ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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Feb. 11: IDF conducts intensive strikes on ‘significant’ Rafah targets; Hamas: Over 50 killed

Biden tells PM he can’t launch Rafah push without plan to protect civilians * Abbas in Qatar for talks

  • Rescue workers survey the scene following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
    Rescue workers survey the scene following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
  • Rescue workers survey the scene following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
    Rescue workers survey the scene following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
  • People assess the damage caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 9, 2024, (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
    People assess the damage caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 9, 2024, (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
  • US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
    US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
  • Police detain protesters calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 11, 2024. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
    Police detain protesters calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 11, 2024. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
  • Protesters call for the release of Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, February 10, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
    Protesters call for the release of Israelis held kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, February 10, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they occurred.

The liveblog continues at a new address

We are changing to a new day and a new liveblog.

You can keep following the latest updates here.

Two rescued hostages in good condition, arrive at Ramat Gan hospital

A military helicopter arrives at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan with two hostages rescued from Gaza in a military operation, February 12, 2024 (IDF)
A military helicopter arrives at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan with two hostages rescued from Gaza in a military operation, February 12, 2024 (IDF)

The two rescued hostages are in good condition and have arrived at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan for examination.

IDF safely rescues 2 hostages from Rafah in special operation

Rescued hostages Norberto Louis Har (L) and Fernando Simon Marman 
(Courtesy)
Rescued hostages Norberto Louis Har (L) and Fernando Simon Marman (Courtesy)

In only the second such successful operation of its kind since October 7, the IDF announces it has managed to safely rescue two hostages from Hamas captivity in Gaza.

The two, Fernando Simon Marman (60) and Norberto Louis Har (70) were extracted in a joint operation by the IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police in Rafah.

They were kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7.

West Bank settler population grew by nearly 3% in 2023 — report

File: This photo shows a construction site of new housing projects in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev, June 18, 2023 (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, File)
File: This photo shows a construction site of new housing projects in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev, June 18, 2023 (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg, File)

The population of Israeli settlers in the West Bank grew nearly 3% in 2023, according to a new report based on population statistics from the government.

The report, released Sunday by the pro-settler group WestBankJewishPopulationStats.com, found the settler population jumped to 517,407 as of Dec. 31, from 502,991 a year earlier.

The settler population has grown over 15% in the last five years, the report says. Last year, it passed the half-million mark, a major threshold.

This year’s report predicts “accelerated growth” in the coming years, claiming the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which triggered the current war in Gaza, persuaded many Israelis who were formerly opposed to settlement-building to change positions.

“Serious cracks have indeed developed in the wall of opposition to Jewish settlement of the West Bank,” it says.

Hamas says more than 50 people killed in Israeli strikes on Rafah

Rescue workers survey the scene following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
Rescue workers survey the scene following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

At least 52 people were killed in heavy air strikes on densely crowded Rafah in southern Gaza before dawn, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The strikes hit 14 houses and three mosques in different parts of Rafah, according to the Hamas government.

The Israeli military said in a statement it conducted a series of strikes on terror targets in the area.

Hamas does not differentiate between combatant and civilian fatalities.

At least 7 people killed in Israeli strikes on Rafah — Hamas authorities

Heavy air strikes in Rafah killed at least seven people, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

AFP journalists and witnesses heard an intense series of strikes and saw smoke billowing above the city.

IDF confirms wave of airstrikes against ‘significant’ targets in Rafah

The IDF confirms it carried out a wave of airstrikes against “significant” targets in the Shaboura area in southern Gaza’s Rafah.

It says the strikes have concluded, and does not immediately provide further information.

Palestinian Red Crescent: ‘Violent’ Israeli strikes on Gaza’s Rafah

A statement from the Palestinian Red Crescent says ‘violent’ Israeli strikes have been launched on Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

There are no immediate details on the targets of the strikes or casualties.

US defense chief Austin taken to hospital again with ‘bladder issue’

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Pentagon press briefing at the Pentagon, Washington, DC, on February 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Pentagon press briefing at the Pentagon, Washington, DC, on February 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was taken to the hospital again on Sunday, a Pentagon spokesman says, this time “for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue,” weeks after previous stays he controversially kept secret.

Austin effectively vanished from the public eye for treatment for prostate cancer in December and again in January after suffering complications from the procedure, having initially concealed both the diagnosis and treatment from President Joe Biden and the rest of the government.

This time, the public was alerted around two hours after the 70-year-old was sent to the hospital on Sunday afternoon, with Defense Department press secretary Pat Ryder saying in a statement that military, White House and congressional officials had all been notified.

Austin “was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center,” Ryder says.

“The Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been notified. Additionally, White House and Congressional notifications have occurred.”

It is not immediately clear whether Austin had been admitted yet or how long he would stay, though Ryder notes that the defense chief brought along classified communications systems and would be retaining “the functions and duties of his office.”

Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum killed in Kenya car crash

File: Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum crosses the finish line to win the men's race at the London Marathon in London, Sunday, April 23, 2023 (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
File: Kenya's Kelvin Kiptum crosses the finish line to win the men's race at the London Marathon in London, Sunday, April 23, 2023 (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Marathon world record-holder Kelvin Kiptum died in a car crash in Kenya late Sunday, a fellow athlete who went to the hospital and saw the body says. He was 24.

Kiptum’s coach was also killed in the crash, Kenyan runner Milcah Chemos says. The crash happened on a road between the towns of Eldoret and Kaptagat in western Kenya, she says, in the heart of the high-altitude region that’s renowned as a training base for long distance runners.

Chemos says she was among a group of athletes who had gone to the hospital in Eldoret after hearing the news of the crash. Family members of Kiptum were also with them to identify his body, Chemos says.

Kiptum was the first man to run the marathon in under 2 hours, 1 minute. He set the new world record of 2:00.35 at the Chicago Marathon in October, beating the mark of fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge.

Kiptum’s record was ratified by international track federation World Athletics last week.

NATO chief: Trump puts allies at risk saying Russia can ‘do whatever the hell they want’

The head of the NATO military alliance warns that Donald Trump is putting the safety of US troops and their allies at risk after the Republican presidential front-runner said Russia should be able to do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who don’t meet their defense spending targets.

“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says in a statement.

Speaking Saturday at a rally in Conway, South Carolina, Trump recalled how as president he told an unidentified NATO member that he would “encourage” Russia to do as it wishes in cases of NATO allies who are “delinquent.”

“‘You didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’” Trump recounted saying. “‘No I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay. You gotta pay your bills.’”

In 2014, NATO allies pledged to move toward spending 2% of GDP on defense by 2024. According to NATO estimates in early 2023, 10 of its 30 member states at the time were close to or above the 2% mark, while 13 were spending 1.5% or less. No country is in debt to any other, or to NATO.

Biden slams Trump’s ‘appalling and dangerous’ NATO comments

US President Joe Biden slams as “appalling and dangerous” comments by Donald Trump downplaying US commitments to NATO, warning Sunday that the former president intends to give Russian leader Vladimir Putin “a greenlight for more war and violence.”

“Donald Trump’s admission that he intends to give Putin a greenlight for more war and violence, to continue his brutal assault against a free Ukraine, and to expand his aggression to the people of Poland and the Baltic States are appalling and dangerous,” Biden says in a statement a day after Trump made the comments in a speech.

Israel notifies PA of death of Palestinian suspect who allegedly tried to stab soldiers in West Bank

The Palestinian Authority health ministry says it has been notified by Israeli authorities of the death of a Palestinian man who allegedly tried to stab soldiers near the West Bank village of Husan earlier.

The ministry names him as 35-year-old Rami Rashid Al-Batha.

The IDF said earlier that troops shot a Palestinian man who tried to stab them near Husan.

The suspect’s body is apparently being held by Israeli authorities.

US Senator Fetterman: ‘There’s only one clear right side and that’s with Israel’

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., holds a small Israel flag as he heads to the chamber for a vote, at the Capitol in Washington, January 25, 2024. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., holds a small Israel flag as he heads to the chamber for a vote, at the Capitol in Washington, January 25, 2024. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

US Senator John Fetterman, a Democrat in Pennsylvania who has been a vocal supporter of Israel since the outbreak of the war, says he will continue to stand by Israel even given the attacks he has been subjected to by pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activists and protesters over the past few months.

Fetterman has been hounded at his home and at his office — which is adorned with Israeli flags as well as posters of the hostages held in Gaza — by protesters accusing him of supporting “genocide.”

He has responded by waving Israeli flags at them on multiple occasions.

“It’s been incredibly easy to be on the right side, and I believe the right side is with Israel,” he tells Channel 12 tonight.

“It’s my job as a senator to be on the right side on any issue. And after what happened, especially after October 7, there’s really only one clear right side and that’s with Israel,” he says in response to a question on how he has been navigating the protests.

The senator has met with families of hostages in Gaza on a number of occasions and says he was “blown away” by their “grace and poise,” in light of the horrific events of October 7.

“I was struggling to maintain my composure, because I can imagine, I have three young children…and I can’t imagine what if they’ve been there,” he says.

Amid vocal calls for a ceasefire after four months of war, he says: “If you’re going to protest demanding a ceasefire, why aren’t you instead demanding that the hostages be brought home again, and why aren’t you demanding that Hamas surrender?”

“All of the death and trauma and damage would stop in that moment. Until Hamas can be effectively neutralized, I can never support a ceasefire, until every last hostage is brought back home,” he says.

Asked if he is concerned about the upcoming presidential election, and the growing anger with US President Biden over his own support for Israel, Fetterman says he is “concerned about the election, but concerned doesn’t mean I don’t believe President Biden is going to win. I really do fundamentally believe that he will.”

“It’s a difficult situation and he’s been able to navigate all of that as well too,” he says.

One person wounded at scene of suspected stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says its medics are treating one person wounded at the scene of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The man was lightly hurt in the leg by shrapnel from gunfire toward the assailant.

The suspect who tried to stab officers was “neutralized,” police said earlier.

Troops shoot Palestinian who attempted stabbing attack in West Bank

The IDF says troops shot a Palestinian who attempted to stab them near the West Bank village of Husan.

The soldiers were patrolling a highway near the village when the Palestinian assailant tried to stab them, the IDF says.

No soldiers are hurt.

The suspect’s condition is not immediately known.

US sees ‘real progress’ on framework for hostage releases, says senior official

Negotiators working on a phased framework deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages held by the Islamist terror group Hamas in Gaza have made “real progress” over the last few weeks, a senior Biden administration official says.

The hostage release deal was the main focus of a 45-minute telephone call between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier.

Although there were still some “significant” gaps to close, the official says, “It’s pretty much there.”

Biden in the call stressed that the United States did not support an Israeli military operation in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza, without a plan to ensure the safety of civilians. Some 1.3 million people are sheltering in Gaza’s southernmost city.

Troops nab 20 terror operatives holed up at Al-Amal Hospital in Gaza’s Khan Younis.

The IDF says troops nabbed some 20 terror operatives who were holed up at Al-Amal Hospital in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis.

The Givati Infantry Brigade, Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit, and other special forces operated in the area of the hospital over the past week, following intelligence information of Hamas’s use of the premises.

The IDF says soldiers captured 20 terror operatives, including Hamas members, who were hiding in the hospital. They were brought to Israel for further questioning.

According to the IDF, the operation at Al-Amal was carried out in coordination with hospital staff.

It says troops scanned the premises in an “accurate and selective way,” without opening fire, to not disrupt the hospital’s functioning.

The IDF says no staff or patients were harmed in the operation.

After the raid, the IDF facilitated the delivery of more than 20 oxygen tanks and other medical equipment to the hospital.

The IDF says troops were briefed before the operation on “the importance of preventing harm to patients, medical staff, civilians, and medical equipment, in accordance with international law.”

“This operation once again proves the cynical modus operandi of the Hamas terror organization, which uses hospitals and the civilian population to hide terrorists,” the IDF says.

Gantz builds strong lead over Netanyahu in new poll

Minister Benny Gantz, right, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister Benny Gantz, right, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Benny Gantz’s National Unity party is widening its lead over Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and would be well-placed to form a strong coalition if elections were held today, according to a new Channel 12 poll.

The survey, conducted by Mano Geva / Midgam, shows the anti-Netanyahu bloc swelling to 70 Knesset seats out of 120, led by Gantz’s National Unity party with 37 seats. The Netanyahu bloc would garner 45 seats, the poll shows.

According to the survey, the Likud party would garner 18 seats, down sharply from the 32 seats it won in December 2022. Its current coalition partners Shas, United Torah Judaism, and Otzma Yehudit led by far-right minister Itamar Ben Gvir would draw 11, seven and nine seats respectively.

The leading opposition party, Yesh Atid led by Yair Lapid, would draw 15 seats, down from 24 seats currently. The center-right Yisrael Beytenu party, led by Avigdor Liberman would garner nine seats, up from six in the 2022 elections.

The Arab-majority parties Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am would garner five seats each and the left-wing Meretz party would take four seats. Religious Zionism, Balad, and the Labor parties would get 0 seats, according to the poll.

Asked who they would prefer as prime minister, 43% of respondents said Gantz and 27% said Netanyahu. If Lapid were up against Netanyahu, 31% would choose the Yesh Atid leader and 25% would choose the incumbent.

A majority of 51% said new elections should be advanced while 39% said not now. Ten percent said they did not know.

Asked if war cabinet ministers Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, who joined an emergency government days after the October 7 attacks, should leave, 43% said no and 31% said yes. Some 26% of respondents said they did not know.

Asked about a new draft plan that would increase the amount of time conscripts and reservists serve in the military without addressing exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox community, 53% of respondents said they oppose it while 26% said they support the plan. Twenty-one percent said they did not know.

Suspect ‘neutralized’ after attempted stabbing attack in Jerusalem, police say

Police at the scene of an attempted stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 11, 2024. (Israel Police)
Police at the scene of an attempted stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem, February 11, 2024. (Israel Police)

Police say a suspect attempted to stab officers in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The suspect was “neutralized” by the officers, police say.

The suspect, later identified as a 16-year-old resident of Abu Dis, was shot and seriously wounded, and was taken to hospital for treatment.

No officers were hurt in the incident. A passerby was lightly injured.

In 45-minute call with PM, Biden urges safety of civilians in Rafah, increase in aid to Gaza

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

US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone at length today to discuss the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza and efforts to release the remaining hostages held by terrorists in the enclave.

Channel 12 reports the call lasted about 45 minutes. It was the first conversation between the two leaders since Biden said Israel’s Gaza response was “over the top.”

The conversation focused on three issues, according to the report: Israel’s planned offensive in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza, increasing the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians, and stalled hostage talks that could also include a pause in fighting.

According to a White House readout, Biden “reaffirmed our shared goal to see Hamas defeated and to ensure the long-term security of Israel and its people” and “discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas.”

Biden also “emphasized the need to capitalize on progress made in the negotiations to secure the release of all hostages as soon as possible” and called for urgent and specific steps to increase humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.

The White House says Biden reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a “credible and executable” plan to ensure the safety of over a million people sheltering in the city.

Netanyahu said in an interview earlier that Israel would go after Hamas in Rafah “while providing safe passage for the civilian population.”

Biden and Netanyahu agreed to remain in close contact, according to the readout.

CIA Director William Burns is expected in Cairo on Tuesday for talks with mediators on a potential truce. Israel has so far declined to send representatives, given Hamas’s “delusional” demands including a permanent ceasefire, a withdrawal of troops from Gaza, reconstruction of the enclave, and some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, including terror masterminds, in exchange for the remaining hostages.

Former central bank governor says Moody’s downgrade is a ‘mega event with long-term consequences’

Former Bank of Israel governor Jacob Frenkel says Moody’s downgrade of Israel’s credit rating is a “dramatic mega event with long-term consequences.”

Speaking to Channel 12, Frenkel says such a downgrade has “never happened” and Israel has over the years “fought to improve the rating.”

He dismissed Israeli officials’ reaction to the downgrade overnight Friday-Saturday as politically motivated and says “it was no surprise, the writing was on the wall, they gave us enough warnings, but, like in other areas [of life] in Israel unfortunately, the warnings were ignored.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said yesterday that the report downgrading Israel’s credit rating amounted to a “political manifesto,” maintaining that the decision was linked to the Gaza war and was not based on sound economic reasoning.

“We’ve had a lot of wars, and we’ve had a lot of shocks like COVID-19, the credit rating never went down,” says Frenkel, who served as the central bank governor from 1991 to 2000 and won the Israel Prize in Economics in 2002.

“The problem here is that the leadership did not prepare adequately to address a shock of this kind. They think it’s ‘just a war’… We have to understand its also an economic event of the first order. It will have consequences on every resident.”

“We can’t ignore this. We need to take steps to build trust. The brand that is called ‘Israel’ has been harmed,” he says.

Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist also a Hamas commander, IDF says

A Palestinian journalist working for Al Jazeera appears to also be a commander in Hamas’s military wing, according to images and documents recovered by the IDF in the Gaza Strip.

Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, says that several weeks ago, troops found a laptop in a Hamas base in northern Gaza, which belongs to a man by the name of Mohamed Washah.

Washah, from central Gaza’s Buriej, has been featured in Al Jazeera broadcasts in recent months, with the Qatari-owned station calling him one of their journalists.

Adraee says that evidence recovered from the laptop reveals that Washah is also a “prominent commander” in Hamas’s anti-tank missile unit, and in late 2022, he began to work in research and development for the terror group’s air unit.

Last month, two Al Jazeera journalists killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah were later accused by the IDF of being members of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups.

Jordan’s King Abdullah takes part in Gaza aid airdrop

Jordan’s King Abdullah participated in an air drop of humanitarian aid to Gaza, state-owned Al Mamlaka broadcaster says.

A video showed the monarch in military gear on board a plane in the latest mission by the Jordanian air force to drop urgent medical supplies to field hospitals it runs in the war-torn enclave. According to official media, the latest airdrop was on Feb. 6.

The kingdom, which has been among Arab neighbors pushing Israel to allow more aid into Gaza, is the only country that airdrops aid to the enclave, channeling it through these two medical facilities.

It has conducted 11 air drops, with at least two conducted with the French and Dutch air forces, to deliver medical aid.

The king, who has been vocal in calling for an end to Israel’s military campaign, left on Thursday on a tour of major Western capitals and is due to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on Feb 12. to lobby for an immediate ceasefire.

IDF releases footage from bodycam of Hamas terrorist rigging Khan Younis home with explosives

The IDF releases footage obtained from the body camera of a Hamas operative that shows members of the terror group boobytrapping a home with explosive devices in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis.

Soldiers of the Paratroopers Brigade found the camera and are using the footage located the building and neutralized the explosive devices, the IDF says.

The IDF says the Paratroopers Brigade has killed dozens of Hamas gunmen in western Khan Younis over the past week, with sniper fire, close-quarters combat, and by calling in airstrikes and tank shelling.

In one engagement, the IDF says a group of paratroopers spotted seven Hamas gunmen at a junction and killed them.

At the same time, another paratrooper force spotted six more operatives, three of whom were killed by tank shelling and the other three who tried to flee by gunfire, according to the IDF.

The IDF says the paratroopers are scanning dozens of buildings in western Khan Younis, to clear them of potential Hamas infrastructure and weapons.

PA president Abbas travels to Qatar to discuss Gaza ceasefire efforts

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in Doha for talks on securing a ceasefire in the Gaza war with the Qatari emir, whose country has been at the heart of mediation efforts and the host of political leaders of Palestinian terror group Hamas.

The Palestinian news agency WAFA says Abbas will meet Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Monday, but did not say if he would also meet leaders of Hamas, which has long been at odds with Abbas and his West Bank-based Fatah party.

The Palestinian ambassador to Qatar, Munir Ghannam, tells the Voice of Palestine Radio that Abbas and the emir will discuss efforts to secure a Gaza ceasefire with Israel and ways to increase aid for the territory’s 2.3 million people.

“Qatar plays an important role in the international efforts and mediation to reach a ceasefire. Therefore, coordination with Qatar, also with Egypt, is of special importance, to bring an end to this aggression against our people,” Ghannam said.

Germany’s foreign minister to visit Israel next week, urge pause in fighting

German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock attends a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (not pictured) in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (Ammar Awad /Pool Photo via AP)
German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock attends a meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (not pictured) in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (Ammar Awad /Pool Photo via AP)

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Israel in the middle of next week, a foreign ministry spokesperson says, a trip in which she said she plans to urge a ceasefire as Israel prepares to advance on Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government is preparing an evacuation plan for the more than one million Palestinians penned into Rafah, on the southern border with Egypt. Many have already been displaced at least once and have nowhere left to flee in the crowded enclave.

“The distress in Rafah is already beyond belief. 1.3 million people are seeking protection from the fighting in the most limited of space. An offensive by the Israeli army on Rafah would be a humanitarian catastrophe,” Baerbock wrote in a post on X on Saturday.

“Israel must defend itself against Hamas terror but at the same time alleviate the suffering of civilians as much as possible. That is why another pause in fighting is needed — also in order for hostages can finally be released. I will discuss ways towards that in Israel again next week,” she added in a second post.

Baerbock last visited Israel last month.

Hospital in Jerusalem partly evacuated after fire breaks out; 2 injured

Late this afternoon, a fire broke out at the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center in Jerusalem. The public psychiatric hospital is located between the capital’s northwestern Givat Shaul and Har Nof neighborhoods.

According to a Health Ministry announcement, hospital staff and firefighters quickly evacuated patients from the area of the fire, bringing them to another department.

All patients are safe, but two staff members who worked to put out the fire and did initial rescue searches suffered from smoke inhalation and were taken to Hadassah Medical Center for treatment. They were fully conscious.

Biden, Netanyahu call to focus on efforts to free hostages, says source

US President Joe Biden will speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today in a call that is set to focus on efforts to free the 132 remaining hostages taken on October 7 and held by the Islamist terror group Hamas in Gaza, according to a source familiar with the plans.

The call will be the two leaders’ first conversation since Biden said Israel’s military response in Gaza has been “over the top.”

Biden, who is spending the weekend at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, is slated to speak with Netanyahu on Sunday morning US time, a White House official says.

Netanyahu earlier told the “Fox News Sunday” program that he has not talked with Biden since the comment on Thursday and did not know what the US leader meant by it. He said he believes America’s response to an attack like October 7 — when terrorists went on a killing spree, slaughtering 1,200 and taking 253 hostages — would have been at least as strong as Israel’s response has been.

Netanyahu says he told Biden Gaza victory ‘requires our security control’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Yahalom special engineering unit base in Julis, Ashdod, February 11, 2024 . (Courtesy)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Yahalom special engineering unit base in Julis, Ashdod, February 11, 2024 . (Courtesy)

Speaking to government ministers at the Yahalom special engineering unit base in Julis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says victory is “within reach,” and that while it will take time, it will not take years.

“It is a difficult battle, but a battle in which we are winning, for the demilitarization of the Strip,” he says.

Netanyahu says that he told US President Joe Biden and all world leaders that victory “requires our security control and ultimate security responsibility – over the entire area west of Jordan, including the Gaza Strip.”

“There is no substitute,” he goes on. “That is, there will always be Israeli security control, and if it requires our presence inside, then there will be a presence inside, and if it requires us going in anywhere, as the IDF is capable of arriving anywhere, at any time, this was stated here and will be maintained in the future.”

Netanyahu acknowledges that foreign pressure on Israel is increasing, and maintaining unity is crucial.

Netanyahu speaks after a briefing for government ministers by IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, and says he will arrange another meeting to focus on the northern border.

Netanyahu: US response to attack like Oct. 7 would be ‘at least as strong as Israel’s’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to FOX News on February 11, 2024 (Screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to FOX News on February 11, 2024 (Screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the US response to an attack like the October 7 Hamas massacre would be “at least as strong as Israel’s” and possibly stronger.

Speaking with Fox News, Netanyahu responds to a question about US President Joe Biden’s sharpest rebuke yet of Israel’s Gaza campaign as “over the top” and says he doesn’t “know what he meant by that.”

“Look, we were attacked in the worst attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust,” says Netanyahu. “That October 7 massacre was equivalent to 29 9/11s in one day and the equivalent of 50,000 Americans slaughtered — burned, maimed, raped, beheaded — and 10,000 Americans taken hostage, including mothers and children. So, what would America’s response be? I would say it would be at least as strong as Israel’s and many Americans tell me, ‘We would have flattened them. We would have turned them into dust.'”

By contrast, he says, “We’re proceeding… as no other army has on earth, and taking precautions to prevent civilian casualties,” pointing to the phone calls and flyers distributed to civilians and the creation of safe corridors and safe zones.

“Israel has responded in a way that is responsible, but also determined… iron determination to wipe the terrorist group Hamas off the face of the Earth, and that is something we will do.”

“Hamas has pledged to carry out massacres over and over and over again,” he reminds the interviewer.

“We have to finish the job. All these people who are naysaying or saying we can’t do it, they’re the ones who said just three months ago, don’t go into a ground offensive… They were all wrong,” Netanyahu says.

“Victory is within reach. Three-quarters of Hamas [battalions] is destroyed, 18 out of 24; we’re not going to leave the other six. It’s like you leaving a quarter of ISIS in Iraq in place and saying ‘Well, they can have their territory, it’s ok.’ Obviously, ISIS would re-establish itself. Hamas-ISIS will re-establish itself too if we don’t finish its last remaining bastion” in Rafah, he says.

He says he agrees with the US that there needs to be a plan to “vacate the civilian population” in the southernmost city in Gaza, the last Hamas stronghold where over a million Gazans are said to be sheltering.

“Destroying Hamas gives us hope for the Middle East, hope for peace,” he says, promising “total victory.”

The eradication of Hamas and bringing home the remaining hostages “are mutually compatible” and the key is “sustained military effort.”

In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” program today, Netanyahu said that one Palestinian civilian has been killed for every Hamas fighter killed in Gaza.

Hamas-run health authorities in Gaza estimate about 28,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the region since the conflict began in October. These figures cannot be independently verified, are believed to include fatalities caused by failed rocket fire by Gaza terror groups, and do not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Israel says it has killed 10,000 Hamas gunmen in Gaza, as well as 1,000 terrorists in Israel on October 7 when 1,200 were killed across southern Israel in the murderous rampage, and 253 were taken hostage.

Netanyahu tells ABC that “enough” of the 132 remaining Israeli hostages taken on October 7 and held in Gaza are alive to justify Israel’s ongoing war.

Asked how many of the hostages are still alive, Netanyahu said “enough to warrant the kind of efforts that we’re doing.”

At least 29 of the 132 hostages are confirmed dead by the military, citing new findings and intel on the ground.

“We’re going to try to do our best to get all those who are alive back and, frankly, also the bodies of the dead,” he tells ABC.

Biden, Netanyahu closer than ever to ‘breach’ over Gaza war — report

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

US President Joe Biden and top administration aides “are closer to a breach” with Prime Benjamin Netanyahu over the Gaza war and no longer consider him “a productive partner who can be influenced even in private,” the Washington Post reports, citing “six people familiar with the conversations.”

Biden’s aides have been encouraging the president to distance himself from Netanyahu amid “mounting frustration” with the Israeli leader, according to the report, and “to be more publicly critical of the prime minister over his country’s military operation in Gaza” while remaining supportive of Israel.

Biden in recent days has delivered some of his sharpest criticisms of Israel, including calling its response in Gaza following Oct. 7 “over the top.” A top White House official also said Friday that there wasn’t “any confidence” in the current Israeli government in a meeting with Arab American leaders in Dearborn, Michigan.

The US has also voiced opposition to Israel’s planned offensive in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

A senior Biden administration official told NBC News today that there was “a growing divide between the US and Israel,” specifically over the potential operation in Rafah. The White House and State Department said last week that they would not support an IDF operation in the city before extensive planning was done on protecting civilians.

“They’re already living in tents and not getting enough food and water and you’re saying go somewhere else,” one outside adviser to the White House tells the Washington Post. “Where? How are they supposed to get there?”

Netanyahu has vowed to fight in Gaza until “total victory,” a war goal over which the US has repeatedly raised doubts. Washington has also expressed frustrations over Israel’s lack of a clear plan for the day after the war.

“I don’t think anybody can look at what the Israelis have done in Gaza and not say it’s over the top,” a White House official tells the Post. “This gets to the frustration with the Israelis. Have they done the work on what comes next in Gaza? No. They haven’t grappled with the really hard questions.”

Netanyahu and Biden are slated to speak later today for the first time since Biden said Israel’s response was exaggerated.

Netanyahu says he hasn’t spoken to Biden since president’s ‘over the top’ comment

Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that he hasn’t spoken to US President Joe Biden since he “described our military response as exaggerated.”

On Thursday night, Biden said Israel’s Gaza campaign is “over the top.”

The two leaders are slated to speak later today, according to Israeli media reports.

Netanyahu also insists in the interview that toppling Hamas and bringing all the hostages home “are not mutually exclusive,” and that the way to get them back is through a “sustained military effort.”

Health Ministry calls for crackdown on violence in hospitals, clinics after series of attacks on guards

The Health Ministry calls on law enforcement agencies and legal authorities to deal better with ongoing violence in hospitals and community clinics.

The demand comes following an uptick in violent incidents, including two in recent days. Thursday night at midnight, three men attacked the security guards at the entrance to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. The attackers stole one guard’s gun and tried to use it. The guards managed to gain control of the situation, with the help of police officers who arrived from a local station, but required medical attention in the hospital’s emergency department for injuries sustained in the confrontation.

Also on Friday, family members of a patient verbally attacked, shoved, and injured a security guard at the Reut Rehabilitation Hospital in Tel Aviv. The family acted violently after their request to stay overnight was denied because it was not made ahead of time as is required. Four police cars arrived on the scene, the family eventually left the premises, and the guard did not require medical attention.

The Health Ministry has put into place several processes to upgrade security at hospitals and clinics. It has also devised a system to administer complaints about violence in the healthcare system and coordinate with legal authorities so that the complaints are investigated, and charges brought where relevant.

In an official statement, Health Minister Ariel Busso commented that such violence is especially alarming when medical staff are working ceaselessly to handle the large number of war wounded, as well as the many cases of winter respiratory diseases such as flu and COVID-19 crowding hospital wards and doctors’ offices.

“The violence is far too common and is significantly hurting the healthcare system and its ability to function. Violence cannot be an everyday occurrence. We will not accept any violent act and we will work to end this insufferable phenomenon,” he said.

FM Katz calls for UN special rapporteur to be fired for appearing to justify Oct. 7 massacre

UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese addresses the UN, October 2022. (Screenshot/YouTube, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese addresses the UN, October 2022. (Screenshot/YouTube, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz calls on UN chief Antonio Guterres to fire UN special rapporteur for the Palestinians Francesca Albanese, a UN official with a history of antisemitic and anti-Israel remarks, following her most recent remarks appearing to justify Hamas’s October 7 massacre and claiming it was due to “oppression.”

“The victims of 7/10 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression,” she wrote in a tweet responding to a Le Monde post reporting on French President Emmanuel Macron honoring the victims of Hamas’s October 7 shock onslaught, including a number of French nationals. Macron decried “the biggest antisemitic massacre of our century” as well as “rampant antisemitism” in France in the wake of the attack.

“The ‘greatest anti-Semitic massacre of our century’? No, Mr. Emmanuel Macron. The victims of 7/10 were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression. France & the international community did nothing to prevent it. My respects to the victims,” she wrote.

The French Foreign Ministry responded to her tweet that October 7 was indeed “the largest antisemitic massacre of the 21st century” and “disputing it is a mistake.”

“Seeming to justify it, by including the name of the United Nations, is a shame. These comments are all the more scandalous since the fight against antisemitism and all forms of racism are at the heart of the founding of the UN,” the French ministry wrote.

Katz this afternoon wrote that “framing the October 7th massacre as a reaction to ‘Israeli oppression’ rather than an act of anti-Jewish hatred, is deeply troubling.”

He called on Guterres to fire Albanese “immediately.”

“The time of Jewish silence in the face of such misrepresentations has passed. We must stand strong and vocal against such narratives,” wrote Katz.

Netanyahu, Biden due to speak later today, amid growing disagreements on Gaza war

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden are slated to speak by phone later today, according to multiple media reports.

The two have been having public disagreements over a potential IDF operation in Rafah, in the south of Gaza.

Halevi briefs ministers on war efforts, aid to Gaza, Rafah offensive; Ben Gvir spars with him, again

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and IDF chief Herzi Halevi at the start of a security cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, November 16, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and IDF chief Herzi Halevi at the start of a security cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, November 16, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with government ministers at the IDF’s Julis base near Ashdod, where IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi offers a briefing on the war effort. According to multiple media reports, Halevi’s presentation was well-received and he told ministers that he would like to meet them more often to discuss the war.

Halevi tells the government ministers that he has approved a Rafah operation three times already and that he stands ready to carry out such an operation if the government gives the green light, Channel 13 reports.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a frequent cabinet critic of the chief of staff, gets into an argument with Halevi over tightened rules of engagement on the border. “Anyone who approaches the fence and endangers the citizens of Israel and our heroic soldiers should be shot,” he says, according to Israel National News. “This is how it is done in any normal country. We must not return to the October 6 concept.”

Halevi reportedly responds that he has explained the rules of fire several times to Ben Gvir, and that rules proving for an automatic response to any gunfire would increase the risk of soldiers being hurt by their own colleagues.

They also argue over the military preventing protesters against aid to Gaza from reaching Kerem Shalom, and over humanitarian aid more broadly.

Halevi says that if the aid doesn’t go through Kerem Shalom, it will go through Rafah without Israeli supervision, according to Maariv.

Israel strikes Hezbollah infrastructure targets in south Lebanon

The IDF says it carried out strikes against several Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon a short while ago.

Sites hit by fighter jets in Marwahin included a rocket-launching position and other infrastructure used by the Iranian-backed terror group, the IDF says.

In Ramyah, Yaroun, and Chihine, the IDF says it hit an observation post, a building, and additional Hezbollah infrastructure.

The IDF says it also opened fire at a suspect spotted in the Kafr Kila area in south Lebanon.

Thousands protest in Morocco against ties with ‘genocidal’ Israel

Thousands of Moroccans took to the streets of their capital today to call for an end to their country’s ties with Israel, which they denounced for “genocide” in Gaza.

In late 2020, Morocco established diplomatic ties with Israel under the Abraham Accords brokered by the United States, which saw similar moves by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

As part of the deal, Rabat received Washington’s recognition of its claim to sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began on October 7, triggered by Hamas’s shock attack on Israel, several large-scale demonstrations in the North African kingdom have called for the abrogation of the normalization deal.

“Normalization is treason,” and “Stop the massacre,” read banners protesters carried in front of Morocco’s parliament in the center of Rabat.

AFP journalists estimated more than 10,000 people joined the rally, some of them carrying an immense Palestinian flag.

The crowd size matched that of a similar November protest in Morocco’s commercial capital Casablanca.

The demonstration was organized by leftist parties and Islamist movements.

Morocco has officially denounced what it said was “flagrant violations of the provisions of international law” by Israel in its war against Hamas, but has not given any indication that normalization with Israel would be reversed.

The unprecedented October 7 attack by thousands of terrorists led by Palestinian Islamist terror group Hamas resulted in massacre in Israel of about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the abduction of 253 hostages, 29 of whom have been confirmed dead.

Vowing to eliminate Hamas, Israel has responded with a bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza that the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry says has killed over 28,000 people. These figures cannot be independently verified, are believed to include fatalities caused by failed rocket fire by Gaza terror groups, and do not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Israel says it has killed 10,000 Hamas gunmen in Gaza, as well as 1,000 terrorists in Israel on October 7.

CENTCOM says forces struck unmanned surface vessels, anti-ship cruise missiles off Yemen’s coast

US Central Command (CENTCOM) says its forces carried out strikes yesterday on two unmanned surface vessels (USVs) and three anti-ship cruise missiles north of Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah that were threatening ships in the area.

“CENTCOM identified these USVs and missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined they presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” it adds.

Asked about claims Biden is suffering from memory loss, Netanyahu says he’s always found him ‘clear and focused’

Asked about a US government report that portrayed US President Joe Biden as suffering from memory loss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells ABC’s “This Week” that he’s had over a dozen “extended phone conversations” with Biden.

“I’ve found him very clear,” says Netanyahu, “and very focused. We managed to agree on the war aims and many things. Sometimes we had disagreements but they weren’t born of a lack of understanding on his or on my part.”

“I haven’t seen that,” he concludes.

Israeli settlers pelt Palestinian vehicles with stones, spray driver with tear gas in West Bank

Some 15 Israeli settlers threw stones at Palestinian vehicles near the West Bank village of Bizzariya, northwest of Nablus, a short while ago, Israeli human rights watchdog Yesh Din says.

In one instance, the settlers smashed the windshield of a car and sprayed the Palestinian driver with tear gas, Hebrew daily Haaretz says, adding that the driver has been taken to a hospital for medical treatment.

Egypt won’t oppose Rafah operation if Israel commits to avoiding civilian casualties – report

Palestinians stand by the border fence with Egypt in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 24, 2024. (AFP)
Palestinians stand by the border fence with Egypt in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 24, 2024. (AFP)

Senior Egyptian officials have told their Israeli counterparts that they won’t oppose an operation in Rafah so long as it is carried out in such a way that Palestinian civilian casualties are avoided, Army Radio reports.

According to the report, the message from Cairo indicates that while Egypt may issue strong criticism of Israel should it launch an offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city, it won’t act in a way that prevents the IDF from operating.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Egyptian officials warned that the decades-long peace treaty between Egypt and Israel could be suspended if IDF troops enter Rafah, or if any of Rafah’s refugees are forced southward into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Army Radio says troops found Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s handwritten documents in Gaza tunnel

Handwritten documents which are suspected to have been written by Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar were recently discovered in a tunnel he had been hiding in, Army Radio reports without citing a source.

Last week, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that IDF troops had “found significant materials in the places where he [Sinwar] had recently been,” but made no mention of handwritten documents.

Egypt tells Hamas it has two weeks to reach hostage deal before IDF moves into Rafah – WSJ

Egypt warned Hamas that it must reach a hostage-for-ceasefire deal with Israel within 2 weeks, or Israel will move into Rafah, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Cairo is hosting talks on a deal beginning on Tuesday, which Israel, the US, and Qatar will attend.

Potential Rafah offensive causing ‘growing divide’ between Israel and US, Biden administration official tells NBC

US President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, September 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, September 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A senior Biden administration official tells NBC News that “there is a growing divide between the US and Israel,” especially over a potential operation in Rafah.

The White House and State Department said last week that they would not support an IDF operation in the city before extensive planning was done on protecting civilians.

Senior intelligence official: ‘Heavy suspicion’ that Hamas penetrated IDF before Oct. 7

A senior IDF military intelligence official tells Israel Hayom that there is “heavy suspicion” that Hamas intelligence penetrated the Israeli military before October 7.

“Nukhba terrorists had information on the IDF’s most sensitive sites, including those within the army that are most classified,” the officer says. “We must determine how this information reached them. We are talking about details that IDF commanders don’t talk about even to their closest friends.”

Hamas enjoyed intelligence that couldn’t have been gleaned from drones or observation posts, the officer says, adding that help from a foreign power is entirely conceivable.

The IDF officer says that this would represent a “double failure” for the Shin Bet, which is responsible for uncovering Hamas’s plans and foiling its espionage attempts.

Iran’s foreign minister arrives in Syria for talks on Israel-Hamas war

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a press conference with his Lebanese counterpart in Beirut on February 10, 2024. (Anwar AMRO / AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaks during a press conference with his Lebanese counterpart in Beirut on February 10, 2024. (Anwar AMRO / AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrives in the Syrian capital of Damascus to discuss developments in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and wider regional conflicts, Arabic media sources report.

His arrival in Syria comes after he visited Lebanon over the weekend and ahead of the final leg of his trip which will see him visit Qatar, where Hamas’s top leaders reside.

In Lebanon on Saturday, Abdollahian claimed that Iran “absolutely never sought to expand” war in the region,” saying he believes that “war is not the solution.”

Hamas, which carried out the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history on October 7, is backed and funded by Iran, as are the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Palestinian released from prison in November hostage deal caught trying to enter Israel illegally last week

Police say a Palestinian woman who attempted to illegally enter Israel on Friday was revealed to be one of 240 prisoners Israel freed in November in a hostage deal with Hamas.

According to police, Border Police officers stationed at the a-Za’im checkpoint near Jerusalem stopped a suspicious vehicle, in which a Palestinian woman tried to identify herself using an ID card that did not belong to her.

Police say the officers realized the woman, a 21-year-old resident of the village of Beit Ur, had been previously detained in October during clashes.

At the time, she had been shot in the leg and arrested after allegedly hurling stones at Border Police officers, while masked.

Police say the woman is affiliated with Hamas and was released in the hostage deal with the terror group in November.

Israel-Hamas war has devastated economies of both Gaza and the West Bank, IMF head says

The war between Israel and Hamas has devastated the economies of both the war-torn Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the International Monetary Fund’s chief says, adding that only “durable peace” will improve the outlook.

“The Palestinian economy’s dire outlook is worsening as the conflict persists,” managing director Kristalina Georgieva tells the World Governments Summit in Dubai.

“Only a durable peace and political solution will fundamentally change it.”

“Economically, the impact of the conflict has been devastating,” Georgieva said.

In the Gaza Strip economic activity dropped 80 percent from October through December compared with a year earlier, the IMF chief says. The war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7 when Hamas launched a shock terror onslaught in southern Israel.

She adds that in the West Bank, economic activity has dropped by 22 percent.

 

On anniversary of Islamic Revolution, Iran’s Raisi calls for Israel to be expelled from the UN

Demonstrators burn a US flag during their annual rally commemorating Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, February 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Demonstrators burn a US flag during their annual rally commemorating Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, February 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

In a televised speech marking 45 years since the Islamic Revolution, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi accuses Tehran’s arch-foe the United States, and other Western countries, of backing “the Zionist regime’s [Israel] crimes against humanity in Gaza.”

He calls on the United Nations to expel “the Zionist regime,” as the crowds chant: “Death to Israel.”

“The bombing of Gaza has to be stopped as soon as possible,” he adds.

Iranian state TV says millions have turned out at rallies and shows large crowds chanting “Death to Israel, Death to America!” — a common practice during state-organized rallies on the anniversary of the 1979 revolution that toppled the US-backed monarch.

State media publishes a picture of some marchers hanging an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a noose.

As part of the festivities, the military displays a range of its missiles, including the Qassem Soleimani and Sejjil ballistic missiles, the Simorgh satellite carrier and drones at the square where people take selfies with them.

IDF says Givati Brigade has ‘deepened’ damage to Hamas in Khan Younis, weakened terror group’s control

Troops of the Givati Brigade operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in an image published by the IDF on February 11, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Givati Brigade operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in an image published by the IDF on February 11, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says the Givati Brigade has “deepened” the damage caused to Hamas’s western Khan Younis Battalion, and has strengthened its “operational control” in the area in southern Gaza.

Over the past two weeks, the IDF says Givati troops killed some 100 Hamas operatives in close-quarters fighting, tank shelling, sniper fire, and by calling in airstrikes.

Footage released by the IDF shows one of the airstrikes against three Hamas operatives who were spotted by Givati troops carrying a large explosive device on a motorcycle.

 

Hamas: An Israeli offensive in Rafah will torpedo hostage negotiations

A Hamas spokesman tells the terrorist organization’s Al Aqsa channel that if Israel launches an offensive on Rafah, where some 1 million displaced people are sheltering, will put an end to any negotiations for a hostage deal.

His comments come after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ABC News in an excerpt from an interview set to air later today that Israel will “get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah.”

Hamas says Gaza death toll reaches 28,176, more than 67,700 injured

Palestinians mourn after identifying the bodies of relatives killed in overnight Israeli bombardment on the southern Gaza Strip, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, on February 10, 2024. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinians mourn after identifying the bodies of relatives killed in overnight Israeli bombardment on the southern Gaza Strip, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, on February 10, 2024. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says the Palestinian death toll in the Strip since the start of the war has reached 28,176, and an additional 67,784 people have been injured.

These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 10,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Gallant: IDF’s intelligence findings in Gaza are bringing a ‘realistic’ hostage deal closer

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant gives a video statement from a display of Hamas weapons and intelligence findings found by troops in the Gaza Strip, at the Julis Base, February 11, 2024. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant gives a video statement from a display of Hamas weapons and intelligence findings found by troops in the Gaza Strip, at the Julis Base, February 11, 2024. (Elad Malka/Defense Ministry)

Speaking at a display made by the Military Intelligence Directorate’s so-called intelligence collection and technical spoils unit — known by its Hebrew acronym Amshat — Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says Hamas intelligence findings recovered by the IDF in Gaza are bringing a “realistic” hostage deal closer.

“You can see a small part of [what the IDF recovered] here, missiles, explosives, mines, many maps, communication devices, documents, computers, hard drives,” says Gallant.

“We penetrated into the heart of Hamas’s most sensitive places, and are using their intelligence against them,” he says.

“The more we deepen this operation, the closer we are to a realistic deal in order to return the hostages,” Gallant adds.

The display will be shown to government ministers today.

UN maritime agency says it is working ‘tirelessly’ to solve Red Sea crisis

Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Arsenio Dominguez at the IMO's London headquarters, on February 6, 2024 (James Rybacki/AFP)
Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Arsenio Dominguez at the IMO's London headquarters, on February 6, 2024 (James Rybacki/AFP)

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is working “tirelessly” to solve the Red Sea crisis, which is severely disrupting the global transport of goods, its head Arsenio Dominguez tells AFP.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched dozens of attacks against ships in the Red Sea since November, targeting boats it claims have ties to Israel as an act of “solidarity” with Palestinians amid Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Despite retaliatory strikes by the US and UK, the rebel group is still launching attacks, firing at US ship Star Nasia and UK vessel Morning Tide last Tuesday.

The IMO, the United Nations agency responsible for security at sea, is working to ensure that “parties continue to talk so that the situation does not degenerate any further, and we can return to a safe maritime environment,” Panama-born Secretary General Dominguez says.

“We are working tirelessly to coordinate action that will lead to a resolution,” Dominguez adds from the IMO’s London headquarters.

Attorney general says government has been making decisions without following legal procedures

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara at a welcome ceremony for her in Jerusalem on February 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara at a welcome ceremony for her in Jerusalem on February 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara warns the government against making decisions in the absence of “binding professional and legal infrastructure,” which she says has occurred several times in recent weeks.

“This letter was sent following a number of recent events, in which substantial decisions were brought for the government’s approval during its meetings, in the absence of a binding professional and legal infrastructure or when it was stated in advance that there is a legal impediment,” she writes in the letter sent to members of government.

“Government decisions have significant economic, security and social consequences for the public, and therefore it must be ensured that these decisions are made according to proper processes with coordination between government ministries,” she continues. “In the absence of such infrastructure, illegal decisions may be made that harm the public interest.”

She instructs the government to reverse any decisions made via improper avenues and to discuss them anew “after the completion of the required professional and legal work.”

Tel Aviv Stock Exchange shares dip after Moody’s lowers Israel’s credit rating

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, December 25, 2018. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, December 25, 2018. (Adam Shuldman/Flash90)

Israeli shares dip on Sunday, led by bank and insurance stocks, after Moody’s cut the country’s sovereign credit rating and changed its outlook to “negative.”

Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s benchmark TA-125 index and the TA-35 index of blue-chip companies fall more than 1% in morning trading in Tel Aviv. The TA index of the five largest banks drops 1.9% and the TA-Insurance & Financial Services slides 1.5%.

Late on Friday, Moody’s lowered Israel’s credit rating by one notch from A1 to A2, citing the impact of the ongoing war with the Hamas terror group in Gaza on the government’s debt burden.

“The local financial market anticipated a rating downgrade but what it did not foresee is the accompanying negative outlook,” says Yaniv Pagot, head of trading at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. “The yellow card that Israel received as part of the downgrade obliges the government to take urgent steps to prevent a snowball effect of further downgrades in the future.”

Two Israelis indicted for working with Hamas, planning further attacks after Oct. 7

Two residents of the northern Israel town of Ein Mahil have been indicted for conspiracy to commit acts of terror and contact with foreign terror operatives, the Israel Police and Shin Bet announce in a statement at the end of a joint investigation.

On January 1, Ein Mahil resident Rami Habibullah, 43, was arrested on suspicion of making contact with Hamas operatives abroad and providing them with information about a security plant close to his home with the hope that they would fire rockets at it, the police and Shin Bet say.

He then worked with the foreign terror operatives to recruit more Arabs inside Israel to his cause.

As part of the investigation, 35-year-old Khaled Saleh was also arrested and found to have agreed to carry out terror activities with Habibullah and to provide the necessary weapons to do so.

“This is a serious activity by Israeli citizens who hatched a malicious plan with Hamas operatives while the State of Israel is in the middle of fighting against that terrorist organization,” the two security agencies say, adding that the plans were thwarted in their initial stages before any harm could be done to Israel’s security.

 

Man detained on suspicion ‘of serious incitement to murder’ PM Netanyahu

The police’s Lahav 433 major crimes unit says it has opened an investigation into a 40-year-old resident of Beersheba on suspicion of “serious incitement to murder” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on TikTok, the video-sharing social media platform.

The man was detained this morning and has been taken for questioning by the top-tier police investigations department.

He will later be brought for a hearing on extending his detention, the police statement adds.

IDF: Troops located, killed Hamas operatives who fired anti-tank missiles at them in central Gaza

IDF troops operate inside the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo release on February 11, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops operate inside the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo release on February 11, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops of the IDF’s 98th Division continue to battle Hamas in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, while the 162nd Division carries out smaller raids in central and northern Gaza, the military says.

Simultaneously, the IDF says the Israeli Air Force and Navy carried out strikes on various Hamas targets across the Strip.

In a morning update, the IDF says the Nahal Brigade spotted and killed a Hamas operative who had been observing the forces and fired an anti-tank missile at them in central Gaza.

Moments later, more missiles were fired toward the soldiers. The IDF says the Nahal troops spotted two operatives coming out of the building from which the missiles were fired, and directed an aircraft to strike and kill the pair.

The Nahal Brigade also directed several more airstrikes on Hamas sites in central Gaza, including a weapons depot, the IDF says.

Meanwhile, in the western Khan Younis, the IDF says the Paratroopers Brigade and Egoz commando unit raided several Hamas sites, killing a number of operatives and locating weapons.

In another area of Khan Younis, the 7th Armored Brigade killed several more Hamas gunmen and the 646th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade located weapons, the IDF says.

Also in Khan Younis, airstrikes were carried out against three weapons depots and a Hamas cell that had fired at troops, the IDF adds.

 

Burning US flags and chanting ‘Death to Israel,’ Iran marks 45 years since the Islamic Revolution

Azadi (Freedom) Tower is illuminated with pictures of Iranian late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Iran's national flag during a ceremony for the 45th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, February 10, 2024. (AFP)
Azadi (Freedom) Tower is illuminated with pictures of Iranian late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Iran's national flag during a ceremony for the 45th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, February 10, 2024. (AFP)

Iran is marking the 45th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution amid tensions gripping the wider Middle East over the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which began with the shock terror onslaught carried out by the Iran-backed group on October 7.

Thousands of Iranians march through major streets and squares decorated with flags, balloons and banners with revolutionary and religious slogans.

In Tehran, crowds wave Iranian flags, chant slogans, and carry placards with the traditional “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” written on them. Some burned US and Israeli flags, a common practice in pro-government rallies.

There is a heavy security presence in the major cities across the country as the anniversary came a month after a deadly attack by ISIS in the central city of Kerman that left at least 95 people dead during a commemoration for prominent Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, whom the US killed in a 2020 drone strike.

After Moody’s downgrade, Bank of Israel head urges government to rectify economic issues

Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron speaks during a press conference at the Bank of Israel in Jerusalem on January 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron speaks during a press conference at the Bank of Israel in Jerusalem on January 2, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bank of Israel governor Amir Yaron urges the government to tackle budgetary priorities and economic issues after US ratings agency Moody’s cut the country’s credit rating over the weekend.

Yaron urges the government and the Knesset to “act to address the economic issues” raised in the Moody’s report that led to the downgrade, in order to restore the confidence of the markets and rating companies in the Israeli economy.

“The Bank of Israel has already presented several courses of action, including the approval of the 2024 budget in the Knesset with all the adjustments included in it,” Yaron writes in a statement.

Late on Friday, Moody’s lowered Israel’s credit rating by one notch from A1 to A2, and changed its outlook to “negative,” citing the impact of the ongoing war with the Hamas terror group in Gaza on the government’s debt burden.

Yaron notes that the reasons behind Moody’s downgrade are the “uncertainty regarding when and how the war will end, and the impact the war will have on the willingness of the government and the Knesset to deal with core economic and social issues, and a change in the fiscal situation.”

“The Israeli economy is based on solid and healthy economic foundations while leading the world in the fields of innovation and technology,” states Yaron. “We knew how to recover from difficult times in the past and quickly return to prosperity, and the Israeli economy has the strength to ensure that this will be the case this time as well.”

Hundreds protest against Israel, war in Gaza inside New York’s Museum of Modern Art

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters held a demonstration inside New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on Saturday afternoon, forcing the museum to close its doors several hours early, at around 4 p.m., arts and culture website Hyperallergic reports.

Close to 800 protesters filled the museum’s atrium in protest of alleged investments into Israel’s military weapons by the museum’s trustees.

The protesters distributed more than 1,000 imitation MoMA pamphlets criticizing trustees Leon Black, Larry Fink, Paula Crown, Marie-Josée Kravis and Ronald S. Lauder, the report states, and hung a banner over the lobby that read “MoMA Trustees Fund Genocide, Apartheid, and Settler Colonialism.”

In videos posted to social media, hundreds of people chant “Free Free Palestine” as they stand under various signs and banners reading “Ceasefire now,” “Long live Gaza” and “From the river to the sea,” which is a shortened version of the popular anti-Israel chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

After around 15 minutes, the museum’s security guards began turning people away at the doors and allowed people inside the building to exit, the report says.

A similar protest took place at the MoMA in May 2021, amid Operation Guardian of the Walls

Netanyahu: Those who tell us not to enter Rafah are telling us not to win against Hamas

In an excerpt of an interview with ABC set to be aired later today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizes calls for Israel to avoid carrying out a military offensive inside Rafah.

“We’re going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion,” Netanyahu tells ABC.

“Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying lose the war. Keep Hamas there,” he adds.

Gaza’s southernmost city has become home to close to one million displaced Palestinians, pushed south by the months-long war between Israel and the Hamas terror group that began with a devastating shock assault in southern Israel on October 7.

40 protesters removed from Kerem Shalom Crossing for trying to prevent aid reaching Gaza

Some 40 protesters have been removed from the Kerem Shalom Crossing after setting up tents to block the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, Ynet reports.

The protesters were removed from the area without the use of force by the police, the report states, adding that police and IDF troops remain stationed at the crossing to prevent their return to the closed military area.

In recent weeks, groups of right-wing protesters have blocked the crossing in an attempt to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza’s civilian population while some 136 Israelis remain in Hamas captivity.

Netanyahu to ABC: Victory is within reach, Rafah is the key to defeating Hamas

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Benjamin Netanyahu says in an interview airing Sunday that the Israeli military will provide “safe passage for the civilian population” ahead of an expected assault on Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, rejecting fears of a “catastrophe.”

Despite international alarm over the potential carnage in a city crammed with more than a million displaced Palestinians, the Israeli prime minister tells ABC News’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” the offensive is key to crushing Hamas, the terror organization that has ruled Gaza for more than 16 years.

“Victory is within reach. We’re going to do it. We’re going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions and Rafah, which is the last bastion, but we’re going to do it,” he says in extracts of the interview released Saturday evening.

“We’re going to do it while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave,” he says.

“We are working out a detailed plan to do so,” Netanyahu adds. “We’re not, we’re not cavalier about this.”

White House says Trump comments on refusing to back NATO allies ‘unhinged’

The White House says comments made by former US President Donald Trump about not protecting NATO allies from a potential invasion by Russia were “appalling and unhinged.”

Trump, appearing to recount a meeting with NATO leaders, told a political rally in South Carolina on Saturday, “One of the presidents of a big country stood up, said: ‘Well sir if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia – will you protect us?'”

“I said: ‘you didn’t pay? You’re delinquent?’ He said: ‘Yes, let’s say that happened.’ No I would not protect you, in fact I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You gotta pay.”

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates, asked about Trump’s comments, says, “Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability and our economy at home.”

Trump told the story in the context of his role in helping torpedo congressional legislation that would have sent military aid to Ukraine and Israel.

EU foreign policy czar warns of ‘unspeakable catastrophe’ in Rafah

The European Union’s head of foreign affairs Josep Borrell says an Israeli offensive in Rafah would become an “unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe” warning that it could spark “grave tensions with Egypt.”

“Resuming negotiations to free hostages and suspend hostilities is the only way to avert a bloodshed [sic],” he tweets on X.

Dutch foreign minister says Rafah push ‘unjustifiable’

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot says a large Israeli military offensive in Rafah would be “unjustifiable.”

In a pair of tweets, Bruins Slot says the situation in the city, where as much as half of Gaza’s population has fled, is “very worrying.”

“Hard to see how large-scale military operations in such a densely populated area would not lead to many civilian casualties and a bigger humanitarian catastrophe. This is unjustifiable,” she writes.

She adds that a truce, followed by a long-term ceasefire is needed, and calls for hostages to be released.

UK’s Cameron worried over Rafah offensive, calls for progress toward ceasefire

British Foreign Minister David Cameron says he is “deeply concerned” about the prospect of an Israeli military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

In a statement on X, Cameron says fighting must stop immediately so aid can enter and hostages can be freed, followed by “progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire.”

Trump: US aid to Israel, Ukraine should be loaned, in case ‘they drop us like a dog’

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd after speaking at a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd after speaking at a Get Out The Vote rally at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

At a rally in South Carolina, former US president Donald Trump calls for military aid to Israel, Ukraine and elsewhere to be structured as a loan, with Washington able to demand repayment in case of insufficient support.

“They want to give $100 billion to a few countries,” he says, celebrating the defeat of a bill that would have funded military aid for Israel and Ukraine as well as stiffer border restrictions.

“Give them the money, and if they can pay it back, they pay it back. If they can’t pay it back they don’t have to pay it back … but if they go to another nation, they drop us like a dog,” he says. “If that happens to our country, then very simply we call [in] the loan and we say we want our money, because we give money and then they go to the other side.”

Trump does not mention Israel, but does seem concerned that Ukraine could be given money “and then make a deal with Russia.”

He does mention Israel after promising to “stop that war [in Ukraine], stop other wars from happening.”

The Senate bill includes aid mainly for Ukraine, with some for Israel and Taiwan thrown in, as well as tougher immigration rules on the US-Mexico border inserted to entice GOP support. The bill now appears dead in the water after Republicans rejected it Wednesday, largely under Trump’s urging.

“We crushed crooked Joe Biden’s disastrous open borders bill,” Trump declares. “The whole group did a great job in Congress. We crushed it.”

AFP contributed.

 

Siren in north triggered by Iron Dome interception — reports

Hebrew media reports say a rocket siren that sounded at Kibbutz Kadarim, near the Sea of Galilee, was set off by an Iron Dome missile interceptor being fired at a “suspicious target.”

Residents tear Tiberias, a seaside city some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from Kadarim, report hearing a loud explosion, according to the Ynet news website.

Israeli ambassador says UN ‘buried its head in sand’ regarding Hamas allegations

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan says on X that UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini “refused” an Israeli request to search UNRWA facilities in Gaza after passing evidence showing the Hamas terror group had been using the facilities, accusing him of trying to avoid hearing about such allegations.

Erdan, who calls on Lazzarini to resign, does not say if the agency was informed specifically about the Hamas data center the army says was found beneath its Gaza headquarters.

Lazzarini said earlier that UNRWA does not have “the capacity to undertake military inspections of what is or might be under its premises.”

Rocket sirens sound near Sea of Galilee

Rocket sirens have sounded in Kadarim, a kibbutz northwest of the Sea of Galilee, significantly deeper inside Israel than most attacks from Lebanon and Syria.

The kibbutz lies some 20 kilometers (13 miles) from the Lebanon border.

The suspected attack comes amid an uptick in cross border fire on Israel’s northern frontier.

There is no immediate comment from the Israel Defense Forces.

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