial target’ from Lebanon

The IDF says the Iron Dome intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon earlier.

The incident set off sirens in a number of communities in the Upper Galilee.

Separately, the IDF says several rockets were fired from Lebanon at army posts on the border. It says troops are responding with artillery shelling at the sources of the fire.

Man arrested for shooting shotgun outside NY synagogue, saying ‘Free Palestine’ faces federal charges

A menorah stands outside the entrance to Temple Israel, December 7, 2023, in Albany, New York. (AP Photo/Maysoon Khan)
A menorah stands outside the entrance to Temple Israel, December 7, 2023, in Albany, New York. (AP Photo/Maysoon Khan)

ALBANY, New York — A man arrested for firing a shotgun into the air outside a Jewish temple in upstate New York been federally charged, officials say.

Mufid Fawaz Alkhader, who officials say fired the shotgun twice outside a synagogue in Albany yesterday, has been charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, FBI spokesperson Sarah Ruane says in a statement praising the “swift coordination” between federal, state and local law enforcement.

Alkhader, 28, is a US citizen who was born in Iraq and lives in Schenectady, which is near Albany. He told officers who questioned him that events in the Middle East “have impacted him,” according to court papers.

Alkhader was expected to appear in a federal courtroom in Albany today.

No attorney who could speak for Alkhader had been assigned as of this morning, and no phone number was listed for him in public records.

The episode in New York’s capital city happened on the first night of Hanukkah amid rising fears of antisemitism worldwide and fallout from Israel’s intensifying war in Gaza.

Officials say Alkhader is the man who was arrested shortly after the shots were fired at Temple Israel at around 2 p.m. yesterday. Police did not initially release the man’s name, but Governor Kathy Hochul said he was a local resident.

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins said the man said “Free Palestine” when officers arrested him.

No one was injured in the incident, which the chief said was being investigated as a hate crime.

Rocket alerts sound in Ashkelon, Gaza border towns

Rocket warning sirens are activated in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon and several communities near the Gaza Strip.

IDF says troops pressing advance in ‘main Hamas stronghold’ of Khan Younis

This handout photo from the Israel Defense Forces on December 8, 2023, shows an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)
This handout photo from the Israel Defense Forces on December 8, 2023, shows an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces says its 98th Division continues to advance in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, which it says is a “main Hamas stronghold,” killing dozens of operatives and destroying tunnels in the process.

The IDF says the 7th Armored Brigade has launched an assault to break Hamas’s lines of defense in southern Gaza, striking dozens of anti-tank missile launch sites and observation posts. It says the forces raided a main outpost belonging to Hamas’s Deir al-Balah battalion, capturing weapons and intelligence materials.

Troops of the Givati Infantry Brigade, 55th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade, and Kiryati Reserve Armored Brigade are surrounding Khan Younis and carrying out “targeted raids” against Hamas sites, the IDF says.

It says that in one of the raids, the troops found Hamas weapons in a school, including rocket launchers, mortar launchers, explosives devices and other equipment.

The Kiryati Brigade troops also captured a Hamas command center inside a mosque, where a number of operatives were holed up, according to the IDF. It says the cell was killed, as was another group of Hamas gunmen that attempted to flee into a tunnel in the area.

The Commando Brigade has carried out raids against what the IDF calls Hamas “centers of gravity” in Khan Younis, including the homes of Hamas operatives. Inside the homes, troops found weaponry and intelligence materials, it says.

Amid the battles, some Hamas fighters have surrendered to troops.

Israel talking with several aid groups about establishing more Gaza field hospitals — official

An aid convoy transporting a Jordanian field hospital enters the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, on November 20, 2023. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)
An aid convoy transporting a Jordanian field hospital enters the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, on November 20, 2023. (Mohammed ABED / AFP)

Yotam Shefer, the head of COGAT’s foreign relations department, tells The Times of Israel that Jerusalem continues to encourage countries abroad and humanitarian organizations to set up field hospitals and floating hospitals in and around Gaza to treat the thousands of Palestinians wounded in the Israel-Hamas war.

Shefer says two field hospitals are currently operating in Gaza — one by the Jordanian government and another by the Emirati government.

Staff from the US-based International Medical Corps is en route to Gaza to set up a third field hospital there and COGAT is also in talks with the Red Cross and several other organizations about following suit, Shefer says.

Two hospital ships docked in the past two weeks off of the Egypt’s El Arish coast — one sent by France that arrived last week and one sent by Italy that arrived this week.

“We also facilitated the entrance of medical teams and medical supplies from various other organizations and countries,” the official from Israel’s COGAT military liaison to the Palestinians says.

Macron defends menorah lighting at Elysee after critics claim disrespect to secularism

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) touches the top of the newly rebuilt spire and cross, during his visit to the reconstruction work at Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, on the Ile de la Cite in Paris, on December 8, 2023. (Christophe Ena/Pool/AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) touches the top of the newly rebuilt spire and cross, during his visit to the reconstruction work at Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, on the Ile de la Cite in Paris, on December 8, 2023. (Christophe Ena/Pool/AFP)

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron feels compelled to justify allowing a Jewish ritual at the Elysee Palace after critics accuse him of failing to respect France’s secular traditions.

During an award ceremony yesterday — at which Macron was handed a prize for his stance against antisemitism — France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia lit the first candle of a menorah — a ceremony that opens the week-long Jewish festival of Hanukkah — as Macron looked on.

Religion and state are separated by law in France, and opposition parties were quick to criticise the president after a video of the event went viral on social media.

Far-left heavyweight Manuel Bompard said on X, formerly Twitter, that Macron had made “an unforgivable political mistake,” while Green party deputy Sandrine Rousseau, also on X, said “it would have been possible to support France’s Jewish community without allowing a religious ceremony into the Elysee.”

But the most impactful reaction came from one of France’s foremost Jewish representatives.

Yonathan Arfi, president of the representative council of Jewish institutions in France (CRIF), said it had been “an error” to kick off Hanukkah in the presidential palace.

“It’s in the DNA of the republic to stay away from anything religious,” he told the Sud Radio broadcaster, adding that he had been “surprised” at the incident.

“Jews in France have always considered secularism as a law of protection and a law of freedom,” he said. “Anything that weakens secularism weakens the Jews of France.”

Asked about the criticism during a visit to the Notre Dame cathedral today, Macron says he had no regrets “at all” and had allowed the celebration “in the spirit of the republic and of harmony.”

He had not himself participated in any religious ritual or ceremony that, he acknowledged, would have been “disrespectful of secularism.”

But “that’s not what happened,” he said.

IDF announces deaths of two reservists fighting in Gaza; toll of slain soldiers from ground op climbs to 93

IDF soldiers Naftali Yonah Gordon (L) and Omri Rot, who were both killed fighting in Gaza on December 8, 2023. (Courtesy)
IDF soldiers Naftali Yonah Gordon (L) and Omri Rot, who were both killed fighting in Gaza on December 8, 2023. (Courtesy)

The IDF announces the deaths of two reservists killed during fighting in the Gaza Strip, bringing the toll of slain soldiers in the ground offensive against Hamas to 93.

They are:

Master Sgt. (res.) Naftali Yonah Gordon, 32, of the 188th Armored Brigade’s 53rd Battalion, from Jerusalem.

Sgt. First Class (res.) Omri Rot, 25, a tank commander in the 188th Armored Brigade’s 53rd Battalion, from Katzrin.

Another soldier of the 53rd Battalion was seriously wounded during fighting in northern Gaza today, the IDF says.

Syrian media reports four killed in alleged Israeli strike on vehicle near border

Vehicle struck in alleged Israeli airstrike on Syrian side of border with Israel on December 8, 2023. (Courtesy)
Vehicle struck in alleged Israeli airstrike on Syrian side of border with Israel on December 8, 2023. (Courtesy)

Syrian media report that four people have been killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike against a vehicle near the border.

According to the pro-government Sham FM station, the strike took place in Madinat al-Baath in the Quneitra province.

It publishes a picture purportedly showing the car that was hit.

There is no comment from the IDF on the alleged attack.

Rocket fragments fall on parked car in Tel Aviv

A car damaged by rocket shrapnel in Tel Aviv on December 8, 2023. (Courtesy)
A car damaged by rocket shrapnel in Tel Aviv on December 8, 2023. (Courtesy)

Following the rocket sirens in Tel Aviv, residents report that shrapnel from a rocket fell on a parked vehicle in the coastal city.

There are no reports of injuries.

Relatives of Oct. 7 murdered and abducted hold rally demanding Netanyahu’s ouster

Ronni Neeman, whose niece was murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7, speaks at a rally calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 8, 2023 (Times of Israel)
Ronni Neeman, whose niece was murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7, speaks at a rally calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 8, 2023 (Times of Israel)

Some 200-300 people gather next to a tent set up beneath the Knesset, by some of the families of those killed and taken hostage on October 7, for a protest event demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resign.

The crowd is given more details of an alleged attempt overnight to set fire to the tent, where several members of the families have been sleeping. The police and other authorities are investigating, the event organizers say, stressing that the tent was erected with all the necessary approvals from the electricity company.

The tent is emblazoned with a banner reading, “Families of the murdered for the ouster of Netanyahu.”

Speaking to a crowd where many are wearing T-shirts demanding that Netanyahu be immediately ousted from power, Ronni Neeman, whose niece Rotem was murdered by Hamas terrorists at the Supernova music festival on October 7, calls on the entire government to step down.

“How can it be that the prime minister under whose watch the most Israelis were murdered and taken hostage has not resigned?” Neeman asks, accusing Netanyahu of “continuing to spread division” among Israelis.

He implores “five MKs” from the pre-war Netanyahu-led coalition to back a vote of so-called “constructive no confidence” to enable the establishment of a new government within 24 hours and elections once the war is over. Just five MKs are needed, he says, “to say, ‘We can’t anymore’.”

Saying he is “ashamed to say” that he was once a member of Netanyahu’s Likud, Neeman denounces Likud members who earlier this week, he says, “incited against the IDF.” Addressing the entire coalition, he declares: “The only thing you can do that is worthwhile is step down. Allow the public not to see you anymore.”

Neeman also claims that Netanyahu is capable of keeping IDF forces deployed in Gaza for longer than absolutely necessary, “because he knows that when the war is over, he’ll be ousted.”

Damage from alleged arson at a tent where families of Israelis killed and taken hostage on October 7 have been sleeping, near the Knesset, December 8, 2023 (Times of Israel)

Rocket sirens sound in Tel Aviv; drone infiltration alarm triggered in Kiryat Shmona

A woman takes cover as a a rocket warning siren sounds during a rally in front the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday Dec. 2, 2023. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
A woman takes cover as a a rocket warning siren sounds during a rally in front the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday Dec. 2, 2023. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Sirens are sounding in Tel Aviv and suburbs following rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, a suspected drone infiltration alarm is sounding in several communities in the Upper Galilee, including the city of Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanon border.

Rocket sirens are also sounding in two communities in the Upper Galilee, Kfar Blum and Neot Mordechai.

The IDF is investigating the cause of the alarms in the north.

Footage shows massive damage to historic Gaza mosque from reported IDF strikes

Damage to al-Omari Mosque in Gaza City from Israel-Hamas war, on December 8, 2023. (Screen capture/X)
Damage to al-Omari Mosque in Gaza City from Israel-Hamas war, on December 8, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

New footage shows the massive extent of damage to the historic al-Omari Mosque in Gaza City.

Palestinian media says the mosque has been hit repeatedly by Israeli fire.

The IDF has not commented on such allegations.

Israel says there are 150 shelters in Gaza that it won’t target in addition to al-Mawasi safe zone

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli ground offensive on the Gaza Strip set up a tent camp in the al-Mawasi area Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
Palestinians displaced by the Israeli ground offensive on the Gaza Strip set up a tent camp in the al-Mawasi area Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Israeli authorities have identified roughly 150 shelters in Gaza that it says will not be targeted by the IDF during its ongoing operations in Gaza, Col. Elad Goren, from Israel’s COGAT military liaison to the Palestinians tells The Times of Israel.

These shelters are in addition to the al-Mawasi area, which Goren says has not been targeted by the IDF, even after terror groups fired rockets from within the 20-square-kilometer coastal safe zone.

The shelters are schools and other public infrastructure, whose coordinates have been passed along by the UN to Israel through the IDF’s recently beefed up deconfliction mechanism, Goren says.

The senior COGAT official says that the 150 buildings will remain safe for civilians pending changes in the IDF’s operations.

US officials have said in recent days that while Israel has expanded some of the safe zones, some Palestinians are still being targeted after fleeing to them.

Blinken: There’s a gap between Israeli intention to protect Gazan civilians and actual results

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron speak during a media availability at the State Department, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron speak during a media availability at the State Department, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday there is has been a gap between Israel’s intent to protect civilians and the actual results on the ground.

Over 16,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, with the IDF saying the ratio between civilians to combatants is roughly two to one.

Blinken during a press conference said that Israel took “some important additional steps” to protect civilians upon launching its ground campaign in the south after the truce ended last Friday.

“The Israelis have been evacuating neighborhoods instead of entire cities,” Blinken noted, also pointing to deconfliction and safe areas established by the IDF in Gaza.

“There does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there — the intent to protect civilians — and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground,” Blinken clarified.

UNRWA director: Gaza on brink of full-blown collapse

Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip outside a morgue in Kahn Younis on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)
Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip outside a morgue in Kahn Younis on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)

“Civil order is breaking down in #Gaza – the streets feel wild, particularly after dark – some aid convoys are being looted and UN vehicles stoned. Society is on the brink of full-blown collapse,” UNRWA director Thomas White tweets.

He says that despite the horrible conditions, UNRWA “continues to serve the population with what limited aid we have.”

Bat Yam announces resident being held in Gaza is no longer alive

Eitan Levy, a taxi driver from Bat Yam, has been missing since he took a passenger to Kibbutz Be'eri on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)
Eitan Levy, a taxi driver from Bat Yam, has been missing since he took a passenger to Kibbutz Be'eri on October 7, 2023 (Courtesy)

The Bat Yam municipality announces that one of its residents being held in Gaza was murdered.

Eitan Levy was believed to have been alive after he was taken hostage on October 7. However, the municipality says it was informed last night by the IDF that Levy is no longer alive.

The 53-year-old was a taxi driver, ferrying a client from central Israel to Kibbutz Be’eri on the Gaza border when the Hamas onslaught began.

The municipality did not share how and when Levy was murdered.

IDF says it destroyed buildings containing Hamas infrastructure at Gaza City’s Al-Azhar University

Weapons found by Israeli troops during a raid in Gaza City's Al-Azhar University, in a handout photo published December 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Weapons found by Israeli troops during a raid in Gaza City's Al-Azhar University, in a handout photo published December 8, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says troops of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 749th Reserve Battalion destroyed buildings containing Hamas infrastructure at Gaza City’s Al-Azhar University.

According to the IDF, on the university campus, troops found a tunnel entrance that leads to a school around a kilometer away. The forces found explosive devices, parts of rockets, launchers and other equipment in the area.

“The findings show that the Hamas terror organization used the university building for the purpose of fighting against our forces,” the IDF says.

Separately, reservists of the 14th Armored Brigade raided a Hamas observation post in the Shati area. The IDF says the troops found 200 handheld radios, dozens of cameras, as well as a tunnel and weapons.

Loud blasts heard in Tel Aviv after Hamas-fired rockets land in Mediterranean

Rockets are launched by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza, October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Hatem Moussa)
Rockets are launched by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza, October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Hatem Moussa)

The Hamas terror group claims to have fired rockets from the Gaza Strip at Tel Aviv.

No sirens sounded in the central city, although residents report hearing large blasts, as the projectiles apparently landed in the sea.

Also during the attack, rocket sirens sounded in the southern town of Nitzanim.

Israelis’ physical, emotional health has deteriorated significantly since Oct. 7 — survey

Col. Asaf Hamami's wife Sapir and son Alon mourn during his funeral in Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2023, (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Col. Asaf Hamami's wife Sapir and son Alon mourn during his funeral in Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2023, (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A survey conducted by Maccabi Healthcare Services indicates that Israelis’ physical and emotional health have deteriorated significantly during the two months since the Israel-Hamas war began.

In the final days of November, Maccabi, Israel’s second-largest health maintenance organization (HMO), surveyed a representative group of 500 Israelis aged 20-75 from all over the country and belonging to all four of Israel’s HMOs. The results of the survey reflect the self-reported information provided by the respondents.

The survey found that one-third of Israelis feel that their health has declined since October 7. Among the quarter of Israelis with chronic diseases, 30 percent said they felt that their condition had worsened.

Over a third of respondents said they had postponed or canceled medical appointments, including important cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies.

Illustrative: Family and friends attend the funeral of Israeli soldier Noa Marciano, who was killed in Hamas captivity, at the military cemetery in Modi’in. November 17, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Reports from HMOs of hugely increased consumption of prescription and non-prescription sleep aids are reflected in the survey’s finding that 63% of Israelis are experiencing sleep disturbances.

Changes in eating and exercise habits were reported, with 36% of Israelis having gained weight and 13% having gone down in weight. Sixty-two percent of people who work out and partake in sports have either reduced their physical activity or stopped altogether.

Half of those surveyed said their emotional health declined as a result of the horrific events of October 7 and the ensuing war. This decline is reflected in an increase of at least 30% in diagnoses of anxiety and depression made by mental healthcare professionals in recent weeks.

Finally, the war has had an impact on addictive behaviors. Among smokers, 56% admitted to smoking more since the war began, and regular drinkers of alcohol said their consumption was up since October 7.

IDF to exhume body, perform autopsy on good Samaritan shot dead by reservist during terror attack

Aviad Frija (left) at a military courtroom, Dec. 5, 2023 (Walla screenshot); Yuval Castleman. (Courtesy)
Aviad Frija (left) at a military courtroom, Dec. 5, 2023 (Walla screenshot); Yuval Castleman. (Courtesy)

The IDF says it will exhume the body of Yuval Castleman, a civilian who was shot by an off-duty reserve soldier at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem last week, to carry out an autopsy for the ongoing investigation.

Castleman’s body was buried following the deadly incident without an autopsy.

In a statement, the IDF says representatives of the Military Advocate General met yesterday with the family of Castleman, to update them on the developments in the investigation.

It says the Military Police “worked to conduct additional tests with relevant professionals, from which new and relevant information emerged” related to the investigation of Castleman’s killing.

The IDF says the new information in the investigation has led to the need for an autopsy to be carried out.

Castleman’s family has agreed to allow the grave to be opened to carry out an autopsy, the IDF says.

“Upon receiving the position and examining all the relevant information, the Military Police’s Investigatory Unit and the Military Advocate General acted to open the grave to transfer the body to the Institute of Forensic Medicine (Abu Kabir) for an autopsy,” the IDF says, adding that the units requested, and received, a court order allowing the body to be exhumed.

Over 200K Palestinians who worked in Israel remain at home two months into war — official

Palestinian workers, who were stranded in Israel since the October 7 attacks, cross back into the Gaza Strip at the Kerem Shalom commercial border crossing with Israel in the south of the Palestinian enclave on November 3, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Palestinian workers, who were stranded in Israel since the October 7 attacks, cross back into the Gaza Strip at the Kerem Shalom commercial border crossing with Israel in the south of the Palestinian enclave on November 3, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Over 200,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip are now entering their third month without working in Israel, as the IDF maintains a partial lockdown over the territories imposed on October 7, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

Some 150,000 Palestinians from the West Bank had permits to enter Israel for work before the war.

An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 more Palestinians from the West Bank were entering illegally for work in what Israel allowed to maintain critical industries such as construction.

Over 17,000 Palestinians from Gaza also had permits to work legally in Israel.

The overwhelming majority of those Palestinians have remained at home since, as Israel has taken steps to disconnect from Gaza while also maintaining significant curbs on movement in the West Bank it says are critical for maintaining security after the October 7 Hamas massacre.

A second source familiar with the matter tells The Times of Israel that Israel began allowing roughly 8,000 Palestinians from the West Bank to return to work in recent weeks.

Palestinian workers, who were stranded in Israel since the October 7 attacks, cross back into the Gaza Strip at the Kerem Shalom commercial border crossing with Israel in the south of the Palestinian enclave on November 3, 2023. (Said Khatib / AFP)

This minority serves in industries that provide essential services, such as sanitation, health services and hospitality, the source says.

The vast majority of these 8,000 Palestinians work in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while those with jobs in the Green Line have largely been unable to return.

The head of the Yesha council of settler mayors Shlomo Ne’eman penned a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week urging him not to allow the Palestinian workers back into the settlements, referring to them as a security threat to residents.

The letter makes no mention of the fact that nearly 8,000 Palestinian workers are already back in the settlements.

Netanyahu was asked about the issue during a press conference this week during which he indicated that the security establishment is pushing for Israel to gradually allow the workers to return, given that mass unemployment in the West Bank risks destabilizing the territory further.

He said the matter would be brought before the security cabinet for debate before any decision was made.

Illustrative: Palestinian workers wait to cross to Israel at the Qalqiliya checkpoint. October 9, 2012 (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The next day, the security cabinet convened but no decision was made on the matter so the Palestinian workers will remain home for the foreseeable future.

This means over $350 million in lost revenue for the West Bank economy each month.

The crisis is compounded due to the monthly tax revenues that the PA hasn’t received from Israel since the war started. Israel decided to deduct some $275 million from the funds that belong to Ramallah, leading the PA to refuse to accept any of the revenues, which make up over 60% of its budget.

Thousands of PA employees have not been receiving their salaries as a result.

Thousands at funeral of Gal Eisenkot; ex-IDF chief: ‘We’ll care for country you loved dearly’

Minister Gadi Eisenkot eulogizes his son Gal at the latter's funeral on December 8, 2023. (Screen capture/Channel 12)
Minister Gadi Eisenkot eulogizes his son Gal at the latter's funeral on December 8, 2023. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

War cabinet minister and former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot speaks at the funeral of his son Gal, who was killed yesterday fighting in Gaza.

Choking up throughout the entirety of the eulogy, Eisenkot recalls a conversation with his son from several years ago during which Gal said that he had really missed his father throughout his childhood during which the elder Eisenkot wasn’t around much due to his role in the IDF.

“I told you mom was there for you throughout all of those years and that I was very proud of the close relationships you had built with your mother and siblings,” Eisenkot says.

Eisenkot says Gal was proud of his family but also wanted to make his way in the army without relying on his father for advancement.

He conducted the tryout for a reconnaissance unit and advanced through the process without initially letting anyone know his last name.

Eisenkot says that when he met his son during last week’s truce, Gal expressed pride at having contributed to the conditions that helped to enable the release of over 100 hostages, particularly the young children.

Wrapping up his speech, the choked-up Eisenkot promises his son that the family will remain happy and united so that his sacrifice will not have been for nothing.

“We’ll take care of the country that you loved so dearly,” Eisenkot says.

“I salute you forever, and I pledge to you that we will do everything we can to be worthy of making the right decisions for those who fell for the country and for those who embrace us in this difficult time.”

Several high-level functionaries and politicians are among the thousands attending the Herzliya funeral, including President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mourners line up to hug the Eisenkots, as Gadi shields his face with dark sunglasses.

UN Security Council to vote today on resolution urging Gaza ceasefire

The UN Security Council is set to meet later today for a vote on urging an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, after UN chief Antonio Guterres took the extraordinary step of invoking the UN charter’s Article 99 to call the vote this week.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says that since Wednesday the UN chief has spoken with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and their counterparts from several other countries.

The latest version of the resolution seen by AFP calls the humanitarian situation in Gaza “catastrophic” and “demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

The short text also calls for the protection of civilians, the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages Hamas is still holding, and humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.

The outcome of a vote is not clear — four earlier drafts presented since the war broke out were rejected by the Security Council.

The United States, which rejects the idea of a ceasefire, has said a new resolution from the council at this stage would not be “useful.” It is thought likely to wield its Security Council veto and shield Israel from any such step.

“We again think that the best thing that we can do, all of us, for the situation on the ground, is to let the quiet, behind-the-scene diplomacy that is happening, continue,”  deputy US ambassador, Robert Wood said Thursday.

Funeral begins for Gal Eisenkot, Netanyahu, Herzog attend

A funeral is beginning for Gal Eisenkot, son of war cabinet minister and former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot.

Several high-level functionaries and politicians are among the thousands attending the Herzliya funeral, including President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mourners line up to hug the Eisenkots, as Gadi shields his face with dark sunglasses.

No injuries as four rockets fired at Sderot

Four rockets were fired out of Gaza at Sderot, the municipality says, reporting that two were knocked out of the sky by the Iron Dome air defense system.

The others landed in open areas within municipal boundaries, Sderot says in a statement.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

Rocket alarms in Sderot, breaking lull

Rocket alarms have gone off in Sderot and several surrounding areas, for the first time in some 24 hours.

Rocket attacks out of Gaza have seemingly slowed to a bare trickle, with only a handful of attacks into Israel over the past day, the last coming at 7 p.m.

Sderot was only targeted once on Thursday, also at around 10 a.m.

Rockets target US mission in Baghdad’s Green Zone

The US embassy in Baghdad is urging Iraq’s government to protect its personnel, after rockets targeted the diplomatic mission in the city’s high-security Green Zone on Friday.

“We again call on the government of Iraq… to protect diplomatic and coalition partner personnel and facilities,” an embassy spokesperson said in a statement, after “two salvos of rockets” were fired at the mission without causing any reported casualties.

US forces in Iraq and Syria have been repeatedly targeted over the last two months by Iran-backed militias opposed to Israel’s war against Hamas.

Arson suspected after fire at Knesset tent vigil for October 7 victims

Authorities are reportedly investigating if a tent set up outside the Knesset where families of those killed and kidnapped on October 7 have been holding vigil may have been set on fire intentionally.

Nobody was injured in the Thursday night blaze, which damaged only a corner of the tent, thanks to the quick work of those inside, who put out the flames after smelling smoke, according to organizers.

A social media account representing those who set up the tent says police ruled out an electrical fire and are looking into the possibility of arson.

“Given the threats we’ve been subjected to the last few weeks, it would not be a surprise,” a tweet reads.

 

PA raises toll to 6 killed in West Bank clashes

Palestinian health authorities in the West Bank have raised the death toll from clashes in the al-Faraa refugee camp to six.

They are not identified.

There is no comment from the IDF.

Five Palestinians reported killed in northern West Bank clashes

Five Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the northern West Bank, Palestinian authorities say.

The Palestinian Wafa news agency reports that Israeli forces raided the al-Faraa refugee camp north of Nablus, setting off skirmishes.

An unspecified number of people are also injured, Wafa says.

There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

Gunfire, blasts and smoke can be seen and heard in footage from the scene.

Army says it hit over 450 sites in Gaza in past day

A soldier operating in the Gaza Strip, in a handout photo released by the Israeli military on December 8, 2023. (IDF)
A soldier operating in the Gaza Strip, in a handout photo released by the Israeli military on December 8, 2023. (IDF)

The IDF says it carried out strikes on more than 450 targets in the Gaza Strip over the past day, as ground operations continue.

The sites include military compounds, observation posts, and weapons depots, according to the IDF.

Troops of the 7th Armored Brigade directed several Israeli Air Force drones to carry out strikes against Hamas operatives in the Khan Younis area, it says.

According to the IDF, the series of strikes lasted some two hours, and “numerous” Hamas operatives were killed.

In another incident, three Hamas operatives who were identified by troops were targeted by another IAF drone.

The IDF says two were killed, while the third revealed a hideout of additional operatives, from which they planned to fire rockets at Israel.

The Israeli Navy has also been carrying out strikes in Gaza over the past day, using guided munitions and shells.

The IDF says the Navy hit sites belonging to the Hamas naval forces, in central and southern Gaza.

Israel strikes gunmen on Lebanon border, retaliates for Syrian fire on Golan

The Israel Defense Forces says it carried out a drone strike on a group of armed operatives in the contested Mount Dov area on the Lebanon border overnight.

The incident comes amid repeated attacks by the Hezbollah terror group and allied Palestinian factions on northern Israel.

The IDF also confirms that it struck targets in Syria early this morning, in response to rocket fire on the Golan last night.

The two projectiles had landed in open areas near Buq’ata, causing no damage.

US said working with Ramallah on post-war Gaza plan, which PA hopes includes Hamas

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attends a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 16, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Pool Photo via AP)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh attends a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 16, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Pool Photo via AP)

Ramallah is working with US President Joe Biden’s administration on a plan for running Gaza after the war there, even as the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister expresses hope terror group Hamas will be a partner in the process, Bloomberg reports.

According to the news outlet, citing a senior Palestinian official, US officials recently met with premier Mohammed Shtayyeh on a plan for post-war Gaza.

“We’re not going to go there on an Israeli military plan,” Shtayyeh is quoted saying. “Our people are there. We need to put together a mechanism, something we’re working on with the international community.”

Israel says it is committed to eliminating Hamas to defend itself, a goal supported by the US, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also rebuffed the idea of the PA running Gaza.

Shtayyeh says Israel cannot eliminate Hamas, and despite the rival group’s recent slaughter of some 1,000 Israeli civilians, looks forward to working with the terror organization, refusing to condemn the October 7 attack.

“Hamas before October 7 is one thing and after it is another thing,” says Shtayyeh. “If they are ready to come to an agreement and accept the political platform of the PLO, then there will be room for talk. Palestinians should not be divided.”

He says the group cannot be eliminated. “Hamas is in Lebanon, everybody knows Hamas leadership is in Qatar and they are here in the West Bank,” he adds.

The outlet reports that Shtayyeh is set to fly to Qatar in a bid to get Doha to start sending money to the PA instead of to Hamas.

Soldier said killed by friendly fire from attack chopper

An Israeli Air Force AH-64 Apache attack helicopter releases flares during an Israeli army raid in Jenin in the West Bank on June 19, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
An Israeli Air Force AH-64 Apache attack helicopter releases flares during an Israeli army raid in Jenin in the West Bank on June 19, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

An Israeli helicopter gunship mistakenly fired on a building while IDF troops were inside, killing one of the soldiers, the Ynet news site reports.

According to the report, ground troops had requested air support after a group of Hamas operatives were identified nearby, but an Apache combat helicopter dispatched to fire on the gunmen struck the wrong building, due to “the deployment of incorrect fire from the ground” by the soldiers, the report says.

The IDF in response to the report says the incident is under investigation. The soldier, who is not identified, was already named among the 91 Israeli troops fatalities.

Ynet says there have been similar such cases, but none of them with fatalities, though dozens have been killed or injured in other types of so-called friendly fire in the Gaza Strip amid the ground offensive.

Nonetheless, the IDF has consistently praised cooperation between different branches of the military, especially aircraft providing air support to troops on the ground.

The military has said it is constantly assessing the ongoing fighting, including the cases of friendly fire, and quickly implementing lessons learned.

Only 69 aid trucks entered Gaza Thursday, UN says

Fewer than 70 trucks of humanitarian aid entered Gaza yesterday,  the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says, revealing a figure far below what the US and international aid groups have been seeking.

The US has told Israel it wants the amount of aid that entered Gaza during last week’s truce to be sustained and built on moving forward.

Two-hundred trucks of aid entered Gaza each day during the truce, but since it expired last Friday the daily number of trucks hasn’t ever even been more than half that figure, and on Thursday it fell to 69 trucks.

Israel has blamed the UN for the fall-off in the number of trucks being let into Gaza, while international aid groups say delivery is curbed by the ongoing IDF bombing campaign.

After the Wednesday Israeli cabinet decision to allow more fuel into Gaza, 61,000 liters of it entered the Strip on Thursday, OCHA says.

This is just one-third of the amount requested by the US to support the humanitarian effort, but Israel has told Washington it will work to double the number in the coming days and later reach 180,000 liters per day.

OpenAI’s Altman says he was wrong to call antisemitism overblown

Founder and CEO of US artificial intelligence company OpenAI Sam Altman speaks at the Tel Aviv University in the eponymous Israeli city, on June 5, 2023. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Founder and CEO of US artificial intelligence company OpenAI Sam Altman speaks at the Tel Aviv University in the eponymous Israeli city, on June 5, 2023. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Sam Altman, the Jewish tech entrepreneur behind artificial intelligence juggernaut OpenAI, says he was “totally wrong” to downplay the existence of American anti-semitism.

“for a long time i said that antisemitism, particularly on the american left, was not as bad as people claimed. i’d like to just state that i was totally wrong,” he writes in a post on X.

Altman, who was named TIME magazine’s CEO of the year this week, does not elaborate on what triggered the about-face, but it comes as attention has focused on anti-Jewish rhetoric on college campuses and at demonstrations against Israel’s war against Hamas.

“i still don’t understand it, really. or know what to do about it. but it is so fucked,” he concludes.

Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza, friends say

Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, one of the leaders of a young generation of authors in Gaza who chose to write in English to tell their stories, was killed in an Israeli strike, his friends say.

“My heart is broken, my friend and colleague Refaat Alareer was killed with his family a few minutes ago,” Gazan poet Mosab Abu Toha writes on Facebook. “I don’t want to believe this. We both loved to pick strawberries together.”

Alareer had said a few days after Israel began its ground offensive in October that he refused to leave northern Gaza, the epicenter of the fighting at the time.

Alareer, a professor of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, where he taught Shakespeare among other subjects, was also one of the co-founders of the “We are not numbers” project, which pairs authors from Gaza with mentors abroad who help them write stories in English about their experiences.

On October 7, he was invited onto the BBC, where he praised Hamas’s onslaught into southern Israel, calling the massacre of Israeli civilians “legitimate and moral,” and likening the slaughter to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

IDF announces deaths of two reserves soldiers, bringing Gaza ground op toll to 91

Master sergeant (res.) Eyal Meir Berkowitz, 28, of the 551st Brigade’s 699th Battalion, from Jerusalem, was killed while fighting in Gaza on December 7, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Master sergeant (res.) Eyal Meir Berkowitz, 28, of the 551st Brigade’s 699th Battalion, from Jerusalem, was killed while fighting in Gaza on December 7, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF announces the deaths this morning of two reserves soldiers killed yesterday while fighting in Gaza, raising the military death toll of the ground offensive against Hamas since late October to 91.

They are:

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Kobi Dvash, 41, of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 271st Battalion, from Tiberias.

Master Sgt. (res.) Eyal Meir Berkowitz, 28, of the 551st Brigade’s 699th Battalion, from Jerusalem.

Dvash was killed in southern Gaza, while Berkowitz was killed in the Strip’s north.

In addition, an officer from the Oketz canine special forces unit was seriously wounded during fighting in northern Gaza yesterday and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Biden sends ‘Happy Hanukkah’ wishes, White House lights first candle

The White House lit candles on the first night of Hanukkah tonight, the Jewish festival of lights.

US President Joe Biden posted a photo of the lit menorah at the White House.

“The story of Hanukkah teaches us that even a little bit of light, wherever it is found, can dispel the darkness and illuminate a path forward. From our family to yours, Jill and I wish you and your loved ones a Chanukah Sameach, a Happy Hanukkah!” the president wrote on X.

Ben Gvir instructs prison service to use underground wing to incarcerate Hamas terrorists

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has instructed Israel Prison Service Commissioner Katy Perry to make preparations to incarcerate Hamas terrorists captured during the October 7 shock onslaught on southern Israel in a little-used underground wing of the Nitzan prison in the central city of Ramle, according to Hebrew media reports.

The underground wing has not been in use for many years and offers minimal imprisonment conditions, the reports say.

Ynet reports that about 100 terrorists can be held in the underground wing, according to estimates.

Perry said on October 17 that Israel was holding some 118 “unlawful combatants” from Gaza, in reference to the Hamas terrorists captured on and after October 7, although more recent figures have not been released.

Ben Gvir, whose office oversees the prison service, said “the policy we are leading now is minimal conditions for these heinous murderers.”

Biden repeats commitment to boost humanitarian aid to Gaza in call with Jordanian king

US President Joe Biden spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah II tonight to discuss “the latest developments in Gaza,” after an earlier call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden says he reiterated his “commitment to increasing the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” and that the two leaders “agreed we cannot stop working together towards a durable, sustainable peace in the Middle East.”

Shots fired at Albany synagogue with on-site preschool; suspect in custody

(New York Jewish Week via JTA) — Shots were fired at Temple Israel in Albany tonight, the first night of Hanukkah, as US Jews grapple with a surge in antisemitism following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the Israeli military response in Gaza.

There were no injuries in the shooting on the premises of the Conservative synagogue in New York’s capital, Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement, adding that she had spoken with the congregation’s rabbi. She said in a press briefing, however, that the synagogue has an on-site early learning center “with at least two dozen children, preschoolers, who were on the premises.”

She added that the facility went into lockdown but that all children have been released safely to their parents.

A 28-year-old male is in custody, said Hochul’s press secretary, Avi Small.

The suspect shouted “Free Palestine” during the incident, Albany’s Times Union reported, citing police and another source.

Hochul said she had directed the New York State Police and the state’s national guard to be on high alert and step up patrols of at-risk sites for Hanukkah, such as synagogues, yeshivas and community centers throughout the state — including New York City, which is home to the largest Jewish population in the United States.

“Any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining public safety at a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah is even more deplorable,” Hochul said. “We reject hate, antisemitism and violence in all forms.”

Hochul visited the synagogue on Oct. 7 in a show of solidarity amid Hamas’s attack.

The governor said that following Thursday’s incident, she had contacted Temple Israel’s Rabbi Wendy Love Anderson, and “assured her that the state of New York will do everything possible to restore the sense of security her congregation needs at this time,” adding that she plans to attend Shabbat services there this Friday evening.

In the briefing, Hochul noted that the synagogue had been one of several targeted with bomb threats in September.

There was no immediate public comment on the incident from the synagogue or the Albany police department.

Law enforcement and Jewish community security groups have reported a surge in antisemitism since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

In New York City, the NYPD reported 62 antisemitic hate crimes last month and 69 attacks in October, a steep increase. Anti-Jewish incidents made up 65% of all hate crimes reported to police last month. There is no comparable data available for antisemitic hate crimes in upstate New York.

Synagogues and other Jewish institutions have been targeted in the wave of hate crimes. On Friday, bomb threats were made against 15 synagogues in New York State, including five in upstate areas.

“The bottom line is this: The safety of Jewish New Yorkers is non-negotiable,” Hochul said in the briefing. “Every act, whether it’s verbal or physical, any act of antisemitism is unacceptable, and undermining the public safety at our synagogue, on the first night of Hanukkah, is even more deplorable.”

“I remind everyone: As New Yorkers, this is not who we are. This must stop, ” she added. “We reject hate, antisemitism, Islamophobia. All hate crimes must stop, and all violence in every form must cease. We have no tolerance for these acts of evil that have now permeated our society.”

White House slams US Muslim leader’s ‘shocking, antisemitic’ remarks on Oct. 7 Hamas attacks

The White House says it condemns “in the strongest terms” the “shocking, antisemitic” remarks that surfaced earlier today by the founder and executive director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) following Hamas’s shock October 7 attacks on Israel.

Nihad Awad said in a speech during the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) convention in Chicago last month that he was “happy to see people breaking the siege and throwing down the shackles of their own land, and walk free into their land, which they were not allowed to walk in,” referring to the unprecedented onslaught two months ago when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst through the enclave’s border with Israel and massacred 1,200 people and took some 240 hostage.

“And yes, the people of Gaza have the right to self-defense, have the right to defend themselves, and yes, Israel, as an occupying power, does not have that right to self-defense.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates says “The horrific, brutal terrorist attacks committed by Hamas on October 7th were, as President Biden said, ‘abhorrent’ and represent ‘unadulterated evil.’ October 7th was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

“The atrocities of that day shock the conscience, which is why we can never forget the pain Hamas has caused for so many innocent people. There are families who are in agony mourning loves ones, and there are also families in agony as they do everything in their power to free loved ones being held hostage,” Bates says in a statement.

“Every leader has a responsibility to call out antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head,’ he says.

Blinken: ‘Gap’ remains between Israel’s intent to protect Gaza civilians and results on the ground

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting with human rights leaders at the State Department, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting with human rights leaders at the State Department, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there is “a gap” between what Israel pledged to do to protect Palestinian civilians and the results so far since it began intensive military operations against Hamas in the southern Gaza Strip.

Blinken says it remains “imperative” that Israel do more to ensure civilians are not killed or wounded as it seeks to eradicate Hamas from Gaza. He recalled that Israeli officials had assured him on a visit to Israel last week that they would take extra precautions to protect civilian life. He said he raised the issue again on Thursday.

“As we stand here almost a week into this campaign in the south and after the end of the humanitarian pause, it is imperative, it remains imperative, that Israel put a premium on civilian protection,” Blinken told reporters at a joint news conference in Washington with visiting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

“And there does remain a gap between exactly what I said when I was there, between the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground,” he said.

A senior US State Department official said Blinken spoke earlier Thursday with Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer to say the US was pleased with new deliveries of fuel to Gaza but still wants to see those and other assistance deliveries increased.

At the same time, Blinken told Dermer that civilian casualties remain too high and that Israel must step up its efforts to reduce them, according to the official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the private diplomatic discussion.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Biden stresses need for Red Cross visits to hostages during call with PM — White House

US President Joe Biden is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv, October 18, 2023. (Evan Vucci/AP)
US President Joe Biden is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv, October 18, 2023. (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden expressed his deep concern regarding the roughly 135 hostages still in Gaza and reiterated the need for the Red Cross to be permitted to visit them, during his latest phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier today, the White House says in its readout of what was the 16th call between the two leaders since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.

Biden agreed that last week’s truce fell apart because of “Hamas’s refusal to release young women, civilian hostages,” the White House says. “The leaders agreed to remain deeply engaged to pursue every possible opportunity to free the remaining hostages.”

Biden underscored the importance of a sustained flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, giving a nod to the cabinet’s decision to expand fuel deliveries “but stressed that much more assistance was urgently required across the board,” the White House readout says.

The US president also raised the need for Israel to do more to protect innocent Palestinians and separate civilians from combatants through humanitarian corridors that allow safe movement away from defined areas of hostilities, according to the White House.

“Biden reiterated his concern about extremist violence committed against Palestinians and the need to increase stability in the West Bank,” the readout adds.

Abraham Accords under Trump ‘didn’t contain any step forward for Palestinians’ — Biden offical

File: In this September 15, 2020 photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan pose for a photo on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
File: In this September 15, 2020 photo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan pose for a photo on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US Deputy National Security Council Adviser Jon Finer acknowledges the importance of the Abraham Accords and stresses the Biden administration’s plans to build on those normalization agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

However, Finer knocks the Trump administration’s strategy concerning the Abraham Accords, saying “they did not contain anything that amounted to a step forward for Palestinians.”

“We think that is an important part of Israeli-Saudi normalization. We think the Saudis would support that too, especially in light of the current conflict that has broken out. That will have to be a piece of the puzzle going forward,” Finer says.

Finer: ‘Revitalized’ PA can include Abbas, whose forces working with IDF in tough W. Bank conditions

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

The Biden administration has stressed that the Palestinian Authority will have to be “revitalized” after the war in order for it to be capable of returning to govern Gaza

US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer is asked whether this means current PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is serving the 18th year of a four-year term, will have to step down in order for that revitalization to occur.

“Not necessarily,” Finer tells the Aspen Security Forum.

“There is no other game in town right now, in terms of an organized, institutionalized Palestinian political entity,” Finer stresses.

He notes that the PA comes under criticism from many Republicans in Congress and from Israeli officials. However, Finer points out that Ramallah is “cooperating very closely with the IDF” to maintain security in the West Bank, even though it is extremely unpopular internally, as Israel tightens its grip on the West Bank.

He acknowledges that the PA is not perfect and indicates that Palestinian elections are needed. This “is why we use terms like revamped and revitalized,” Finer says, while insisting that the PA is “going to be an essential part of any Palestinian future.”

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu all but shut the door to a PA return to Gaza on Wednesday. “Those who educate their children in terrorism, finance terrorism and support the families of terrorists will not be allowed to rule Gaza after Hamas is eliminated,” he tweeted, referring to the PA’s welfare payments, which include stipends to Palestinian terror inmates and their families.

But Finer didn’t appear phased by Netanyahu’s comments.

“I would caution… against taking an initial pronouncement… as the definitive, final statement or else we would not be getting any humanitarian assistance into Gaza, any foreign passport holders out of Gaza or any pauses related to the negotiations of the hostages,” he says of successful US efforts to move the parties from initial rejectionist positions.

Moreover, Finer says he understands Netanyahu’s comments on the PA to mean he opposes the PA returning to Gaza “exactly as currently constituted.” The US opposes this as well, which is why it has called for Ramallah to be “revitalized.”

Still, he insists that “the PA is going to have to play an important role, not just in the West Bank, but ultimately in Gaza as well.”

Biden has put more more pressure on Israel regarding settler violence than any predecessor — aide

File: IDF soldiers scuffle with settlers from the Einav settlement trying to storm the town of Deir Sharaf in the Nablus governorate of the West Bank on November 2, 2023, after an Israeli was killed when his car came under fire. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
File: IDF soldiers scuffle with settlers from the Einav settlement trying to storm the town of Deir Sharaf in the Nablus governorate of the West Bank on November 2, 2023, after an Israeli was killed when his car came under fire. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

US President Joe Biden has put more pressure on Israel regarding settler violence than any of his predecessors, US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer tells the Aspen Security Forum.

Finer uses the recently announced visa ban on dozens of settlers and Palestinians behind violent attacks in the West Bank.

Finer says that in addition to freedom of movement restrictions by Israel, settler violence is one of the many “impediment[s] to basic, functioning human life” for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Proportionality under international law isn’t based off numbers alone, says senior US official

Palestinians evacuate a wounded woman in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (AP/Mohammed Dahman)
Palestinians evacuate a wounded woman in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (AP/Mohammed Dahman)

US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer acknowledges during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum that there have been instances in which the IDF directed Gazans to flee to areas where it ultimately conducted strikes.

He indicates that these cases are ones of “targets of opportunity” when an attack is approved with little planning after unexpected intelligence is discovered at the last minute.

“When that’s one thing happens, we raise it directly with the government of Israel,” he says while stressing the importance of Israel establishing clearly communicated deconfliction mechanisms.

Finer is then asked whether the IDF stated two-to-one ratio of civilians to combatants killed in Gaza is sufficient for the US.

“International law on… the concept of proportionality is not spelled out in terms of absolute formula,” he responds.

“It’s not, this or that ratio means you’re either above the line or below the line. We’re less focused on that calculus, which is a bit ineffable, and more focused on when issues arise that we raise our concerns…I think we’ve had some success with that,” Finer adds.

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