ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Feb. 12: Biden says deal would see at least 6-week pause ‘to build something more enduring’

Jordan’s Abdullah at White House: October 7 attacks cannot be accepted by any Muslim * Restoration work starts at Kibbutz Be’eri * US urges probe into killing of 6-year-old in Gaza

  • US President Joe Biden arrives with Jordan's King Abdullah II to speak in the Cross Hall of the White House, February 12, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
    US President Joe Biden arrives with Jordan's King Abdullah II to speak in the Cross Hall of the White House, February 12, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
  • Louis Har (L) and Fernando Marman (2nd R) are reunited with loved ones at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Louis Har (L) and Fernando Marman (2nd R) are reunited with loved ones at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
  • A screenshot from footage from February 12, 2024, from an APC showing Shayetet 13 commandos asking Fernando Marman (left) and Louis Har (right) about their wellbeing, shortly after they were rescued after being held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip since October 7. (Israel Defense Forces)
    A screenshot from footage from February 12, 2024, from an APC showing Shayetet 13 commandos asking Fernando Marman (left) and Louis Har (right) about their wellbeing, shortly after they were rescued after being held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip since October 7. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Palestinians inspect the damage on a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
    Palestinians inspect the damage on a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
  • From L-R:  Gabriela Leimberg kisses her brother Fernando Marman, Clara Marman next to her partner Louis Har, at the Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024 (Courtesy)
    From L-R: Gabriela Leimberg kisses her brother Fernando Marman, Clara Marman next to her partner Louis Har, at the Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024 (Courtesy)
  • IDF soldiers Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21, of Tel Aviv (L) and Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21, of Haifa, whose deaths in action in Gaza were announced on February 12, 2024. (Courtesy)
    IDF soldiers Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21, of Tel Aviv (L) and Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21, of Haifa, whose deaths in action in Gaza were announced on February 12, 2024. (Courtesy)
  • Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip at a hospital morgue in Rafah, Feb. 12, 2024 (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
    Palestinians mourn relatives killed in the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip at a hospital morgue in Rafah, Feb. 12, 2024 (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

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

Biden: Deal in works would see at least 6-week pause used ‘to build something more enduring’

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House alongside Jordan's King Abdullah on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)
US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House alongside Jordan's King Abdullah on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)

US President Joe Biden and Jordan’s King Abdullah have wrapped up their meeting at the White House and are now giving prepared remarks.

Biden begins by reiterating that October 7 “was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

He notes that 134 hostages still remain in Gaza and that their families “don’t know how many are still alive.”

He says the US shares Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas, whose terrorists hide in tunnels beneath civilian infrastructure, “including schools, playgrounds and neighborhoods.”

Biden also acknowledges that the Palestinian people “have also suffered unimaginable pain and loss.”

“Too many of the over 27,000 Palestinians killed in this conflict have been innocent civilians, including thousands of children,” Biden continues. “Hundreds of thousands have no access to food, water other basic services. Many families have lost not just one but many relatives and cannot mourn for them, Even bury them as it is not safe to do so. It’s heartbreaking.”

He says he is working “to find the means to bring all the hostages home, to ease the humanitarian crisis, to end the terror threat and to bring peace to Gaza and Israel through a two-state solution.”

Biden highlights the hostage deal framework he helped craft with Egyptian and Qatari mediators that would see a humanitarian pause of at least six weeks, “which we could then [use] to build something more enduring.”

He says he has encouraged Israeli leaders to “to keep working to achieve the deal,” after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized Hamas’s demands response to the framework as “delusional.”

London theater apologizes after comedian said to harass Jewish audience member who didn’t stand for Palestinian flag

Paul Currie. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Paul Currie. (Screen capture/YouTube)

A London theater has issued an apology after a comedian it hosted allegedly harassed a Jewish audience member and ordered him to “leave my fucking show” when the spectator did not applaud a Palestinian flag.

The Soho theater says it has opened an investigation into the Saturday incident “which has caused upset and hurt to members of audience attending and others.”

According to witnesses, Paul Currie placed Palestinian and Ukrainian flags onstage and invited the audience to stand and applaud.

“When we all sat down again, [Currie] looked toward a young man sitting in the second row and said: ‘You didn’t stand, why? Didn’t you enjoy my show?’ a witness recalls to the Campaign Against Antisemitism watchdog.

“The young man, who we discovered soon after was Israeli, replied: ‘I enjoyed your show until you brought out the Palestinian Authority flag.’”

The witness says Currie responded, “Get out of my show. Get the f*ck out of here. F*ck off, get the f*ck out of here” as several other audience members cheered the comedian on and shouted, “Get out” and “Free Palestine” until the young man left.

The witness, who was also Jewish, says, “It felt like we were welcome in the theatre as long as our identities [as] Jews weren’t known, and the minute our identities were known, we felt threatened.”

Bulldozer crew begin two-year restoration plan for kibbutz massacred on Oct. 7

Yehuda Arussi stands in front of what used to be his home in Kibbutz Be'eri on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)
Yehuda Arussi stands in front of what used to be his home in Kibbutz Be'eri on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

A bulldozer strips away elements of what used to be the Be’eri home of Yehuda Arussi, as he recalls his murdered neighbor, Chava ben Ami, and how life used to be before October 7.

The scene, aired Monday by Channel 12, is the opening shot in two-year reconstruction plan that begins Monday in Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the epicenters and symbols of the Hamas onslaught.

The plan, which comes with a price tag of at least NIS 300 million ($82 million) involves the total or partial demolition of at least 130 out of the 390 residential buildings in Kibbutz Be’eri, where Hamas terrorists murdered at least 97 civilians.

A series of demolitions are scheduled to take place Tuesday, but bulldozers that arrived in Be’eri last Thursday are already removing debris as part of the reconstruction plan led by the Tekuma Authority for the region’s rehabilitation. Most of Be’eri’s surviving population of about 900 people is living at a hotel in the Dead Sea. They are to move to Kibbutz Hatzerim in the Negev for the duration of the restoration works, which are expected to continue until 2025.

Surveying the debris, Arussi tells the film crew: “It’s still a home.”

Settlers reportedly shoot two Palestinians, torch cars in latest West Bank attacks

A car (L) and homes allegedly torched by settlers in the northern West Bank on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/X; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A car (L) and homes allegedly torched by settlers in the northern West Bank on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/X; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy were shot and a pair of cars were torched in the latest reported incidents of settler violence in the northern West Bank.

The first incident took place in Asira al-Qibliya, with the town’s mayor Hafez Saleh telling Palestinian media that the perpetrators descended on the village from the flashpoint Yitzhar settlement and began opening fire. The 20-year-old was shot in the stomach and the 16-year-old was hit in the hand.

Both were taken to the hospital, but their conditions are not immediately known.

During the attack, a vehicle was set on fire.

In a later incident in the nearby village of Huwara, a truck belonging to a Palestinian was set on fire. The official PA Wafa news site says the car belonged to Huwara resident Abdullah Odeh and that it had been parked in front of his home.

Jordan king arrives at White House for meeting with Biden

US President Joe Biden greets the royal Jordanian family at the White House on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
US President Joe Biden greets the royal Jordanian family at the White House on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

Jordan’s King Abdullah has arrived at the White House, together with his wife Queen Rania and son Crown Prince Hussein.

They are greeted at the entrance by US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden.

Abdullah is the first Arab leader to visit the White House since October 7, and the pair are slated to discuss the ongoing Gaza war.

Hospitalized US defense chief to resume duties Tuesday — doctors

Screen capture from video of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin provides opening remarks at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, January 23, 2024, from his home in Great Falls, Virginia. (US Department of Defense via AP)
Screen capture from video of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin provides opening remarks at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, January 23, 2024, from his home in Great Falls, Virginia. (US Department of Defense via AP)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was treated under general anesthesia for bladder issues, as he battles prostate cancer, his doctors say, adding that he will be ready to resume work duties shortly.

“A prolonged hospital stay is not anticipated. We anticipate the secretary will be able to resume his normal duties tomorrow,” his doctors say in a statement.

“The current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery. His cancer prognosis remains excellent.”

French foreign ministry says 42 people evacuated from Gaza

The Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip, on January 29, 2024. (Said KHATIB / AFP)
The Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip, on January 29, 2024. (Said KHATIB / AFP)

France evacuated 42 people from Gaza today, including French nationals and staff of the French cultural institute, France’s foreign ministry says.

“After a request from France, 42 people today left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing,” the ministry says in a statement. It adds that more than 200 people have now left the stricken territory, following official French requests.

US ‘devastated’ by alleged IDF killing of 6-year-old Gazan, urges probe

This undated handout photograph obtained courtesy of the family shows 6-year-old Palestinian girl Hind Rajab posing for a picture. The child went missing after the family's car came under fire in Gaza, and was found dead on February 10, 2024, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry and her relatives said. (Family handout via AFP)
This undated handout photograph obtained courtesy of the family shows 6-year-old Palestinian girl Hind Rajab posing for a picture. The child went missing after the family's car came under fire in Gaza, and was found dead on February 10, 2024, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry and her relatives said. (Family handout via AFP)

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says the US is “devastated” by the reports of a 6-year-old Palestinian girl killed in an Israeli strike last week.

“We have asked the Israeli authorities to investigate this incident on an urgent basis. We understand that they are doing so, and we expect to see those results in a timely fashion. They should include accountability measures as appropriate,” Miller says.

The IDF says it has launched an initial examination into the matter, but does not provide additional information.

On Saturday, relatives found the body of Hind Rajab, who had begged Gaza rescuers to send help after being trapped by alleged Israeli military fire, along with the bodies of five of her family members and two ambulance workers who had gone to save her.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society accused Israel of deliberately targeting the ambulance it sent to rescue Hind Rajab, after she had spent hours on the phone with dispatchers begging for help with the sound of shooting echoing around.

Family members found Hind’s body along with those of her uncle and aunt and their three children still in a car near a roundabout in the Tel al-Hawa suburb of Gaza City, the official Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.

Another of Hind’s uncles, Sameeh Hamadeh, said the car was peppered with bullet holes.

During the course of the war, the Israeli military has maintained that it makes many efforts to avoid civilian casualties, but that some are unavoidable, as it fights against terrorists who are embedded within the civilian population and use civilians as human shields.

Biden reportedly told PM he was failing to uphold Gaza aid commitments due to Kerem Shalom protests

Police prevent activists from blocking trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza, in southern Israel, January 29, 2024. (AP/ Tsafrir Abayov)
Police prevent activists from blocking trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza, in southern Israel, January 29, 2024. (AP/ Tsafrir Abayov)

US President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their phone call yesterday that the premier was failing to uphold commitments he made to scale up humanitarian aid for Gaza, Channel 13 reports.

The comments follow weeks of protests at the Kerem Shalom border crossing that have succeeded in blocking hundreds of trucks from passing in order to provide aid to Gazans. The largely right-wing protesters claim the aid is being diverted by Hamas and should not be allowed in as long as the hostages remain in Gaza.

Netanyahu has insisted that Israel must supply the minimum amount of aid necessary in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis, which would force the IDF to halt its operations in Gaza. However, authorities have yet to put a complete end to the protests.

Commandos reportedly used rope to pull hostages out of apartment where they were held

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

The Haaretz newspaper quotes a commander from the police’s elite Yamam unite as saying that the two hostages were extracted from the building using ropes.

He says that the men were shocked at first from the explosions used to breach the apartment where they were being held, but “recovered quickly.”

“We came to rescue you. We came to take you home,” the commander recalls the rescuing troops as having told the two hostages, Norberto Louis Har and Fernando Simon Marman.

US blasts UN Palestinian rights official who rejected antisemitic undertones of Oct. 7 attack

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)

The US blasts UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinians Francesca Albanese after she denied French President Emmanuel Macron’s claim that Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught was the most significant antisemitic attack of the century and instead insisted that the victims were targeted “in response to Israel’s oppression.”

“Francesca Albanese has a history of using antisemitic tropes. Her most recent statements justifying, dismissing and denying the antisemitic undertones of Hamas’s October 7 attack are unacceptable and antisemitic. We expect more of independent UN experts and condemn all forms of antisemitism,” US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council Michèle Taylor tweets.

“We fully support the French Foreign Ministry’s condemnation of any attempt to dispute or justify the October 7 terrorist massacre, the largest antisemitic incident of the 21st century. We must stand together against antisemitism,” US Antisemitism Envoy Deborah Lipstadt chimes in.

Facing mounting criticism, Albanese clarified that she was not justifying Hamas’s “crimes, which I have strongly condemned several times.

“I reject all racism, including antisemitism — a global threat. But explaining [Hamas’s] crimes as antisemitism obscures their true cause,” she said.

Egypt blasts ‘disgraceful’ Smotrich after he urged PM not to join Cairo hostage talks

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaking at the Israel Defense and Security Forum in Ashkelon on January 25, 2024. (Daniel Starbo/ Courtesy)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich speaking at the Israel Defense and Security Forum in Ashkelon on January 25, 2024. (Daniel Starbo/ Courtesy)

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman issues a statement blasting far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich after the latter called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier today not to send an Israeli representative to Cairo for hostage talks with the “Nazi enemy.”

“It is unfortunate and disgraceful that the Israeli finance minister, Smotrich, continues to make irresponsible and inflammatory statements, only reveal a hunger for killing and destruction and sabotage any attempt to contain the crisis in the Gaza Strip,” the spokesman says.

Netanyahu appoints Science Minister Akunis next consul general in New York City

Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appointed Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis to be the next consul-general in New York City, his office announces

The decision was made in conjunction with Foreign Minister Israel Katz, and will be brought to the cabinet for approval.

The PMO does not announce who will replace Akunis, but Hebrew media reports indicate he will give the post to a current Likud minister.

Knesset advances bill to allow ban of Al Jazeera, would also require political will

Illustrative: An employee of Al Jazeera walks past the channel's logo at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (AP/Kamran Jebreili, File)
Illustrative: An employee of Al Jazeera walks past the channel's logo at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, in 2006. (AP/Kamran Jebreili, File)

A temporary measure allowing the government to censor foreign media passes its first reading in the Knesset in a 25-4 vote.

Under the bill, the communications minister will be empowered to shutter foreign networks operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment if the defense minister identifies that their broadcasts poses “an actual harm to the state’s security.”

If ultimately passed into law, the bill — which would also allow for the censoring of a targeted network’s website — would pave the way for Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi to follow through on his threat to shut down Qatari news channel Al Jazeera, which he has said is working against Israel’s defense interests and fueling anti-Israel sentiment.

It is unclear whether the new law is actually what is needed to ban Al Jazeera, and it is widely understood that the reason Israel has refrained from taking the step of closing the network is so as not to anger Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera

In November, Karhi alleged that Al Jazeera had “photographed and published” the positioning of IDF forces, “broadcast military announcements by Hamas,” and “distorted facts in a way which incited masses of people to riot.”

On Monday morning, the IDF published images and documents recovered in the Gaza Strip which it said showed that Mohamed Washah, a Palestinian journalist working for Al Jazeera, also appears to also be a commander in Hamas’s military wing.

“In the morning, he’s a journalist on the Al Jazeera channel, and in the evening, a terrorist in Hamas!” wrote Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, in a Sunday post to social media platform X.

The post included photographs apparently showing Washah training in the use of anti-tank weapons as well as working with other weapons and a drone.

Emanuel Fabian and Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

Netanyahu reportedly raised his objection to settler sanctions in call with Biden

Illustrative: Israeli settlers hurl stones at Palestinians  near the Israeli settlement of Yitzhar in the West Bank on October 7, 2020. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90/File)
Illustrative: Israeli settlers hurl stones at Palestinians near the Israeli settlement of Yitzhar in the West Bank on October 7, 2020. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90/File)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly raised his objection to US sanctions that were slapped on violent settlers earlier this month, during his call yesterday with US President Joe Biden.

Netanyahu tried to argue that the number incidents of settler violence has dropped of late and that the government had taken a number of steps to crack down on the phenomenon, Axios reports. The premier pointed to a number of administrative detentions that the IDF has recently issued, though that tool has been used in the past.

Netanyahu also tasked Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer to prepare a list of questions that Israel wants clarified from the US regarding the implications of the executive order allowing the sanctions, given that it lays the groundwork for the targeting of Israeli officials and for cutting off the entire settler movement from the US financial system.

Netanyahu already criticized the order publicly, calling it “inappropriate” and “highly problematic.”

Meanwhile, incidents of settler violence have continued unabated, including earlier today.

White House ‘pleased’ by hostage rescue, laments Palestinian civilians killed during op; says US has never told Israel not to tackle Hamas in Rafah

Louis Har (C) hugs a loved one as Fernando Marman looks on at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024. (Screen grab)
Louis Har (C) hugs a loved one as Fernando Marman looks on at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024. (Screen grab)

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says the US is “pleased” to have learned about last night’s successful Israeli military operation to rescue two hostages being held by Hamas terrorists in Rafah.

Kirby says US President Joe Biden will continue working to secure the release of the remaining 134 hostages.

The White House spokesman notes reports that dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed in IDF bombings that took place during the operation. “I can’t confirm those reports, but as we have said many times, the proper number of civilian casualties is zero,” Kirby adds.

Taking questions at the White House daily press briefing, Kirby also stresses that the US “never said that they can’t go into Rafah to remove Hamas. Hamas remains a viable threat to the Israeli people. And the Israelis and the IDF, absolutely, are going to continue operations against their leadership and their infrastructure, as they should. We don’t want to see another October 7th.”

Rather, Kirby says, “What we’ve said is we don’t believe that it’s advisable to go in in a major way in Rafah without a proper, executable, effective, and credible plan for the safety of the more than a million Palestinians that are taking refuge in Rafah.  They’ve left the north, and they certainly went south out of Khan Yunis to try to get out of the fighting. So, Israel has an obligation to make sure that they can protect them.”

US says rescue op should have no impact on hostages talks

Palestinians inspect the damage in the rubble of a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Palestinians inspect the damage in the rubble of a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

US State Department spokesman Matt Miller says Israel is “well within its rights” to conduct operations to rescue the hostages, as they did last night.

He adds that the operation “should in no way impact the negotiations” ongoing to secure the release of the remaining 134 hostages.

Meanwhile, senior Hamas official in Beirut Osama Hamdan says that Israel’s latest offer for a hostage deal is “a step back from the offer drafted in Paris,” proving that Israel “isn’t serious in pursuing the hostages’ release.”

According to him, Hamas delegation is currently in Cairo discussing Israel’s responses to the proposal formulated in Paris. Hamdan added that Israel is “imposing obstacles that prevent reaching an agreement.”

Footage shows hostage telling rescuing commandos he was ‘shocked’ to see them

Footage from the IDF's hostage rescue operation on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture)
Footage from the IDF's hostage rescue operation on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture)

The IDF releases new footage from the hostage rescue operation in southern Gaza’s Rafah overnight, showing special forces coming under fire, and the moments when the Navy’s Shayetet 13 commando unit accompanied Fernando Marman and Louis Har to a helipad in the Strip.

“The hostages are in our hands. There is gunfire against the force,” an officer is heard saying over the radio.

“The force has begun movement on the axis. The force is heading out,” another officer is heard saying, as footage shows a convoy of armored personnel carriers driving in Gaza.

Footage from one of the APCs shows Shayetet 13 commandos asking Marman and Har how they are, shortly after they were rescued by the Shin Bet and the police’s Yamam unit.

“In shock,” one of them replies.

“Do you feel good?” an officer asks Har, who responds: “Excellent.”

The naval commandos give the pair coats to wear before they head out to the helipad.

One of the soldiers also gave Har his own shoes, as Har was extracted barefoot, and is seen tying the shoelaces for the former captive in the video.

The soldiers also offer water bottles to the pair and ask if they need a blanket for warmth.

The two hostages then boarded a helicopter in Gaza, which took them to Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan, where they are currently listed in good condition.

Israelis filmed hurling stones at Palestinians in West Bank, aided by uniformed settlers who opened fire

Settlers hurling stones at Palestinians in the West Bank on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/Yesh Din)
Settlers hurling stones at Palestinians in the West Bank on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/Yesh Din)

The Yesh Din rights group reports two incidents of settler violence targeting residents of the northern West Bank village of Madama.

The first incident involved Yitzhar’s security coordinator along with several other uniformed settlers identified by Palestinians as locals from previous attacks. The settlers approached a Palestinian farmer working his land on a tractor in Area B of the West Bank, which Israeli civilians are barred from entering. The settlers stopped the farmer and demanded that he stop working while threatening him. The farmer decided to head back to Madama, but was subsequently blocked by the uniformed settlers.

A Palestinian driving a truck subsequently arrived at the scene to assist the farmer, leading the settlers to open fire in the air and toward the tractor, Yesh Din says, adding that the vehicle was damaged due to stone throwing and gunfire.

Shortly thereafter, a group of settlers descended from Yitzhar toward Madama and stole a water container belonging to a local Palestinians. They then covered their faces and began hurling stones at homes in the village. During the attack, the uniformed settlers repeatedly opened fire toward residents trying to assist those whose homes were being attacked.

There are no reports of any arrests and the IDF has not immediately issued a comment on the matter.

Smotrich urges Netanyahu not to send representative to Cairo for hostage talks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attend a discussion and a vote on the state budget at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, February 7, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attend a discussion and a vote on the state budget at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, February 7, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to send an Israeli representative to Cairo for hostage negotiations.

Israel has held off on sending a team to Cairo following what it has characterized as Hamas’s “delusional” demands in responding to the hostage deal framework crafted by US, Qatari, and Egyptian mediators. However, it is reportedly expected to heed the call after US President Joe Biden urged Netanyahu to do so during their call yesterday.

“Instead of sending Shin Bet chief Ronan Bar to Cairo for talks with the Nazi enemy, he should continue to be sent to Rafah together with his men and the IDF soldiers to destroy the Nazi Hamas terrorists, as was done last night. Instead of sending the head of the Mossad to Qatar, the [Mossad] should be sent to eliminate the heads of Hamas all over the world,” Smotrich tweets.

ICC prosecutor ‘deeply concerned’ by Rafah bombing, potential ground op

Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, addresses a UN Security Council meeting on July 13, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, addresses a UN Security Council meeting on July 13, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor voices deep concern about a possible Israeli ground offensive into Rafah in Gaza, warning that anyone breaching international law would be held accountable.

Karim Khan says in a statement published on X that his office’s investigation into events in Gaza is “being taken forward as a matter of the utmost urgency.”

“I am deeply concerned by the reported bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in Rafah,” he says.

The ICC opened a probe in 2021 into both Israel and Hamas, as well as other armed Palestinian groups, for possible war crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Khan previously said this investigation now “extends to the escalation of hostilities and violence since the attacks that took place on October 7, 2023.”

“All wars have rules and the laws applicable to armed conflict cannot be interpreted so as to render them hollow or devoid of meaning,” he says.

“This has been my consistent message, including from Ramallah last year. Since that time, I have not seen any discernible change in conduct by Israel,” he says.

Opening its doors in 2002, the ICC is the world’s only independent court set up to probe the gravest offenses including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

It is a “court of last resort,” and only steps in if countries are unwilling or unable to investigate cases themselves.

“As I have repeatedly emphasized, those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my office takes action pursuant to its mandate,” warns Khan.

“To all those involved: my office is actively investigating any crimes allegedly committed. Those who are in breach of the law will be held accountable.”

Khan calls for the release of all hostages held by Hamas: “This also represents an important focus of our investigations.”

With Biden’s age under scrutiny, Kamala Harris says she’s ‘ready to serve’

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, arrive at the celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, arrive at the celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

US Vice President Kamala Harris says she is ready to serve as leader, in a Wall Street Journal interview, as voter concerns mount about President Joe Biden’s age in an election year.

The 59-year-old Harris has faced growing scrutiny about her own abilities as the first in line to the presidency should Biden, 81, be incapacitated or stand down.

“I am ready to serve. There’s no question about that,” Harris tells the newspaper when asked whether voters’ concerns about Biden’s age meant she must convince them of her credentials.

Everyone who sees her on the job “walks away fully aware of my capacity to lead,” says Harris, the first Black, South Asian and female vice president in US history.

The interview was carried out two days before a stinging special counsel report portrayed Biden as elderly and forgetful.

Special counsel Robert Hur’s probe into Biden’s handling of classified documents said the president should not face charges, but damningly said he would come across to a jury as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

The White House has hit back hard at the report, noting that Hur interviewed Biden when he was under intense pressure, the day after the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Harris also sprang to Biden’s defense, branding the special counsel’s report as “politically motivated.”

Harris has taken on a growing role in Biden’s reelection campaign, focusing on subjects including abortion, ahead of November’s vote in which he is expected to face a rematch with former president Donald Trump.

Republicans have frequently targeted Harris and polls show the former California senator suffers from low approval ratings, as does Biden himself.

Lockheed Martin evaluating impact of Dutch court ruling barring Amsterdam from exporting F-35 parts to Israel

Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jet seen during the 'Blue Flag,' an international aerial training exercise at the Ovda air force base, southern Israel, October 24, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jet seen during the 'Blue Flag,' an international aerial training exercise at the Ovda air force base, southern Israel, October 24, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Lockheed Martin Israel, the local division of the US aerospace giant that manufactures the F-35, says it is evaluating the impact of a Dutch court decision ruling that The Netherlands must stop delivering parts for the fighter jets used by Israel.

“We’re working closely with the F-35 Joint Program Office to evaluate the impacts the recent Dutch court ruling will have on our supply chain,” the company says.

“We stand ready to support the US government and allies as needed,” it adds.

‘The diamonds are in our hands’: New details emerge on hostage rescue operation

Palestinians inspect the damage on a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Palestinians inspect the damage on a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

New details emerge from the rescue operation of two hostages in southern Gaza’s Rafah overnight.

Within a minute of special forces breaching the building where Fernando Simon Marman and Norberto Louis Har were being held and killing the three Hamas terrorists guarding them, they called over the radio: “The diamonds are in our hands.”

At that stage the Israeli Air Force began to strike targets in the area to provide the special forces cover to extract the two hostages.

They were then taken in armored vehicles quickly to a makeshift helipad deep inside Gaza, where a chopper took them to Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan, wrapping up the entire operation within an hour.

The operation was planned weeks in advance, with plans for various scenarios.

During the actual operation, some adjustments were made based on the conditions on the ground.

UNRWA chief says he has no intention of resigning

The commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the UNRWA headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, December 6, 2023. (AP/Bilal Hussein)
The commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the UNRWA headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, December 6, 2023. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the United Nations’ agency UNRWA, says he had “no intention to resign” following allegations that some staff members participated in the Hamas-led terror onslaught on Israel on October 7.

The UN agency provides aid to Palestinians in Gaza and since the allegations were made, a number of donor countries have suspended funding. UNRWA has launched an investigation and dismissed staff accused of involvement in the attack.

Senior Israeli leaders have called on Lazzarini to resign since the allegations came to light.

Goldknopf aims to evict UNRWA from East Jerusalem office

Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf attends a United Torah Judaism faction meeting at the Knesset on  July 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf attends a United Torah Judaism faction meeting at the Knesset on July 10, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Accusing UNRWA of collaborating with Hamas, Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf orders the director general of the Israel Land Authority to evict the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees from any state land it is currently occupying.

In a letter, Goldknopf instructs Yaakov Quint to “immediately halt” all agreements between the ILA and UNRWA “and remove them from the territories leased to them” by the state — such as the organization’s offices in Maalot Dafna and Kafr ‘Aqab in Jerusalem.

UNRWA “acted in the service of Hamas and even took part in the brutal massacre on October 7,” Goldknopf says, accusing it of acting against Israel while based on Israeli soil. “Together with the director general of the Israel Land Authority, I intend to put an end to this and remove them from Israel.”

Israel has accused 12 UNRWA staffers of taking part in Hamas’s attack on October 7 and last week the IDF showed reporters a Hamas data center located directly beneath UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City.

It’s unclear whether Goldknopf has the authority to execute the move.

EU’s Borrell suggests US limit military aid to Israel over Gaza civilian casualties

European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell attends a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 7, 2024. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell attends a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 7, 2024. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell makes a thinly veiled call on the United States to cut arms supplies to Israel due to high civilian casualties in its war in Gaza.

Borrell recalls that US President Joe Biden said last week that Israel’s response to the October 7 Hamas terror onslaught had been “over the top” and that US and other Western officials had repeatedly said too many civilians were being killed in Gaza.

“Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide less arms in order to prevent so many people being killed,” Borrell tells reporters after a meeting of EU development aid ministers in Brussels.

“If the international community believes that this is a slaughter, that too many people are being killed, maybe we have to think about the provision of arms,” he adds.

In his remarks in Brussels, Borrell also sharply criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he was not listening to pleas to do more to protect civilians.

“Everybody goes to Tel Aviv, begging ‘please don’t do that, protect civilians, don’t kill so many.’ How many is too many? What is the standard?” Borrell says, appearing angry and emotional. “Netanyahu doesn’t listen (to) anyone.”

Borrell says Netanyahu had been calling for an evacuation of Palestinian civilians from the Rafah area of Gaza – the last part of the enclave where people have found refuge – but the veteran Spanish politician questioned how this could be done.

“They are going to evacuate? Where? To the moon? Where are they going to evacuate these people?” he says.

US Defense Secretary Austin cancels travel after latest hospitalization

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 Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has cancelled a trip to Brussels where he was set to take part in meetings with other NATO defense ministers, a US official says after the Pentagon chief was admitted to a critical care unit and had to transfer his duties to his deputy.

Gallant: Hostage rescue a ‘turning point’ in campaign against Hamas; ‘there will be more operations’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with troops of police's elite Yamam unit on February 12, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with troops of police's elite Yamam unit on February 12, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says the hostage rescue operation in southern Gaza’s Rafah overnight is a “turning point in the campaign” against the Hamas terror group and that “there will be more operations.”

“Hamas is vulnerable, Hamas is penetrable, and it is possible to go anywhere and do anything,” Gallant says to troops of police’s elite Yamam unit, who carried out the rescue of Fernando Simon Marman and Norberto Louis Har.

“We [still] have hostages and we need to reach them. Most of them we will not bring this way, [but rather] I hope, through processes of agreement. But how many more times will [a rescue operation] be required, and under what circumstances — who knows?” he adds.

Science minister said likely to vacate post in order to become Israel’s consul in NYC

Science Minister Ofir Akunis arrives for a Likud party meeting in Jerusalem on May 28, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Science Minister Ofir Akunis arrives for a Likud party meeting in Jerusalem on May 28, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Science Minister Ofir Akunis is reportedly slated to switch jobs and become Israel’s next consul general in New York City.

The post hasn’t been permanently filled since Asaf Zamir resigned in protest of the government’s judicial overhaul last year.

Akunis’s potential appointment is being presented as a way to cut costs amid the war. His post will likely be filled by Gila Gamliel, who already sits on the cabinet as intelligence minister, Channel 12 reports.

Ultra-Orthodox minister: Haredim not engaged in full-time Torah study should be drafted

Welfare Minister Ya'akov Margi at a Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 8, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Welfare Minister Ya'akov Margi at a Federation of Local Authorities conference in Tel Aviv, December 8, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

While full-time yeshiva students should not be required to perform military service, members of the Haredi community not engaged in full-time Torah study should be drafted, Welfare Minister Ya’akov Margi of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party declares.

In an interview with the Kikar Hashabbat website, Margi calls for the establishment of a “dedicated department in the Defense Ministry to recruit those people who do not study Torah.”

“The army needs to want to recruit them and know how to recruit them,” he clarifies.

“I can’t convince any mother whose son is on the front, who hasn’t been sleeping day and night for several months… why [an] ultra-Orthodox boy doesn’t enlist,” he continues, adding that he believes that those who are not enrolled in yeshiva can even be enlisted “by force.”

By continuing to push for widespread exemptions without making any concessions “we are endangering the Torah world,” he concludes.

Margi’s comments come amid a widespread backlash against an IDF plan to increase the amount of time conscripts and reservists serve in the military. Lawmakers from both the opposition and coalition have said the increased military service burden should fall on the Haredi community rather than being added on to those already serving.

Military officials have touted an increase in ultra-Orthodox volunteering for duty in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 massacre, though the numbers have been relatively small and there has not been a major shift in most ultra-Orthodox leaders’ or institutions’ approach to rejecting military service.

Education Ministry says schools in Sderot to open on March 3

A man walks past the Sderot police station, which was destroyed during battles to dislodge Hamas gunmen inside, on October 8, 2023. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)
A man walks past the Sderot police station, which was destroyed during battles to dislodge Hamas gunmen inside, on October 8, 2023. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

Schools in the southern city of Sderot are to resume operations on March 3, the Education Ministry announces.

Sderot (population 30,000) has for months been largely evacuated due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, with residents living in hotels or other temporary conditions elsewhere in the country, mostly in Eilat.

The decision was made in conjunction with the Sderot municipality and with the approval of the Home Front Command, the ministry says. Residents who wish to can remain outside the city until July with state support, the statement says.

For families who have already returned to the city, some kindergartens and classes for 1- to 3rd-graders will begin operation on February 18, and limited special education and youth programming is to begin on February 20.

The education systems set up for evacuated Sderot residents in other areas will be shut down on February 19, the notice says.

Last week a group of mayors from Gaza-adjacent communities, including Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi, camped overnight outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, demanding that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant issue statements and provide written confirmation that it’s safe for residents who were evacuated from their homes due to the war to go back.

“We will continue to demand from the government and the army total security and the return of a sense of security to the city… It was important for us to allow residents to choose when they wish to return to the city, without force, and to open educational frameworks for them,” Davidi says in a separate statement today.

Gaza war presents ‘great opportunity for change’ regarding ultra-Orthodox service in IDF

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 29, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, Jerusalem, January 29, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ongoing war in Gaza presents “great opportunity for change” regarding ultra-Orthodox service in the IDF, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declares in response to strong opposition to the Haredi community’s continued exemption from mandatory enlistment.

Addressing reporters ahead of his Religious Zionism party’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset, Smotrich holds up the national-religious community as an example of one that combines Torah study and military service and said that Israel “needs a change in this matter so that everybody will be partners.”

“We would very much like all parts of Israeli society to serve,” he declares, adding that “there are growing sections of ultra-Orthodox society” that wish to contribute to the security of the State of Israel.

Such a change would have to come from working “hand in hand” with the ultra-Orthodox rather than through imposing a change from the outside, he contends, adding that “it’s possible to do more and we will do more.”

An IDF proposal to increase the amount of time conscripts and reservists serve in the military as it prepares for a long war in the Gaza Strip generated fierce backlash among lawmakers from across the political spectrum last week, with many renewing calls to end the de facto exemptions for the ultra-Orthodox community in order to make up manpower shortages.

The plan was unveiled less than a year after the government decided not to enlist yeshiva students — despite the expiration of the current exemption framework.

Smotrich also slams Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to send negotiators — including Mossad spy agency chief David Barnea and Shin Bet security agency chief Ronen Bar — to Cairo to discuss a hostage release deal with senior US, Egyptian, and Qatari officials.

Instead of being sent to Egypt, Bar should “be sent to Rafah together with his men and the IDF soldiers to destroy, kill and annihilate the heads of the murderers and all the Nazi Hamas terrorists,” Smotrich says in a message addressed to the prime minister.

Egyptian FM says Cairo will maintain Israel peace treaty amid reported threats to sever pact over Rafah op

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, center, speaks with his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos, during their meeting at the foreign house in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, center, speaks with his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos, during their meeting at the foreign house in Nicosia, Cyprus, on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry says Cairo has no intention of severing its peace treaty with Israel amid several reports that it threatened to do so over Israel’s planned operation in Rafah, which Egypt fears may lead the million-plus residents sheltering there to flee south and cross the border.

“There is already a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, which has been in effect for the past forty years, and we will continue to [abide by] this,” Shoukry says in a press conference with his Slovenian counterpart in Ljubljana.

Shoukry adds that Egypt is continuing in its efforts to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas that will allow for the release of the hostages and the entry of more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

He reiterates Egypt’s call for a ceasefire, blasting Israel’s conduct in Gaza, while again warning against the mass displacement of Palestinians.

‘Why aren’t they targeting Oct. 7 perpetrators?’ Ben Gvir, Smotrich blast UK’s settler sanctions

File - Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (L) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File - Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (L) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Far-right National Security and Finance Ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich slam the UK for imposing sanctions on four Israeli settlers suspected of perpetrating violent crimes against Palestinians.

“The decree in question reveals a serious moral confusion,” Ben Gvir says in a statement.

“We have not heard of a decree issued by the British against thousands of Gaza residents who took part in the massacre, rape and looting of Jews, when on the other hand the British are trying to delegitimize the settlement enterprise and the heroic settlers, who have been sacrificing their lives since the beginning of the war in the fight against an enemy who rose up to massacre men, women and children – solely due to being Jewish,” he says.

Such a policy constitutes “collaboration” with the BDS movement against Israel “in which the terrorists are embraced and the victims are blamed,” Ben Gvir asserts, pledging that “we will not shy away from supporting these dedicated settlers, whose only sin is their refusal to submit to terrorism.”

Smotrich, meanwhile, tells reporters at a faction meeting of his Religious Zionism party in the Knesset that the British sanctions are part of an alleged “combined American, European and Arab move” to end the war and establish a Palestinian state.

Both Ben Gvir and Smotrich support the “voluntary” emigration of Gazans and the renewal of Israeli settlement in the Strip.

Ben Gvir, Netanyahu meet with troops who pulled off hostage rescue

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet with the troops who participated in the hostage rescue operation in Gaza on February 12, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet with the troops who participated in the hostage rescue operation in Gaza on February 12, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with troops from the Yamam police counter-terrorism unit who participated in the overnight hostage rescue operation.

“This was one of the most successful rescue operations in the history of the State of Israel. You eliminated the kidnappers, the terrorists and made your way back to Israel unscathed – a perfectly executed operation,” Netanyahu tells the troops, according to a statement from his office.

Netanyahu is joined by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who was left out of the war room as the operation was unfolding.

The Netherlands says it will appeal court decision to halt export of F-35 parts to Israel

Illustrative: An F-35 at Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, June 29, 2023 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
Illustrative: An F-35 at Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, June 29, 2023 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

The Dutch government announces that it will appeal a decision by a local court ordering a halt on the export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel over concerns they would be used to violate international law in Gaza, Hebrew media reports.

A trio of human rights organizations brought a civil suit against the Netherlands in December, arguing authorities needed to reevaluate the export license in light of Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

Dutch authorities have said in the past it is not clear whether they even have the power to intervene in the deliveries, part of a US-run operation that supplies parts to all F-35 partners.

Government lawyers also argued that if the Dutch did not supply the parts from the warehouse based in the Netherlands, Israel could easily procure them elsewhere.
The exports must cease within seven days.

Far-right MKs get into shouting match with Arab lawmakers, accusing them of supporting terror

Religious Zionism MK Tzvi Succot shouts during a parliamentary committee hearing on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
Religious Zionism MK Tzvi Succot shouts during a parliamentary committee hearing on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

Ultranationalist MKs Tzvi Succot (Religious Zionism) and Yitzhak Kroizer (Otzma Yehudit) get in a shouting match with Ra’am MK Iman Khatib-Yassin, accusing the Arab lawmaker of supporting terror and denying Hamas atrocities committed on October 7.

During a discussion of the 2024 amended budget in the Knesset Finance Committee, Sukkot calls Khatib-Yassin an “enemy and a supporter of terrorism” while Kroizer says she should be “ashamed” of herself for showing her face in the Knesset.

“You said ‘we don’t rape women,'” Sukkot and Kroizer assert, prompting Khatib-Yassin to shoot back that they are “racist” and “fascist.”

“When we say ‘together we will win,’ it means we will beat you, you are supporters of terrorism,” Sukkot declares.

Last November, Knesset’s Ethics Committee sanctioned Khatib-Yassin because she had “denied atrocities” committed by Hamas. Under pressure to resign from her party leadership, Khatib-Yassin later apologized for her statement that videos circulated by the IDF of the atrocities committed by Hamas did not show “rape of women” nor “slaughtering of babies.”

The current budget has come under criticism from Arab MKs because it cuts about 15% of funding for a five-year plan intended to advance the social and economic integration of Arab Israelis.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the Shin Bet and National Security Council warned last month that such cuts could “intensify the risks of an outbreak of violence.”

Last week the Knesset plenum passed a preliminary reading of a bill criminalizing the denial, minimization or celebration of the Hamas terror group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which killed over 1,200 people and saw more than 240 people taken hostage in Gaza.

12 evacuated municipalities will not hold local elections this month — ministry

Illustrative: Vote counting in the municipal elections on October 30, 2018 (David Cohen/Flash90)
Illustrative: Vote counting in the municipal elections on October 30, 2018 (David Cohen/Flash90)

Twelve municipal authorities will not take part in the nationwide municipal elections slated for February 27 due to the conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah, while voting booths will be set up in the Gaza Strip to enable soldiers currently on combat duty in the war-torn territory to vote, the Interior Ministry announces.

The elections were originally scheduled for October 31, 2023, but were postponed due to the outbreak of war with Hamas in Gaza, and then postponed again after being rescheduled for January 30 because of the ongoing conflict.

The 12 municipal districts that won’t hold elections are those that have been ordered evacuated due to their proximity to the fighting in Gaza and the northern border with Lebanon, where numerous towns and communities have borne the brunt of hundreds of attacks by Hezbollah.

Some 241 local authorities will go to the polls on February 27. The Interior Ministry will conduct security evaluations every two hours on election day in coordination with the IDF Home Front Command and the Israel Police in order to ensure the safety of voters.

Ryan Ghanem, national inspector for elections, confirmed that soldiers on combat duty will be able to vote in the elections in polling stations in Gaza, starting on February 20, but says he cannot disclose the number of soldiers who are eligible to vote there or the number of polling stations that will be set up in the territory for that purpose.

IDF releases footage of its strikes in Rafah during extraction of hostages by special forces

Footage from the IDF's hostage rescue operation on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture)
Footage from the IDF's hostage rescue operation on February 12, 2024. (Screen capture)

The IDF releases footage from its overnight hostage rescue in southern Gaza’s Rafah, as well as of strikes in the area amid the extraction of Fernando Simon Marman and Norberto Louis Har by special forces.

Members of the Shin Bet security agency and police’s elite Yamam counterterrorism unit arrived quietly at the home in Rafah at around 1 a.m., where Marman and Har were being held.

At 1:49 a.m., the forces breached the second-floor apartment with explosives, and within moments killed three terrorists guarding the hostages.

Within one minute of the rescue, the Israeli Air Force carried out massive airstrikes against Hamas terrorists in the area of the operation, to aid in the extraction.

The two hostages were taken by the forces in armored vehicles out of Rafah, then put in a military helicopter that brought them to Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan for examination, where both were listed in good condition.

Civilian walks into Gaza, returns to Israel, is detained by troops — IDF

The Israel-Gaza border fence after the barrier was bombed and breached by Palestinian terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip, October 7, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
The Israel-Gaza border fence after the barrier was bombed and breached by Palestinian terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip, October 7, 2023. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

An Israeli civilian crossed into the Gaza Strip near the southern community of Be’eri yesterday, in circumstances still under investigation, the IDF says.

The IDF says the civilian was spotted by soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras, who dispatched troops to the scene but apparently arrived too late because a short while later, the civilian returned on his own to Israel where he was then detained by troops.

Authorities are still investigating why he crossed into Gaza.

Herzog says while Hamas enjoys broad support among Gazans, ‘aid must reach them’

President Isaac Herzog speaks at an event at the President’s Residence honoring IDF soldiers killed in the war against Hamas in Gaza, in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Screenshot: YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
President Isaac Herzog speaks at an event at the President’s Residence honoring IDF soldiers killed in the war against Hamas in Gaza, in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Screenshot: YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, President Isaac Herzog calls South Africa’s case in the International Court of Justice a “blood libel against the nation-state of the Jewish people—a shameful low for an international system that emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust.”

He says that the prosecution knowingly twisted his October 12 comment that there is “an entire nation out there that is responsible,” as evidence that Israeli leaders were condoning genocide of Palestinians.

“The fact is that many Palestinian civilians entered Israel on Oct. 7 on the heels of the Hamas terrorists and participated in murder, rape and looting, much of it documented on film,” Herzog writes. “Palestinians were filmed cheering the massacre and jeering and attacking the hostages as they were led into captivity. I also pointed out that Hamas operates from within the heart of its civilian population and enjoys broad support.”

At the same time, he stresses, he stated that there are many innocent Palestinians and that Israel does not target civilians.

“These words were purposely distorted when presented to the court,” he writes. “The claim that Israel is committing genocide can’t rest on accurate information, because it is a lie.”

Herzog rejects any calls to harm Palestinian civilians, and writes that “humanitarian aid must reach them” amid ongoing protests mostly by right-wing Israelis aimed at blocking assistance from reaching Gaza.

Herzog writes the op-ed ahead of his attendance at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend.

Netanyahu to Dutch PM Rutte: Israel will not ‘leave the terror battalions in Rafah alone’

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, February 12, 2024 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, February 12, 2024 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Meeting with Dutch premier Mark Rutte in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stresses that Israel will not “leave the terror battalions in Rafah alone,” and that the war will continue until Israel’s achieve total victory over Hamas.

This is Rutte’s third visit to Israel since October 7.

He is also meeting war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, and with Palestinian Authority PM Mohammed Shtayyeh.

In a tweet earlier today, Rutte calls for Israeli operations to “quickly and significantly reduce their intensity.”

He also warned that a major operation in Rafah would have “catastrophic humanitarian consequences,” and called for an immediate ceasefire that culminates in a “lasting end” to the conflict, including a Palestinian state.

Rocket sirens sound in Zarit close to Lebanon border

Sirens sound in Zarit close to the border with Lebanon, warning of incoming rocket fire.

The towns close to the northern border have been largely evacuated of civilians since October 8, when Hezbollah-led forces began launching daily attacks on Israeli communities and military posts along the border.

The terror group says it is doing so to support Gaza amid Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group, triggered by its October 7 massacre.

UN special rapporteur for Palestinians banned from Israel after 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)

After the UN special rapporteur for the Palestinians appeared to justify Hamas’s October 7 massacre, the foreign and interior ministries announce that Francesca Albanese will not be allowed into Israel.

The Interior Ministry has been refusing to issue a visa to Albanese for months, and now she is officially banned. There is no time limit on the decision.

“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 onslaught, including a number of French nationals.

“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 era of Jews being silent is over,” say Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel in a joint statement. “If the UN wants to return to being a relevant body, its leaders must publicly disavow the anti-Semitic words of the ‘Special Envoy’ – and fire her permanently. Preventing her from entering Israel might remind her of the real reason why Hamas slaughtered babies, women and adults.”

Lapid: ‘There is a small window of opportunity now for a hostage deal’

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 12, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid leads a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on February 12, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

There is a narrow window of opportunity for Israel to negotiate a deal to free its hostages in Gaza, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid says, citing recent conversations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French President Emmanuel Macron.

“The Americans, the French, the Qataris and the Egyptians think that there is now a window of opportunity for a hostage deal, which is not long,” Lapid tells reporters at his Yesh Atid party’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset.

“No one can define exactly what ‘not long’ is, whether it is two or three weeks, but this is the time frame in which they still think a deal can be made,” he states, arguing that the Israeli government “cannot ignore any chance, even the smallest, of making a hostage deal.”

Prime Minister Benjamin “Netanyahu should stop with the terrible and cynical and political experiment to divide us – as if there are those who are in favor of the kidnapped and in contrast there are those who are in favor of victory,” Lapid says.

Hamas proposed a ceasefire plan that would see a four-and-a-half-month truce during which hostages would be freed in three stages, and which would lead to an end to the war, Reuters reported, in response to a proposed outline sent two weeks ago by Qatari and Egyptian mediators and backed by the United States and Israel.

Netanyahu rejected Hamas’s “delusional” conditions, arguing that only military pressure will secure the release of the Israelis being held captive in the Gaza Strip.

Addressing the balance between the two war aims of toppling Hamas and securing the release of those held in Gaza, Lapid tells reporters that “every sane Israeli citizen is in favor of victory over Hamas” but that “there will be no victory without first returning the hostages.”

“These people were abandoned by the government and the security system, and the government and the security system have a moral obligation to bring them home,” he says, adding that an operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the last remaining major Hamas stronghold in the Strip, “should be part of an organized strategic plan for the day after” the war.

“There is more political work to be done with the Americans and especially with the Egyptians. This will be a completely different type of operation than what we saw in the north of the Gaza Strip or in the central camps. The State of Israel needs time to prepare it. The hostages should be brought home now.”

Last week Lapid offered to enter the government to replace National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has opposed a deal with far-reaching concessions to Hamas.

Shin Bet releases war room photos from dramatic Gaza hostage rescue

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Maj. Gen. Avi Gil during the hostage rescue in southern Gaza's Rafah, February 12, 2024 (Shin Bet)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (L), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Maj. Gen. Avi Gil during the hostage rescue in southern Gaza's Rafah, February 12, 2024 (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security agency releases photos from its war room during the dramatic hostage rescue last night in southern Gaza’s Rafah.

The command center from which the operation was managed was crowded overnight, with the head of Shin Bet, IDF chief of staff, police commissioner, head of military intelligence, head of IDF operations, and the chief of the air force all supervising the rescue.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi also joined to observe the operation.

Shin Bet head Ronen Bar (center) speaks to IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi during the hostage rescue in southern Gaza’s Rafah, February 12, 2024 (Shin Bet)

UK slaps sanctions on 4 settlers accused of violent crimes, ‘egregious abuses of human rights’

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron at the Government's Palace in Beirut on February 1, 2024. (Joseph Eid/AFP)
Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron at the Government's Palace in Beirut on February 1, 2024. (Joseph Eid/AFP)

After the White House on February 1 slapped travel bans and financial penalties on four settlers suspected of perpetrating violent crimes against Palestinians, the UK follows suit, announcing sanctions on “Israeli settlers who have violently attacked Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.”

According to the Foreign Office, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron decided to impose “financial and travel restrictions” on four Israelis.

Of the four, only Yinon Levi was included in Biden’s executive order imposing sanctions on settlers.

The UK says that Levi and Moshe Sharvit “have in recent months used physical aggression, threatened families at gunpoint, and destroyed property as part of a targeted and calculated effort to displace Palestinian communities.”

The UK order also targets Zvi Bar Yosef, who it accuses of threatening families on a picnic at gunpoint; and Ely Federman, accused of threatening shepherds south of Hebron.

According the Hakol Hayehudi site, Federman was injured fighting in Gaza, and has since returned to combat in Khan Younis.

“Today’s sanctions place restrictions on those involved in some of the most egregious abuses of human rights,” says Cameron. “We should be clear about what is happening here. Extremist Israeli settlers are threatening Palestinians, often at gunpoint, and forcing them off land that is rightfully theirs. This behavior is illegal and unacceptable.”

Cameron also calls for Israel to “take stronger action and put a stop to settler violence. Too often, we see commitments made and undertakings given, but not followed through.”

UK Labour candidate sorry for saying Israel ‘allowed’ Oct. 7 onslaught to give it ‘green light’ in Gaza

Former UK Labour Party candidate Azhar Ali (via X)
Former UK Labour Party candidate Azhar Ali (via X)

Azhar Ali, a candidate for Britain’s Labour Party, apologizes after recordings emerged of him saying that Israel had “allowed” the October 7 onslaught by the Hamas terror group in southern Israel to take place to give a “green light to do whatever they bloody want” in Gaza.

The candidate in this month’s Rochdale byelection “apologized unreservedly to the Jewish community” for his “inexcusable comments,” The Guardian reports.

“Hamas’s horrific terror attack was the responsibility of Hamas alone, and they are still holding hostages who must be released,” Ali says.

The apology comes after recordings emerged of Ali making the controversial comments.

“The Egyptians are saying that they warned Israel ten days earlier… Americans warned them a day before [that] there’s something happening… They deliberately took the security off, they allowed… that massacre that gives them the green light to do whatever they bloody want,” he says in the recordings, obtained by The Mail on Sunday.

Labour is still facing criticism for allowing Ali to be a candidate despite the comment, The Guardian reports.

In November, Labour leader Keir Starmer was hit by a string of resignations from his frontbench in the House of Commons, after he faced a rebellion from his MPs over his refusal to back a ceasefire in Gaza.

Under the leadership of previous party chief Jeremy Corbyn, Labour was accused of allowing antisemitism to fester within its ranks. Starmer has said he had to “rip antisemitism out” the party.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive, aimed at eliminating Hamas, after the terror group’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — including children and the elderly — many of them massacred amid brutal atrocities.

Biden called Netanyahu ‘asshole’ in private amid frustration over Gaza policy – report

US President Joe Biden (left) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)
US President Joe Biden (left) with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Amid reports of growing frustration in the White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, NBC News reports that US President Joe Biden has been expressing his exasperation in private conversations, but is not about to make any major change in policy.

Citing “five people directly familiar with his comments,” the report says that Biden expressed frustration to people, including campaign donors, over his “inability to persuade Israel to change its military tactics in Gaza.”

The US president also called Netanyahu an “asshole” in at least three recent instances, according to three of the anonymous sources.

“He just feels like this is enough,” one of the sources tells NBC. “It has to stop.”

Biden is also flummoxed by Netanyahu’s rejection of deals that the US president thinks are a win for Israel, like Saudi normalization in exchange for a political pathway toward a Palestinian state.

The US president reportedly also says he is trying to get Israel to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, but Netanyahu is “giving him hell.”

Biden, the report says, thinks that Netanyahu wants to extend the war to stay in power.

The sources also say that Biden thinks it would be counterproductive to be too critical of Netanyahu in public.

IDF says jets hit Hezbollah cell in southern Lebanon, carried out strikes on terror targets

The IDF says fighter jets carried out strikes on Hezbollah operatives and sites in southern Lebanon a short while ago.

A vehicle with a number of Hezbollah operatives in it was struck in the village of Maroun al-Ras, the IDF says.

The IDF says it also struck Hezbollah infrastructure in Odaisseh and Khiam, two buildings and another military site in Tayr Harfa and Maroun al-Ras.

After Moody’s downgrade, opposition MKs slam Smotrich for Haredi spending, Arab community cuts

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 12, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 12, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Lawmakers slam the government’s amended 2024 budget in the Knesset Finance Committee, blaming Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and other members of the coalition for Israel’s battered credit rating and accusing them of damaging the economy.

“In my view, there has never been such a large gap between talk and action in the economic policy of the State of Israel,” declares National Unity MK Orit Farkash-Hacohen, asking Smotrich to task his ministry with evaluating the economic cost of extending the terms of IDF soldiers while some sectors of the population “are not recruited at all.”

“It is not for nothing that the rating companies expressed distrust and after 36 years made a heavy decision,” she said. 1988 was the first year Israel’s credit was rated by a major international ratings agency, Standard and Poor’s (Moody’s and Fitch followed in 1995).

US agency Moody’s downgraded Israel credit rating last week, explaining that the “aftermath and wider consequences” of the war “materially raise political risk for Israel.”

“The war was an opportunity for the Israeli economy to produce the change” that is needed, adds Yesh Atid MK Naor Shiri, “but this is not happening.” He calls the Moody’s report “an opportunity… to make difficult changes” and also demands “a professional finance minister.”

“Do you not see a connection between the budget and the downgrade,” asks fellow Yesh Atid MK Meirav Cohen, calling out the government’s NIS 9 billion ($2.4 billion) deficit and alleging that the budget’s use of coalition funds for the ultra-Orthodox sector “encourages evasion, encourages poverty and encourages studies that are not core studies.”

“To come and increase the budgets at this time for people who do not enlist in the army and do not participate in the employment market is an economically irresponsible policy,” she says.

The revised budget has come under criticism from MKs for leaving ultra-Orthodox education budgets uncut despite many of the community’s schools refusing to teach core secular studies. At the same time, both coalition and opposition lawmakers have slammed the government’s proposal to extend service time for both standing army and reserve IDF soldiers while a majority of the ultra-Orthodox community does not serve.

“It is natural that after every war there are horizontal cuts, but here we are talking about an offensive decision that hurts many sectors and populations and the Arab population the most,” says Hadash-Ta’al chairman Ahmad Tibi, referring to plans to cut about 15% of funding for a five-year plan intended to advance the social and economic integration of Arab Israelis.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the Shin Bet and National Security Council warned last month that such cuts could “intensify the risks of an outbreak of violence.”

To pay for the defense spending increase of around NIS 70 billion ($18.6 billion), the budget includes an across-the-board cut of 3 percent from all government ministries with some exceptions. It also slashes around NIS 2.5 billion ($670 million) out of NIS 8 billion in coalition funds — discretionary funds earmarked for pet projects of MKs and ministers, and contains a deficit target of 6.6% of GDP.

Notably, the current plan does not contain any provisions for reducing the number of government ministries, despite the Finance Ministry’s recommendation that 10 superfluous ministries — including the Settlements and National Missions Ministry, the Jerusalem and Jewish Tradition Ministry, and the Intelligence Ministry — be closed to cover the wartime shortfall.

Addressing lawmakers, Smotrich says that “there are no cuts in unimportant things, everything is important” and that the war “requires severe cuts and all sectors and all ministries are experiencing this. I tried to make it balanced.”

“I don’t think we in the treasury and the government have all the wisdom. If there are good comments, we will listen to them and implement as much as possible,” he declares.

‘They were hungry for days’: Relative says freed hostages came home very weak

A relative of the two hostages freed in an overnight operation in Gaza says that the men have lost a lot of weight during their four months in captivity.

“For days they were hungry,” the unnamed relative tells the Ynet news site, adding that they came back “very weak.”

The report says the two were mainly fed pita and cheese spread.

Fernando Marman, 61, and Louis Har, 70, were said to be in relatively good condition after being rescued in an operation that involved battles with Hamas terrorists and massive Israeli airstrikes in Rafah.

WATCH: Freed hostages are reunited with loved ones after 128 days in Gaza

Louis Har (C) hugs a loved one as Fernando Marman looks on at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024. (Screen grab)
Louis Har (C) hugs a loved one as Fernando Marman looks on at Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024. (Screen grab)

Video shows the moment the two men freed from Gaza are reunited with family members at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.

Fernando Marman, 61, and Louis Har, 70, were rescued in a complex overnight operation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, marking only the second successful extraction of captives held by the terror group.

The two men were kidnapped along with other relatives from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7.

The footage is released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Palestinian Authority spokesman says US cannot ‘remain hostage to Israeli policies’

Nabil Abu Rudeineh is sworn in as a deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, on April 13, 2019 (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
Nabil Abu Rudeineh is sworn in as a deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, on April 13, 2019 (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, calls on the international community to stop the advance of the Israeli ground offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, saying that “the US administration must not remain a hostage to Israeli policies.”

The spokesman swipes at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying in an NBC interview aired on Sunday that the Rafah operation would go ahead “while providing safe passage for the civilian population so they can leave.”

Netanyahu’s statements are “pure nonsense” and “a deception to the world,” Abu Rudeineh says, “because there is no longer a safe place in the Gaza Strip, and civilians cannot return [to their homes] in the center and north of the Strip amid the ongoing bombing.”

“The region is at a crossroads, and the continuation of the war against the Palestinian people will lead to its regional expansion,” Abu Rudeineh adds.

In petition to labor court, union says reservist medical residents being discriminated against

Mirsham, the organization of medical residents in Israel, petitions the district labor court in Tel Aviv to issue a temporary order putting a halt to any plan that would negatively affect residents who have been called to reserve military duty during the war.

Mirsham particularly seeks the cancelation of decisions by the scientific council of the Israel Medical Association (IMA) regarding exams for medical residents. The council announced that it would bring forward one set of exams and not allow a secondary date for another set. In addition, the council said it would not grant any time off to study before exams.

Mirsham claims that the council’s decisions should be found by the court to be invalid because they discriminate against medical residents who have served, are serving, or will serve in the war.

“As always, we show up wherever we are needed… While we are fighting on the frontlines, we are being abandoned on the home front and decisions are being made that will hurt our careers,” says neurologist Dr. Ofir Levy in a statement issued by Mirsham.

The labor court has set a hearing on the petition for February 18 and has demanded a response from the IMA within three days.

Dutch court orders Netherlands to stop delivery of US-owned F-35 parts to Israel

Illustrative: An F-35 at Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, June 29, 2023 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
Illustrative: An F-35 at Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, June 29, 2023 (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

A Dutch appeals court orders the Dutch government to block all exports of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel within seven days, upholding an appeal by human rights organizations.

“It is undeniable that there is a clear risk the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the court says.

The US-owned F-35 parts are stored at a warehouse in the Netherlands and then shipped to several partners, including Israel, via existing export agreements.

A group of human rights organizations brought the case, arguing that supplying the parts contributes to alleged violations of international law by Israel in its war with Hamas.

Dutch authorities have said in the past it is not clear whether they even have the power to intervene in the deliveries, part of a US-run operation that supplies parts to all F-35 partners.

Government lawyers also argued that if the Dutch did not supply the parts from the warehouse based in the Netherlands, Israel could easily procure them elsewhere.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive, aimed at eliminating Hamas, after the terror group’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — including children and the elderly — many of them massacred amid brutal atrocities.

Parents of soldier killed in Gaza: Hostages must be brought home so troops’ deaths are not in vain

Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21 of Haifa (Courtesy)
Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21 of Haifa (Courtesy)

The parents of one of the soldiers whose death was announced this morning call for the hostages to be brought home so that his death was not in vain.

Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21 of Haifa, of the Maglan unit, was killed in the southern Gaza Strip, as was Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21 of Tel Aviv.

“Our children fight and are killed because they think it is a just war,” Dr. Liron Eldor tells reporters, alongside his wife Rakefet.

“The families live [close to the Gaza border], because the government sent them. The soldiers are serving there because the government sent them,” he says.

“No soldier who was kidnapped, no hostage, and no victim of this horror must be in vain,” he says. “It’s time to bring them all back, we can’t abandon them.”

“We received the great news this morning of the two [hostages] we managed to rescue. We must work with all our strength and means of negotiation,” he says.

“Once they are all home, then we can settle scores. But it shouldn’t be done at [the hostages’] expense,” Eldor says.

“Get off Twitter, leave the poisonous talk to the side, these are good people who need to come home,” he says.

Rakefet adds: “If we don’t bring them home, we have no future.”

Rocket sirens in Gaza border town after lull of nearly four days

Sirens sound in Ein HaBesor close to the Gaza border, warning of incoming rocket fire.

It is the first alert of incoming fire from the Strip in 3 days and 21 hours.

The communities close to the Gaza Strip have been largely evacuated of civilians since October 7.

Lebanese media reports Israeli strike on car in Bint Jbeil

Lebanese media outlets report an Israeli strike on a car in the south Lebanon town of Bint Jbeil.

Images from the scene show a heavily damaged vehicle.

There is no information on casualties in the strike.

The IDF has been carrying out strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon in response to the terror group’s daily attacks on northern Israel amid the Gaza war.

UNRWA must be able to operate even amid probe into Oct. 7 allegations, EU’s Borrell says

European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell attends a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 7, 2024. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell attends a news conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 7, 2024. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The UN agency for Palestinians UNRWA needs to be able to continue its work while allegations that some its 13,000 staff in Gaza were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led onslaught on Israel are investigated, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell says.

“Nobody else can do what UNRWA is doing, allegations need to be verified… let’s wait for the investigations to take place,” Borrell says ahead of a meeting of EU development ministers in Brussels.

“In the meantime, people have to continue to eat, have to continue going to the doctors,” he says.

Israel alleges that a dozen of UNRWA’s employees took part in the Oct. 7 attacks, leading multiple international donors to suspend funding for the agency.

One of the 12 men reportedly implicated was an UNRWA teacher accused of being armed with an anti-tank missile, while another teacher was accused of filming a hostage being taken captive during the onslaught.

Another of the staffers, also an elementary school teacher, allegedly served as a Hamas commander and participated in the massacre in Kibbutz Be’eri, while a man employed by UNRWA as a social worker was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of an IDF soldier’s body on that day.

Of the 12 UNRWA workers accused of participating in the October 7 massacre, seven were reportedly teachers, two were educational consultants and others were humanitarian aid warehouse managers.

1st image shows hostages freed in Gaza operation reunited with loved ones

From L-R:  Gabriela Leimberg kisses her brother Fernando Marman, Clara Marman next to her partner Louis Har, at the Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024 (Courtesy)
From L-R: Gabriela Leimberg kisses her brother Fernando Marman, Clara Marman next to her partner Louis Har, at the Sheba Medical Center, February 12, 2024 (Courtesy)

A first image circulates showing Fernando Marman and Norberto Louis Har with loved ones after they were freed from Rafah in Gaza during an overnight military operation.

The picture shows the two men with Gabriela Leimberg and Clara Marman, who were freed during a temporary truce.

Clara Marman, Fernando’s sister and Har’s partner, was also taken, as was their other sister Gabriela, and Gabriela’s daughter, Mia, 17.

The Leimbergs and Clara Marman were released on November 28 as part of a temporary ceasefire deal brokered by Qatar and the United States between Hamas and Israel.

PM praises ‘brave warriors’ who freed hostages, says only military pressure will bring release of all those held

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on February 7, 2024. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on February 7, 2024. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes the rescue of hostages Fernando Simon Marman, 61, and Norberto Louis Har, 70, in a daring nighttime operation in Gaza’s Rafah.

“Fernando and Louis – welcome home,” the premier writes on X.

“I salute our brave warriors for the bold action that led to their liberation. Only the continuation of military pressure, until complete victory, will result in the release of all our hostages,” Netanyahu writes. “We will not miss any opportunity to bring them home.”

Footage said to show site of IDF’s hostage rescue operation in Rafah

Palestinians inspect the damage on a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Palestinians inspect the damage on a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Footage said to be of the site of the Israel Defense Forces operation to rescue two hostages in Rafah is posted to social media.

The veracity of the footage cannot be immediately confirmed.

The images appear to show widespread destruction.

Hostages forum: ‘Time is running out, government must exhaust every option to get the rest back’

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 Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents the relatives of most of those held in Gaza, welcomes the operation that freed two of those held in Gaza, and calls on the government to “exhaust every option” to secure the freedom of those still in captivity.

“We commend the IDF soldiers who demonstrated strength and bravery to secure the release of the two hostages, and wish them all to return home safely and speedily,” the forum says in a statement.

“Time is running out for the remaining hostages held captive by Hamas. Their lives are at risk with each passing moment. The Israeli government must exhaust every option on the table to release them,” the statement says.

Hezbollah’s Nasrallah met with Islamic Jihad’s Nakhaleh, terror group says

Ziad al-Nakhaleh, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (L) meets with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (R) in an undated photo, no location given, released February 12, 2024 (Hezbollah)
Ziad al-Nakhaleh, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (L) meets with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (R) in an undated photo, no location given, released February 12, 2024 (Hezbollah)

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has met with Ziad al-Nakhaleh, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah says in a statement.

It does not say where or when the meeting was held.

According to he statement, the two terror leaders discussed “the latest developments,” and the “support provided by the axis of resistance in the various arenas.”

The heads of the two Iran-backed terror groups also held talks on “expected developments,” the statement says.

2 freed hostages say they were held in a family home in Rafah — report

The two hostages freed in an overnight operation have said they were held captive in the home of a family in Rafah, the Ynet news site reports.

According to the report, Fernando Marman, 61, and Louis Har, 70, told Sheba Medical Center, where they are now being treated, that the reason for their relatively good health despite being held hostage for 129 days was that they were imprisoned in a Gaza home — the implication being that they were not held in a tunnel.

Marman and Har were taken hostage from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak on October 7.

Clara Marman, 62, who is Marman’s sister and Har’s partner, was also taken, as was their other sister Gabriela Leimberg, 59, and Gabriela’s daughter, Mia, 17.

The Leimbergs and Clara Marman were released on November 28 as part of a temporary ceasefire deal brokered by Qatar and the United States between Hamas and Israel.

Clara, back in Israel, has said that all five were kept together, and at one point, they were moved in a small car to Rafah, “actually, very close to Nir Yitzhak.”

2 soldiers killed were both sons of prominent doctors at major hospitals

IDF soldiers Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21, of Tel Aviv (L) and Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21, of Haifa, whose deaths in action in Gaza were announced on February 12, 2024. (Courtesy)
IDF soldiers Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21, of Tel Aviv (L) and Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21, of Haifa, whose deaths in action in Gaza were announced on February 12, 2024. (Courtesy)

The deaths of two soldiers announced this morning hit hard the communities of Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center and Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21, of the Commando Brigade’s Maglan unit, from Haifa, is the son of Dr. Liron Eldor, a senior plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Rambam. He is also the grandson of gynecologist Prof. Yosef Itzkowitz-Eldor of Rambam and the Technion, who was a pioneer in the fields of fertility medicine and stem cell research in Israel.

“The horrible news of Adi’s falling is heartbreaking,” says Rambam’s director-general Prof. Michael Halbertal.

Wolfson Medical Center releases a message saying it mourns the loss of Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21, of the Commando Brigade’s Maglan unit, from Tel Aviv. Kleinman is the son of Prof. Guy Kleinman, head of Wolfson’s ophthalmology department.

“Alon, may his memory be a blessing, was killed while valiantly fighting in heavy battles in Khan Younis to defend the State of Israel and its inhabitants,” the message states.

“The entire Wolfson community mourns together with Prof. Kleinman and extends condolences to the whole family,” it continues.

Ship targeted by missiles near Yemen, British maritime security firm says

British maritime security firm Ambrey says that a Marshall Islands-flagged, Greece-owned bulk carrier was targeted by missiles in two separate incidents within two minutes while transiting through the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

The bulker was reportedly hit and sustained physical damage on the starboard side, Ambrey adds.

Ambrey had first reported that the carrier had sighted a projectile near the vessel 23 nautical miles northeast of Djibouti’s Khor Angar and 40 nautical miles southwest of Yemen’s Red Sea port city of Mokha.

Yemen’s Houthis have attacked shipping routes in the Red Sea as part of what they say is their response to Israel’s campaign against the Palestinian terrorists, who are — like the Houthis — backed by Iran.

The Houthi attacks have prompted the US and Britain to launch waves of strikes on rebel-held areas in Yemen.

Hamas-run health ministry says ‘around 100’ killed in Rafah strikes as Israel rescued 2 hostages

Smoke billows during strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
Smoke billows during strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Predawn Israeli strikes during an operation to rescue two Israeli hostages held in the southern Gaza city of Rafah killed “around 100” people, the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry says in a statement.

The statement revises upward the ministry’s earlier toll of 52 people killed in the strikes on the city along the Egyptian border.

The Israel Defense Forces said it used intense firepower against gunmen in and around the building were the two hostages were held. It said “many terrorists were killed.”

Hospital says two hostages rescued from Gaza are in stable condition

“I’m very happy to announce that this evening two released hostages landed here at Sheba medical center, Israel’s largest hospital,” says Prof. Arnon Afek, director of Sheba.

“They were received in our ER and initial examinations were conducted by our ER staff and they are in a stable condition and being tended to,” Afek says.

Fernando Simon Marman (61) and Norberto Louis Har (70) were rescued overnight in a joint operation by the IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police in Rafah.

Herzog: Israel won’t stop until all the hostages held in Gaza are home

President Isaac Herzog attends a ceremony in which Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron's tenure is extended for another 5-year term, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, December 18, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90)
President Isaac Herzog attends a ceremony in which Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron's tenure is extended for another 5-year term, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, December 18, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/FLASH90)

President Isaac Herzog welcomes the return of the two hostages freed in an overnight operation in Gaza’s Rafah, invoking medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides who said “there is no greater mitzvah than the redemption of captives.”

“I salute everyone who brought Fernando and Luis home in a daring rescue operation. We will continue to act in every way to return all the hostages to their homes,” Herzog adds.

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, including the two today, and the bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 29 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

IDF spokesman: Troops used their bodies to shield hostages from gunfire during rescue operation

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

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, in a morning press conference after the rescue of two Israeli hostages from Hamas captivity in southern Gaza’s Rafah, says troops carried out a “professional and accurate operation” and physically protected Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Norberto Louis Har, 70, from the terrorists’ gunfire.

“Overnight, we brought back Louis and Fernando. This was a complex rescue operation under fire based on sensitive intelligence. A professional and accurate operation,” Hagari says.

“This is an operation that we prepared for and were waiting for the conditions that would make it possible to carry it out,” he says.

Hagari says that as officers of police’s elite Yamam unit breached the apartment in Rafah where the pair were being held by Hamas terrorists, at 1:49 a.m., they “hugged and protected Luis and Fernando with their bodies.”

He says fighting occurred at a number of locations, with airstrikes being carried out against Hamas terrorists in the area at 1:50 a.m.

“The troops pulled Louis and Fernando out of the apartment and rescued them under fire, until they reached the safe zone,” Hagari says.

“It was a very tense and very touching night. Such an operation was made possible thanks to the great sacrifice of the standing army and reserve troops who fell and were injured in the battles. Without their sacrifice, we would not have reached this moment,” he continues.

Hagari says that “even this morning, we don’t forget for a moment that 134 hostages are still being held in Gaza.”

“If you can hear me now, we are very determined to bring you home and we will not miss any opportunity to bring you home,” he adds in a message to the remaining hostages.

Gantz welcomes return of Gaza hostages freed by IDF, mourns soldiers killed in separate operation

MK Benny Gantz attends an Israel Hayom conference in Jerusalem, September 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Benny Gantz attends an Israel Hayom conference in Jerusalem, September 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz welcomes the return of the two hostages rescued overnight from the Gaza Strip, while mourning the deaths of the two soldiers killed in a separate operation.

“We will never give up on them. The IDF, the Shin Bet and the police special forces acted precisely and courageously,” he writes.

“Along with the great joy at the return home of Fernando [Marman] and Louis [Har], there is great sadness at the fall of Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor and Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman as they fought for us,” Gantz writes. “We will not stop working to return all 134 abductees home. We remember, and we continue.”

Hamas rails against Israel’s ‘massacre’ in Rafah as 2 hostages rescued

A destroyed mosque is seen following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
A destroyed mosque is seen following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Hamas in its initial response to the IDF rescue of two hostages rails against “the massacre the Israeli army conducted in Rafah tonight” and blames the US “for giving the green light to Netanyahu.”

The military said it used intense firepower against gunmen in and around the building where the two hostages were held. It said “many terrorists were killed.” Hamas has said over 50 people are dead.

Hamas calls the operation a continuation of the “genocidal war” and the forced displacement attempts against the Palestinian people.

Knesset speaker hails rescue: ‘Finally good news, you’ve given hope to entire nation’

File: Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana at a plenum session in Jerusalem on December 25, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana at a plenum session in Jerusalem on December 25, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana fetes the “impressive, heroic and complex rescue operation” that freed the two hostages from Gaza.

“Finally good news,” he says in thanking security forces. “You’ve offered hope to an entire nation.”

“We will not rest until we bring them all back.”

Argentine president welcomes rescue of 2 hostages, who are country’s citizens

The two freed hostages immigrated to Israel from Argentina, and Argentine President Javier Milei, who only days ago visited Israel, puts out a statement celebrating their freedom.

“The Office of the President thanks the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police for having successfully completed the rescue of the Argentines Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har,” the presidency says in a post on X.

“During his visit to the State of Israel, President Javier Milei reiterated to President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the request for the release of each of the Argentine hostages, and continues to firmly maintain his condemnation of Hamas terrorism.”

Video shows chopper carrying rescued hostages arriving at hospital

A video shows the moment a military helicopter carrying the two rescued hostages arrived at Sheba Medical Center.

IDF announces deaths of two soldiers in Gaza fighting

IDF soldiers Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21, of Tel Aviv (L) and Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21, of Haifa, whose deaths in action in Gaza were announced on February 12, 2024. (Courtesy)
IDF soldiers Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21, of Tel Aviv (L) and Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21, of Haifa, whose deaths in action in Gaza were announced on February 12, 2024. (Courtesy)

At the same time that the country wakes to a hopeful morning with news of the rescue of two hostages, the IDF also announces the deaths of two soldiers during operations in Gaza (the two were not killed in the rescue operation, in which there were no fatalities):

Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, 21 of Haifa, of the Maglan unit, who was killed in the southern Gaza Strip.

Sgt. First Class (res.) Alon Kleinman, 21 of Tel Aviv, of the Maglan unit, who was killed in the southern Gaza Strip.

Their deaths bring the military death toll since the start of the ground offensive in Gaza to 229.

Louis Har’s son-in-law on meeting him: ‘There were hugs, tears. Not many words’

Louis Har’s son-in-law Edan Begerano tells Channel 12 it was a “surrealistic” feeling to see the family’s hopes and prayers fulfilled.

“Shortly after 3 a.m. I came back from the airport because my son had returned from abroad. I got home, I was about to go to sleep, and after 15 minutes there was a call… They said, ‘come he’s here.'”

“There were hugs, tears. Not many words,” he said. “It seems he was very worried about us all.”

Asked on his first impressions of the pair, Begerano said “They’re both in bed at the hospital. It’s difficult to know, but they look whole. Whether they’re healthy in spirit, in body, is still hard to know. But they look whole.”

“It seems they had strength of spirit for these 128 days, to remain strong and to come back to us.”

He notes that neither is young, with Har turning 71 in a few weeks’ time, and Marman having marked his 61st birthday in captivity.

On rescued hostages Fernando Marman and Louis Har

Here are some details on the two rescued hostages, Fernando Marman and Louis Har, from our previous reporting:

Marman, 61, was taken hostage from Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak to Gaza by Hamas terrorists on October 7, along with his sister Clara Marman, 62, her partner Har, 70, their other sister Gabriela Leimberg, 59, and Gabriela’s daughter, Mia Leimberg, 17.

The Leimbergs and Clara Marman were released on November 28 as part of a temporary ceasefire deal brokered by Qatar and the United States between Hamas and Israel.

Mia Leimberg gained some particular attention after it emerged that she had had her pet dog Bella with her for the duration of the captivity, and brought her back with her.

Mia Leimberg, 17, center, with her mom, Gabriela Leimberg, right, and her aunt Clara Marman, left, are seen after being released as hostages by Hamas on November 28, 2023. (Screenshot/Courtesy)

Marman and Har remained captive until this morning’s rescue.

Marman, along with his sister Gabriela and her daughter Mia, were visiting the kibbutz for the holiday weekend.

Clara, back in Israel, has said that all five were kept together, and at one point, they were moved in a small car to Rafah, “actually, very close to Nir Yitzhak.” When she, Gabriela and Mia were released, they were sure that Louis and Fernando would be released next.

“We can’t abandon them,” she said previously.

The extended family of five were hiding in their sealed room that morning, trying to keep the heavy door jammed shut with a chair. When the terrorists arrived and shouted at them to leave the room, they were sure they were about to be killed.

Marman, from Kfar Saba, is a handyman who often helped residents of the kibbutz with anything they needed fixed. Har has four children, 10 grandchildren and is a lover of theater.

‘We’ve been working on this for a long time’: IDF spokesman offers details on rescue

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari offers details on the rescue of hostages Marman and Har.

“The IDF and the Shin Bet have been working on this operation for a long time,” he says.

“Conditions were not ripe to carry it out until now, and we waited for them to ripen.”

He adds: “Reaching the target in the heart of Rafah was very complex.”

“Forces clandestinely arrived at the target at around 1 a.m., and carried out a very complex action on the premises and the second floor where the hostages were held.”

He says preparations included “backup, a major aerial envelope, and intimate intel.”

Forces then broke into the building through a locked door and exchanged fire with gunmen in the building and in adjacent buildings, while extracting the hostages to armored vehicles.

“There was intense firepower from the air. Fire was opened from nearby buildings. The Air Force struck intensively there,” he says. At the same time, the armored corps also provided cover for the extraction.

Hagari says “many terrorists were eliminated tonight in this action,” including at least three in the building where the hostages were held.

One soldier was lightly injured, but beyond that, no Israelis were hurt.

“The entire operation lasted about an hour from start to finish.”

Hagari says the two hostages are now meeting with their families at Sheba Medical Center.

“It was a very tense night, but with a very moving result,” he says.

“We have 134 more hostages and we will continue to do everything to bring them home.”

Defense minister Yoav Gallant hails ‘impressive rescue operation’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hails the “impressive rescue operation.”

“Along with the prime minister and top commanders I followed the operation from the war room. I offer my full appreciation to the IDF, Shin Bet and the National Counter-Terrorism Unit.”

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

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

Israel announces rescue of two hostages from Hamas captivity in Gaza

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

As a new morning dawns, Israel has announced 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.

It is only the second such successful operation of its kind since October 7. The first was the rescue of soldier Ori Megidish in late October.

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