ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Jan. 2: IDF ‘at very high level of readiness’ after Hamas leader’s assassination in Beirut

Hezbollah vows response to alleged Israeli strike killing Saleh Arouri * Israel does not take responsibility * PM’s spokesman: ‘Whoever did this has gripe with Hamas’ not Hezbollah

  • People gather at the site of a strike, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024; Inset: Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, who was killed in the blast (Anwar AMRO / AFP; social media)
    People gather at the site of a strike, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024; Inset: Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, who was killed in the blast (Anwar AMRO / AFP; social media)
  • People gather at the site of a blast, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office, in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri was killed. (Anwar Amro/AFP)
    People gather at the site of a blast, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office, in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri was killed. (Anwar Amro/AFP)
  • People search for survivors inside an apartment following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri was killed. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
    People search for survivors inside an apartment following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri was killed. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
  • IDF soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released January 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released January 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Smoke billows over Khan Yunis from Rafah in the southern Gaza strip during an Israeli airstrike on January 2, 2024 amid the ongoing war between Israel and  Hamas. (AFP)
    Smoke billows over Khan Yunis from Rafah in the southern Gaza strip during an Israeli airstrike on January 2, 2024 amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
  • A man inspects bullet holes riddling the metal shutters outside a closed shop where Palestinians engaged in a gun battle with IDF troops during an operation in the town of Azzun in the West Bank, on January 2, 2024. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
    A man inspects bullet holes riddling the metal shutters outside a closed shop where Palestinians engaged in a gun battle with IDF troops during an operation in the town of Azzun in the West Bank, on January 2, 2024. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

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

US Senator Menendez accused of introducing Qatari royal family member to aid NJ businessman

Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, speaks during a hearing of the US Senate Foreign Relations on Capitol Hill, December 7, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, speaks during a hearing of the US Senate Foreign Relations on Capitol Hill, December 7, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

NEW YORK — US Senator Bob Menendez introduced a member of the Qatari royal family and principal in a company with ties to the government of Qatar to a New Jersey businessman before the company invested millions of dollars in the businessman’s real estate project, a rewritten indictment alleges.

The latest version of the indictment against the Democrat in Manhattan federal court doesn’t identify the member of the Qatari royal family, but it says the individual is a principal of the Qatari Investment Co.

The indictment says the Qatari investor then considered and negotiated a multimillion-dollar investment in the real estate project planned by Fred Daibes, one of three businessmen charged in the indictment along with the senator and his wife. All of them have pleaded not guilty.

No new charges are added to the latest version of an indictment that already charged Menendez in a bribery conspiracy that allegedly enriched the senator and his wife with cash, gold bars and a luxury car. The allegations involving Qatar occurred from 2021 through 2023, the indictment says.

According to the indictment, Menendez accepted cash and gold bars in exchange for seeking to induce the Qatari Investment Co. to invest with Daibes, including by taking actions favorable to the government of Qatar.

The indictment says that while the Qatari Investment Co. was considering its investment in the real estate development owned by Daibes, Menendez made multiple public statements supporting the government of Qatar and then provided them to Daibes so he could share them with the Qatari investor and a Qatari government official.

French envoy says UN Security Council likely to meet Wednesday on Houthi attacks in Red Sea

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council may meet as early as Wednesday on the situation in the Red Sea, the French ambassador to the United Nations, whose country assumed the council presidency, says on Tuesday.

“It’s likely the council will meet on the issue sooner, probably even tomorrow,” Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere tells a news conference when asked about the international response to attacks by Yemen’s Houthis on Red Sea shipping.

“The situation is bad,” he says. “There is a repetition of violations and military actions in this area.”

Ben Gvir brushes off US criticism, repeats calls for emigration of Gazan civilians

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party, at the Knesset  in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir brushes off the US State Department’s condemnation of him and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich for urging Palestinians in Gaza to be resettled outside the Strip.

“I really admire the United States of America but with all due respect, we are not another star in the American flag,” Ben Gvir, who heads the ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party, says in a statement.

“The United States is our best friend but before everything else, we will do what is good for the State of Israel: The emigration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow residents [of the border area] to return home and live in security and protect IDF soldiers,” he adds.

Haniyeh: Israel bears responsibility for repercussions of Arouri assassination

In this photo released by the Hamas Media Office, Ismail Haniyeh, right, the head of the Hamas political bureau, shakes hands with his deputy Saleh el-Arouri upon his arrival in Gaza from Cairo, Egypt, in Gaza City, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (Mohammad Austaz/Hamas Media Office via AP)
In this photo released by the Hamas Media Office, Ismail Haniyeh, right, the head of the Hamas political bureau, shakes hands with his deputy Saleh el-Arouri upon his arrival in Gaza from Cairo, Egypt, in Gaza City, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. (Mohammad Austaz/Hamas Media Office via AP)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh mourns his deputy Saleh al-Arouri, who was allegedly assassinated by Israel earlier this evening outside of Beirut.

Haniyeh says the killing “is a violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty and an expansion of the circle of [Israel’s] aggression against our people.”

“The repercussions of this terrorist act are the responsibility of the Nazi-Zionist occupation, and it will not succeed in breaking the will, steadfastness and resistance of our people,” Haniyeh claims.

US slams ‘irresponsible’ calls by Smotrich and Ben Gvir for emigration of Gazans

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

The US State Department issues a statement calling out far-right Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir for recently advocating the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.

“This rhetoric is inflammatory and irresponsible,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says in a relatively rare unprompted statement calling out a pair of Israeli ministers by name.

“We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the government of Israel, including by the prime minister, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government. They should stop immediately,” Miller adds.

“We have been clear, consistent and unequivocal that Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land, with Hamas no longer in control of its future and with no terror groups able to threaten Israel,” the State Department spokesman says.

“That is the future we seek in the interests of Israelis and Palestinians, the surrounding region and the world,” he adds.

Hezbollah: Israeli killing of Arouri will not pass without a response

Civil defense workers search for survivors inside an apartment following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024. Hezbollah-linked media said top Hamas official Saleh Arouri was killed Tuesday in an explosion in a southern Beirut suburb.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Civil defense workers search for survivors inside an apartment following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024. Hezbollah-linked media said top Hamas official Saleh Arouri was killed Tuesday in an explosion in a southern Beirut suburb.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Hezbollah vows to respond to the alleged Israeli killing of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri outside of Beirut earlier this evening.

“We affirm that this crime will never pass without response and punishment,” the Lebanese terror group says in a statement, claiming its fighters are at heightened readiness in order to retaliate.

“God almighty concluded the career of this great leader with the highest medals of honor and dignity, and he obtained the martyrdom that he had long sought and longed for,” Hezbollah says of Arouri.

The terror group calls the alleged Israeli strike “a serious assault on Lebanon, its people, its security and its sovereignty… and a dangerous development in the course of the war between the enemy and the axis of resistance.”

“The criminal enemy — which after ninety days of crime, killing and destruction was unable to subjugate Gaza — is resorting to a policy of assassination… of… whoever planned, carried out or supported” Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught, Hezbollah says, highlighting the recent alleged Israeli killing of senior IRGC official Razi Mossavi in Syria last week.

Hezbollah claims such assassinations will only further embolden the Palestinian resistance movement.

PM said to consider filling diplomatic posts abroad with Likud lawmakers in effort to keep rivals at bay

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a weekly cabinet meeting at the Hakirya base in Tel Aviv on December 31, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a weekly cabinet meeting at the Hakirya base in Tel Aviv on December 31, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing appointing veteran Likud lawmakers to fill a series of vacancies in diplomatic posts abroad, Channel 12 reports, explaining that the move is part of an effort by the premier to keep potential rivals from within the party at bay as he continues to dwindle in the polls since Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught.

Netanyahu spokesman on Arouri killing: ‘Whoever did this, it’s not an attack on Lebanon or Hezbollah’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign media spokesman Mark Regev is interviewed on MSNBC on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign media spokesman Mark Regev is interviewed on MSNBC on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesman Mark Regev is asked during an MSNBC interview about the alleged Israeli assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon.

While stammering significantly in his answer, Regev stresses that the strike only targeted Hamas officials, in an apparent attempt to coax Hezbollah into limiting its response.

“Obviously in Lebanon, there are many Hezbollah targets, but whoever did this strike was very surgical and went for a Hamas target because Israel is at war… Whoever did this has a gripe with Hamas,” Regev says.

“Whoever did this, it’s not an attack on the Lebanese state. It’s not an attack on the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Whoever did this, it’s an attack on Hamas, that’s very clear,” he adds.

Senior Hamas military officials Samir Findi, Azzam Al-Aqraa identified among dead along with Arouri

People inspecting body parts following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
People inspecting body parts following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Senior Hamas military officials Samir Findi and Azzam Al-Aqraa have been identified among the five killed along with Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in an alleged Israeli airstrike on an apartment building in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Arabic media reports.

Blinken delays Israel visit to next week — official

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during his end-of-year news conference on December 20, 2023, at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during his end-of-year news conference on December 20, 2023, at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has delayed his trip to Israel to next week, an official familiar with the matter tells The Times of Israel.

Blinken was slated to arrive in Israel toward the end of the week but will now be arriving early next week, the official says.

The secretary will be making a handful of stops throughout the region.

The delay has nothing to do with the alleged Israeli assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon earlier this evening.

Avoiding mentioning Hamas’s Arouri, IDF spokesman says military is at ‘very high level of readiness’

Firefighters try to extinguish the fire inside an apartment following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy head Saleh al-Arouri was killed. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Firefighters try to extinguish the fire inside an apartment following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy head Saleh al-Arouri was killed. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Speaking hours after the alleged Israeli assassination of Hamas terror chief Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari opens his nightly briefing by saying that the military is at a “very high level of readiness — in all arenas, in defense and offense.

“We are in a high state of readiness for any scenario,” Hagari adds, without mentioning al-Arouri.

“The most important thing to say tonight is that we are focused and remain focused on fighting Hamas,” Hagari adds.

Regarding the homefront, he urges the public to continue to act responsibly and follow the Homefront Command’s lifesaving instructions.

Asked directly by a reporter whether he anticipates fire on central Israel or on the northern city of Haifa in the wake of al-Arouri’s killing, Hagari says: “I’m not referring to what’s been said here [by the reporter] and in other places. We are focused on fighting Hamas. We have been from the start, and we will continue to be.”

Israel has issued no official response to the killing in a Beirut suburb of the Hamas leader.

Iran condemns ‘despicable’ killing of Arouri, says it’ll ignite another surge of resistance against Israel

People search for survivors following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri was killed. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
People search for survivors following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri was killed. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani condemns Israel’s “despicable” killing of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri near Beirut earlier tonight.

“The martyr’s blood will undoubtedly ignite another surge in the veins of resistance and motivate the fight against the Zionist occupiers, not only in Palestine but also in the region and among all freedom-seekers worldwide,” Kanaani says.

Harvard president resigns after backlash over testimony on campus antisemitism, and amid plagiarism claims

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

Claudine Gay has announced her resignation as president of Harvard University.

“It is with a heavy heart but a deep love for Harvard that I write to share that I will be stepping down as president. This is not a decision I came to easily… after consultation with members of the Corporation, it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual,” Gay wrote in an email sent out to Harvard staff, students and alumni.

In recent weeks, Gay had faced accusations of plagiarism, which surfaced after increased scrutiny of her published works in the wake of her controversial early December testimony about antisemitism on US university campuses.

Gay, along with the then-president of the University of Pennsylvania and the president of MIT, faced a fierce backlash for their evasive responses to Republican congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s questioning, in which the three presidents refused to explicitly say that calls for genocide of Jewish people violate campus rules on harassment.

Gay said then that it was only when “speech crosses into conduct, that violates our policies.”

Gay subsequently apologized for her remarks.

Her six-month tenure as Harvard president is the shortest in the university’s history, the Harvard Crimson student newspaper reported Tuesday. Gay was only the second woman, and the first Black woman, to lead the Ivy League university. She is expected to stay on as a faculty member.

Gay joins Liz Magill who resigned last month as president of the University of Pennsylvania following a similar uproar over her own responses at the congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.

AP contributed to this report.

Israel said to anticipate response — including long-range rocket fire — to alleged Arouri killing

Firefighters extinguish the fire inside an apartment following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri was killed. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Firefighters extinguish the fire inside an apartment following a massive explosion in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri was killed. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Israel is anticipating a response to the alleged assassination of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

The Walla news site and Channel 13 news say that Israel expects a retaliation, including possible long-range rocket fire on Israel.

Nasrallah in August pledged ‘decisive response’ to any Israeli assassinations on Lebanese soil

Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah in a live television address, October 1, 2022. (X video screenshot)
Hezbollah terror group leader Hassan Nasrallah in a live television address, October 1, 2022. (X video screenshot)

Against the backdrop of the alleged assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri by Israel in Lebanon earlier this evening, a clip from an August speech given by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has resurfaced.

“Any assassination on Lebanese soil against a Lebanese Syrian, Iranian or Palestinian will be met with a decisive response. We will not tolerate this, and we will not allow Lebanon to become a new killing field for Israel.”‌‌

Nasrallah is slated to give a nationally televised address tomorrow.

Troops have killed ‘many’ Hamas operatives in close-quarters combat, IDF says

The IDF releases footage of troops of the Givati Brigade battling Hamas gunmen in the Khan Younis area on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
The IDF releases footage of troops of the Givati Brigade battling Hamas gunmen in the Khan Younis area on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

The IDF releases footage of troops of the Givati Brigade battling Hamas gunmen in the Khan Younis area.

Givati troops have killed “many” Hamas operatives in close-quarters combat as well as located dozens of tunnel shafts, the IDF says.

The video released by the IDF shows Givati soldiers clashing with Hamas gunmen in Bani Suheila, on the outskirts of Khan Younis.

The IDF says Givati soldiers also nabbed several Hamas operatives hiding among civilians in the Khan Younis area.

After being questioned by field interrogators of the Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504, it was revealed that some of the suspects had participated in the October 7 massacre in southern Israel, according to the IDF.

US defense official says IDF carried out assassination of Hamas deputy leader Arouri

A US defense official tells The Washington Post that Israel was responsible for the airstrike near Beirut that killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri.

The official speaks on condition of anonymity.

Israel has not yet formally commented on the strike, but several coalition members have hailed the killing.

Lebanese PM blasts Israel for Arouri killing, warns Jerusalem trying to drag Lebanon into new phase of confrontations

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, speaks at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, speaks at the government palace, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, March 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati issues a statement responding to the killing of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, condemning the “new Israeli crime” and warning that Jerusalem is aiming to drag Lebanon into a new phase of confrontations.

Fatah’s Ramallah branch announces general strike in response to Arouri killing

People gather at the site of a blast, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office, in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri was killed. (Anwar Amro/AFP)
People gather at the site of a blast, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office, in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri was killed. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

The Ramallah branch of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party announces a general strike for tomorrow in response to the alleged Israeli strike that killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon earlier this evening.

The announcement further demonstrates Hamas’s popularity in the West Bank.

Notably, though, Hamas’s support in Gaza — which has faced the brunt of the terror group’s decisions — is not as high, according to recent polls.

Death count from alleged Israeli strike on Hamas office in Lebanon climbs to six — report

People gather at the site of a blast, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office, in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri was killed. (Anwar Amro/AFP)
People gather at the site of a blast, reported by Lebanese media to be an Israeli strike targeting a Hamas office, in the southern suburb of Beirut on January 2, 2024, in which Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri was killed. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

The Hezbollah-linked al-Mayadeen news site reports that the death count from tonight’s alleged Israeli airstrike on a Hamas office in southern Beirut has climbed from four to six.

Likud MK lauds IDF for Arouri assassination; cabinet secretary orders ministers to hold their tongues

Then-Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon during a visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (unseen) at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, August 28, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Then-Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon during a visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (unseen) at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, August 28, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud MK Danny Danon tweets his praise to Israeli security forces for their killing of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri outside of Beirut.

“So let all thine enemies perish,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also tweets, quoting the Book of Judges.

Channel 12 reports that cabinet secretary Yossi Fuchs has sent a directive to ministers ordering them not to speak publicly about the alleged Israeli strike.

Hamas confirms assassination of deputy chief Arouri

Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri. (Courtesy)
Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri. (Courtesy)

The Hamas terror group confirms the assassination of its deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri by Israel earlier tonight in Lebanon.

“The cowardly assassinations carried out by the Zionist occupation against the leaders and symbols of our Palestinian people inside and outside Palestine will not succeed in breaking the will and steadfastness of our people or in undermining the continuation of their valiant resistance,” senior Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq says in a statement, claiming that the strike “proves once again the abject failure of the enemy to achieve any of its aggressive goals in the Gaza Strip.”

Israel has not yet commented on the alleged strike.

Netanyahu says Hamas has softened ultimatum it issued regarding hostage talks

Relatives and supporters light their phones and hold placards bearing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza in Tel Aviv on December 30, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Relatives and supporters light their phones and hold placards bearing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza in Tel Aviv on December 30, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Tuesday that efforts to retrieve the remaining hostages held in Gaza by Hamas are ongoing and that Hamas offered an ultimatum that has since slightly softened, a statement from his office says.

The ultimatum appeared to refer to Hamas’s pre-condition for talks that Israel withdraw its forces from Gaza and agree to a permanent ceasefire.

Hamas, however, has not publicly withdrawn this demand.

Reports: Hamas deputy leader abroad Saleh al-Arouri killed in alleged Israeli strike in Lebanon

Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri. (YouTube screenshot)
Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri. (YouTube screenshot)

Hamas’s deputy leader abroad Saleh al-Arouri was killed in an Israeli strike in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, a Hezbollah stronghold, the Hezbollah-linked al-Mayadeen reports.

Israel has not yet commented on the alleged strike.

At a press conference in November, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had “instructed the Mossad to act against the heads of Hamas wherever they are” in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 assault on southern Israel. At the same press conference, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said all Hamas leaders “are living on borrowed time… The struggle is worldwide.”

Based in Lebanon, al-Arouri, 57, was deputy head of the terror group’s political bureau and considered the de facto leader of Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank.

Israeli intelligence officials believe that al-Arouri also helped plan the June 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens — Gil-ad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel — as well as numerous other attacks.

He had served several terms in Israeli jails, and was released in March 2010 as part of efforts to reach a larger prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit, an IDF corporal kidnapped by Hamas in 2006. Arouri went on to be involved in sewing up the deal that provided for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in return for the freeing of Shalit in 2011.

In this photo released on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, by the Hezbollah Media Relations Office, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, right, meets with Ziad al-Nakhaleh, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, center, and Hamas deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, in Beirut, Lebanon. (Hezbollah Media Relations Office, via AP )

He relocated to Istanbul but was forced to move when Israel patched up ties with Turkey that had ruptured over an IDF raid on a solidarity flotilla heading to Gaza in which nine Turkish nationals were killed during a violent melees on a ferry boat.

After spending time in Syria, al-Arouri eventually moved to Beirut. From there he managed Hamas military operations in the West Bank, pushing terror activities and arranging the transfer of funds to pay for terror attacks.

He was also one of the Hamas officials most closely connected to Iran and the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

There, al-Arouri has established a local Hamas force from activists in Lebanese refugee camps. The group has military training and a rocket arsenal, though not on the same scale as Hezbollah’s.

Hebrew media reports say he was set to meet with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah tomorrow.

Israeli drone struck targeted Hamas office in Beirut suburb killing 4 — Lebanese state agency

An explosion in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh in Lebanon on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
An explosion in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh in Lebanon on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

A Lebanese state news agency says the blast earlier this evening in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh was an Israeli drone strike targeting a Hamas office in Lebanon, which killed four people.

Senior Palestinian official reportedly killed after blast rocks Beirut suburb

An explosion in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh in Lebanon on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
An explosion in the Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh in Lebanon on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

An explosion occurred near a shop in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh on Tuesday evening, known to be a stronghold of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, two security sources tell Reuters, adding that a senior Palestinian official was killed in the blast.

East Jerusalem wedding singer who hailed Hamas military chief indicted for inciting terror

Prosecutors charge a wedding singer from Jerusalem with incitement to terror due to songs he has performed in public and also video clips he posted to social media that allegedly showed support for terrorism, including allegiance to the military leader of the Hamas terror group.

Prosecutors file an indictment against Mohammad Shweiki, 21, at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, accusing him of incitement to terror and identifying with a terror organization.

According to court papers, Shweiki is the manager and lead singer in a group that performs at weddings and other events where he has in the past sung inciting material in front of large crowds.

Also, on various occasions he posted to his account on video sharing network TikTok clips from his performances that included inciting material, prosecutors say.

In one video he sang, “Take up the sword, wave the sword, we are the people of Muhammad Deif,” a reference to the leader of the Hamas terror group’s military wing.

In another incident, at a wedding in Al-Ram, northeast of Jerusalem, he sang to the crowd, “Ben Gvir, Alqam Khayri took your eye out,” a reference to far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and the Palestinian terrorist who shot dead seven people and injured three others carried in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood of Jerusalem last February.

All the incidents happened before October 7 when Hamas launched its devastating attack on Israel that killed over 1,200 people.

Prosecutors ask that he be held until the end of proceedings.

IDF announces death of 21-year-old Sufian Dagash who was killed fighting in northern Gaza

Staff Sgt. Sufian Dagash, 21, who was killed fighting in Gaza on January 2, 2024. (IDF)
Staff Sgt. Sufian Dagash, 21, who was killed fighting in Gaza on January 2, 2024. (IDF)

The IDF announces the death of a soldier killed during fighting in the northern Gaza Strip today, bringing the toll of slain troops since the start of the ground offensive against Hamas to 174.

He is named as Staff Sgt. Sufian Dagash, 21, of the Combat Engineering Corps 601st Battalion, from the Arab town of Maghar.

Another officer, soldier and reservist soldier of the 601st Battalion were seriously wounded in the same incident, the IDF says.

Turkey claims Mossad recruits informants via vague job postings on social media

Turkey’s national intelligence organization MIT releases footage of its arrest of alleged Mossad spies on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
Turkey’s national intelligence organization MIT releases footage of its arrest of alleged Mossad spies on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

Turkey’s national intelligence organization MIT releases more details about the arrests of alleged Mossad spies earlier today, saying that the Mossad recruits informants by posting vague job announcements on social media to make initial contact.

Those who respond are then asked to carry out specific, short-term tasks like “information gathering, research, picturing/filming targets, surveillance, placing GPS devices on targeted vehicles, assault, robbery, arson, intimidation and blackmail,” says MIT.

The Mossad also allegedly spreads disinformation by launching websites and online newspapers. Israel relies on Telegram and Whatsapp to maintain contact, says MIT in a release to local press.

The Mossad uses intermediaries to pay using cryptocurrency, who are told that they are delivering illegal gambling payments.

When Israeli agents find especially skilled recruits, according to the press release, it hosts them in luxury hotels, takes them to restaurants and invites them on trips. They also undergo a polygraph test.

According to MIT, Mossad agents bring cash to pay top recruits personally. They carry it in bags with secret compartments to get through x-ray screening and airport dog searches.

When informants meet their handlers, they are given communications systems and trained in classified communications. They are also trained by Israelis on “surveillance, photo documentation, casing, reporting and operational security,” Turkey claims.

They also help with human trafficking and smuggling from Iran and Iraq to Turkey, recuriting hackers, locating safe houses and hiring ambulances for use in operations, says MIT.

Rockets launched from Gaza at southern Israel after nearly 42-hour lull

Screen capture from video of a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip being intercepted over Israel, January 1, 2024. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of a rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip being intercepted over Israel, January 1, 2024. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

After a lull of nearly 42 hours, rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel.

Rocket sirens are sounding in the city of Sderot, as well as the adjacent communities of Ibim and Nir Am.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Hamas last launched rockets at Israel as the new year began.

Mayor of northern border town says diplomatic solution to Israel-Hezbollah conflict won’t suffice

Illustrative: The crater from a rocket fired from Lebanon that landed in Shlomi, northern Israel, April 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Illustrative: The crater from a rocket fired from Lebanon that landed in Shlomi, northern Israel, April 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The mayor of the northern town of Shlomi near the Lebanon border tells the Kan public broadcaster that the Hezbollah terror group has dug tunnels along the border.

Shlomi Ne’eman claims that Israel won’t be left with any other choice but a ground incursion into Lebanon in order to restore security for Israelis in the north.

Ne’eman, a member of the right-wing Likud party, claims that sufficing with a diplomatic resolution between Israel and Hezbollah will leave Israel’s northern residents in the same place that Israel’s southern residents were before Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught.

Hamas leader abroad says ‘open’ to one Palestinian government for Gaza and West Bank

FILE - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in Gaza City, March 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)
FILE - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in Gaza City, March 18, 2007. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

Hamas’s leader abroad Ismail Haniyeh says he is open to a single Palestinian administration to govern Gaza and the West Bank.

“We have received numerous initiatives concerning the internal (Palestinian) situation and we are open to the idea of a national government for the West Bank and Gaza,” Haniyeh says in a televised address.

Haniyeh says that hostages being held by Gaza terrorists will only be freed from Gaza under conditions set by Hamas.

“The enemy’s prisoners will only be released on terms set by the resistance,” Haniyeh says.

Kibbutz Nir Oz residents receive rock star welcome upon arrival at temporary lodging in Kiryat Gat

Residents of Kiryat Gat welcome residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)
Residents of Kiryat Gat welcome residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz on January 2, 2024. (Screen capture/X)

Hundreds of locals have gathered to give a rock star welcome to residents of Kibbutz Nir Oz who have arrived at their new temporary homes in the southern town of Kiryat Gat.

Kibbutz Nir Oz was one of the dozens of Gaza border towns targeted during Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught.

Israeli troops uncover cache of long-range rockets in homes in central Gaza

Mortars and rockets found by IDF troops in Gaza's al-Bureij, in a photo released by the IDF on January 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Mortars and rockets found by IDF troops in Gaza's al-Bureij, in a photo released by the IDF on January 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops of the 188th Armored Brigade and Golani Infantry Brigade located long-range rockets among other weapons in residences in central Gaza’s al-Bureij, the IDF says.

In the home of a Palestinian family, the IDF says the 188th Brigade found a cache of rockets capable of being launched to distances of 20 kilometers. Other weapons were found in the home.

In another home in al-Bureij, Golani soldiers found dozens of mortars and short-range rockets, along with other weapons.

The rockets were destroyed and the other weapons were seized, the IDF says.

McDonald’s Malaysia sues BDS group over Israel boycott calls

A motorcyclist waits in traffic before a billboard advertisement for US fast-food chain McDonald's, in downtown Kuala Lumpur on September 7, 2009. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP)
A motorcyclist waits in traffic before a billboard advertisement for US fast-food chain McDonald's, in downtown Kuala Lumpur on September 7, 2009. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — McDonald’s Malaysia has sued a pro-Palestinian group for $1.3 million over its calls to boycott companies allegedly supporting Israel.

In a statement issued Friday, the fast-food chain said the civil suit against BDS Malaysia was aimed at protecting “our rights and interests in accordance with the law.”

McDonald’s says it “does not support nor condone the current conflict in the Middle East.”

“While we understand and respect that the act of boycotting is an individual decision, we believe that it should be based on facts and not false allegations,” McDonald’s says.

McDonald’s has sought six million ringgit ($1.3 million) in damages for alleged defamation, according to a copy of the legal document seen by AFP.

In a post on the social media platform X on Friday, BDS Malaysia said “we categorically deny this” alleged defamation.

BDS Malaysia is part of the global, anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which was launched by Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005.

In response to the Israel-Hamas war, BDS Malaysia intensified calls for Malaysians to boycott Western brands, including McDonald’s, KFC and Zara, that it alleges are “complicit with Israeli atrocities towards Palestinians.”

For Gaza family living in tent city, campfire is the only home

Illustrative: In this Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 photo, a family warm themselves up with a fire outside their makeshift house during the power cut in a poor neighborhood in town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
Illustrative: In this Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 photo, a family warm themselves up with a fire outside their makeshift house during the power cut in a poor neighborhood in town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra)

RAFAH, Gaza Strip – For the Maarouf family, living in Rafah’s tent city after fleeing their house in Gaza at the war nearly three months ago, home is now the small campfire they sit around each night.

Supplies of wood, scavenged from ruined buildings, were exhausted long ago in the devastated Palestinian enclave, and the small fires of displaced, destitute people are now fed with bits of cloth or plastic.

“There is no safety. We’re scared, I swear. My children are scared and say to me, ‘Dad we’re out in the open.’ I tell them ‘God help us, where can we go?'” says Shadi Maarouf, his face lit up by the firelight.

The Maaroufs, from Beit Lahia close to the northern border with Israel, fled on the first day of Israel’s bombardment, launched in response to Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 were kidnapped into Gaza.

The Maaroufs sought refuge in a shelter in another northern district but found it to be unsafe and moved on.

They stayed in al-Nuseirat, in central Gaza, for a month but airstrikes came close too often. Then they moved south, to Rafah, right on the frontier with Egypt.

The family now sits around the campfire outside their tent made of pieces of wood and tarpaulin. They hold their four-month-old baby and play with her or warm their hands near the stuttering flames.

Shadi Maarouf, his wife Safeya and their six children huddle for warmth against the biting cold. “This life in Rafah is a tragedy,” Maarouf says. “We sleep in fear,” says Safeya Maarouf, who struggles to find diapers and baby formula for her daughter.

“What can we do? There is no shelter. The life and conditions are difficult, for us and everyone else, all the people, not just us. All the people are suffering, they are all in pain. There are no bathrooms, no water, no warmth, no safety. We sleep in fear,” she says.

Spaniard imprisoned in Iran after visiting grave of Mahsa Amini arrives home after release

Spanish Santiago Sanchez Cogedor is welcomed by friends and family members at the Barajas airport, outskirts of Madrid, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Spanish Santiago Sanchez Cogedor is welcomed by friends and family members at the Barajas airport, outskirts of Madrid, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

MADRID — A Spaniard who spent 15 months in an Iranian prison after visiting the tomb of Mahsa Amini has returned home to Madrid after being released.

“I can’t believe it. This has been very hard, but I am here. We have no idea how fortunate we are to have been born in his country,” Santiago Sánchez Cogedor tells a group of reporters at the airport after he was embraced by family and friends upon arrival.

Sánchez Cogedor was on a solo walking trek to the men’s soccer World Cup in Qatar when he was arrested in Iran in October 2022. His arrest followed his visit to the tomb of Amini, a woman whose death while being held by Iran’s morality police for violating Iran’s Islamic dress code sparked protests in the country.

He remained behind bars until Iran’s embassy to Spain announced his release on Sunday.

The 41-year-old was walking all the way from Spain with the goal of reaching Qatar to support Spain’s national team at soccer’s biggest global event.

Sánchez Cogedor says that he would not comment on politics, but he reads to reporters what he called a diploma given to him by his fellow prisoners in Iran that indicated he had “passed the test of life.”

UK sends first maritime shipment of humanitarian supplies for Gaza

Humanitarian aid sent by the UK for Gaza on January 2, 2024. (UK Foreign Office)
Humanitarian aid sent by the UK for Gaza on January 2, 2024. (UK Foreign Office)

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The UK says its first maritime shipment of nearly 100 tons of thermal blankets, shelter packs and medical supplies for Gaza has reached Egypt’s Port Said, from where it will cross into the enclave.

The UK Foreign Office says that the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Lyme Bay delivered the aid after departing from Cyprus. The aid will be distributed by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.

The aid delivery was made possible following visits by British Foreign Secretary James Cameron and Defense Secretary Grant Shapps to Egypt and Cyprus last month. The aid includes 11 tons of medical supplies donated by Cyprus.

The British government says it would “explore other routes for aid deliveries,” including the Cypriot initiative to set up a maritime corridor to continuously ship large quantities of assistance to Gaza and the land corridor from Jordan.

Russian missiles hit Ukrainian cities, killing 5 and injuring 100

A firefighter carries a man from a damaged residential building after a Russian missile strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko)
A firefighter carries a man from a damaged residential building after a Russian missile strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s two largest cities came under attack Tuesday from Russian missiles that killed at least five people and injured almost 100, officials say, as the war approached its two-year mark and the Kremlin stepped up its winter bombardment of urban areas.

Four civilians were killed and 92 injured in the capital of Kyiv, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky says on his Telegram channel, as Kinzhal missiles that can fly at 10 times the speed of sound bore down on the city. Another person was killed in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, officials said.

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi claims air defenses shot down all 10 of the hypersonic missiles, out of about 100 of various types that were launched.

The barrage extended Russian attacks that began Friday with its largest single assault on Ukraine since the war started. At least 41 civilians were killed since the weekend.

Russia fired almost 100 missiles of various types in the attacks, Zelenskyy says on X. He claims at least 70 were shot down, almost all of them in the Kyiv area, noting that Western-supplied air defense systems such as Patriots and NASAMS had saved hundreds of lives.

Russia’s Defense Ministry says it launched missile and drone strikes on military industrial facilities in and around Kyiv. Depots storing missiles and munitions supplied by the West also were targeted, it said.

“The goal of the strike has been achieved, all the targets have been hit,” it says without elaborating.

Iran hangs nine convicted drug traffickers — state media

A picture obtained from the Iranian Mizan News Agency on December 12, 2022, shows the public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard, in Iran's Mashhad city. (Mizan News/AFP)
A picture obtained from the Iranian Mizan News Agency on December 12, 2022, shows the public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard, in Iran's Mashhad city. (Mizan News/AFP)

Iran has hanged nine convicted drug traffickers in recent days, state media reports, as it keeps up one of the world’s highest rates of execution.

Three were hanged at a prison in the northwestern province of Ardabil on charges of “buying and transporting heroin and opium,” the official IRNA news agency says.

The other six were executed separately on charges of trafficking “methamphetamine, heroin and cannabis,” it added.

Iran lies on a major opium-smuggling route between Afghanistan and Europe and has one of the world’s highest rates of domestic opiate use.

Figures cited by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2021 suggest 2.8 million people have a drug problem in Iran.

Iran says executions are carried out only after exhaustive legal proceedings and are a necessary deterrent against drug trafficking. It executes more people per year than any other nation except China, according to Amnesty.

The Norway-based Iran Human Rights group said in November that the Islamic republic had executed more than 700 people in 2023, the highest figure in eight years.

Gantz, Arbel slam far-right MK who lumps Hamas, Hezbollah and High Court together; Ben Gvir backs him

Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel in Jerusalem on November 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel in Jerusalem on November 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel tear into far-right Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel, who tweeted earlier today, “First we will destroy Hamas, after that, we will take care of Hezbollah; and for dessert, we’ll create order in the High Court of Justice.”

“The despicable and shameful comparisons drawn by MK Fogel and Carmi Gillon between the worst of our enemies and the gatekeepers of the State of Israel, and an entire public whose sons and daughters are fighting and risking their lives these days for the defense of the land, are a moral abomination,” says Gantz in a statement, lumping Fogel’s comments with recent ones made by former Shin Bet head Gillon who likened the Israeli religious right to Hamas.

“There is no place any longer in Israeli society for division, incitement and violent and contemptible discourse,” Gantz continues. “I call on both of them to retract their remarks and for the entire Israeli leadership to condemn them and demonstrate national responsibility.”

Arbel tweets that he is “saddened by the shameful words [uttered] by MK [Fogel]. There is no place for comparing and marking the Supreme Court in the same line as the worst of our enemies, who murdered, massacred, abused and kidnapped the good citizens of this country. Even when you want to criticize, this is not the way. We are one people.”

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, the head of the Otzma Yehudit party, backs Fogel.

“Anyone who thinks there is a comparison between the High Court of Justice and Hamas in MK Fogel’s tweet has a problem with reading comprehension,” he tweets.

“Unlike the Supreme Court, which issued an outrageous and severely problematic verdict, we will not engage in reform while fighting. However, after the war we will return power to the legislative authority, we will stop the High Court from becoming a super-legislator and we will return the power to the people, who are sovereign,” he adds.

Far-right lawmaker groups High Court with Hamas, Hezbollah

National Security Committee chairman MK Zvika Fogel, of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, likens Israel’s High Court of Justice to terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah following the court’s decision to strike down the reasonableness law last night.

In an image shared to X, formerly Twitter, Fogel write, “First we will destroy Hamas, after that, we will take care of Hezbollah, and for dessert, we’ll create order in the High Court of Justice.”

The image is accompanied by a one-word caption, “Patience.”

 

Government spokesman Eylon Levy says Israel will challenge South Africa’s ‘blood libel’ at The Hague

Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice in The Hague to challenge South Africa’s application for an order declaring that Jerusalem is violating the UN’s Genocide Convention in its war against Hamas following the Gaza-ruling terrorist group’s murderous October 7 onslaught, government spokesman Eylon Levy says.

“In giving political and legal cover to the October 7 massacre and the Hamas human-shields strategy, South Africa has made itself criminally complicit with Hamas’s campaign of genocide against our people,” Levy says in a press briefing.

Saying that the State of Israel will appear at the Hague to “dispel South Africa’s absurd blood libel,” Levy accuses South Africa of “fighting pro bono for anti-Jewish racists.”

“We assure South Africa’s leaders – history will judge you, and it will judge you without mercy,” he adds.

Gallant: Fighting in south Gaza remains intense; only a few thousands terrorists left in north

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is seen with IDF troops in the central Gaza Strip, January 2, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is seen with IDF troops in the central Gaza Strip, January 2, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Touring the Salah a-Din road in the central Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says, “The sense that we are stopping [the campaign against Hamas] is wrong.”

“You are on the corridor; the meaning of this is that on both your sides, operations of a different kind will soon take place,” Gallant says to troops of the 99th Division’s 646th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade, which are operating in the Strip’s center.

“To the north, we destroyed 12 Hamas battalions. Terrorists still remain, a few thousand of the 15,000 or 18,000 that were in the area. A large number of them were eliminated and others fled to the south,” Gallant says.

In northern Gaza, Gallant says, the IDF will continue to conduct smaller operations to root out the last Hamas fighters. “The goal is to exhaust the enemy, kill [its operatives], and achieve a situation in which we control the territory,” he says.

“In the south of the Gaza Strip the situation is different,” Gallant says.

He says the IDF is focused on what is above the Hamas tunnels in the Khan Younis area, “where senior Hamas officials are hiding, at great depths.”

“We are already reaching them… and it is happening already now,” Gallant says.

He says the fighting in southern Gaza will remain at “high intensity.”

“The results will be clear results,” Gallant vows. “We will end this campaign when Hamas does not function as a governing body and certainly not as a military framework… It will take time,” he says.

Gallant adds that “at the same time, unfortunately, there are other threats, the first and most prominent of which is what is happening in the north,” referring to daily attacks by Hezbollah from Lebanon.

IDF captures Hamas stronghold in heart of residential neighborhood in Gaza City

This infographic released by the IDF on January 2, 2024, shows a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. (Israel Defense Forces)
This infographic released by the IDF on January 2, 2024, shows a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says troops recently captured a Hamas stronghold in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, with special forces battling terror operatives inside tunnel networks beneath the site.

Hamas’s so-called Eastern Outpost is made up of 37 buildings “in the heart of the civilian population,” surrounded by residential buildings, a school, and a hospital, with a mosque in the complex used as a meeting point for Hamas operatives, according to the IDF.

It says the “strategic” stronghold was used by Hamas’s intelligence division and other units of the terror group to “manage the fighting in the entire Gaza Strip.”

The 401st Armored Brigade raided the stronghold’s main building, locating a 20-meter deep bunker used by Hamas as a command center, the IDF says.

It says the bunker had resting areas for Hamas commanders to remain hidden for long periods. Troops also found weapons and other equipment inside the underground hideout.

In other areas of the stronghold, the IDF says troops of the Givati Brigade’s Shaked Battalion located five tunnel shafts, each dozens of meters deep, which all connect via an underground network. The IDF says the tunnel network also connects to the main underground bunker.

Forces of the Air Force’s elite Shaldag unit entered one of the tunnels and battled Hamas gunmen underground, the IDF says, adding that “at the end of the fighting, all the terrorists were eliminated.”

The tunnel network was later destroyed by the Combat Engineering Corps’ 601st Battalion and elite Yahalom unit.

Also during the operation, troops of the 401st Brigade’s 52nd Battalion raided another building in the Eastern Outpost, where they encountered Hamas gunmen opening fire at them from the upper floor, the IDF says.

The IDF says the troops engaged the Hamas operatives while working to evacuate wounded soldiers under fire. The gun battle then expanded to other areas of the stronghold.

All the Hamas operatives were killed in the battle, according to the IDF, along with three Israeli soldiers of the Shaked Battalion: Lt. Yaron Eliezer Chitiz, Staff Sgt. Itay Buton, and Staff Sgt. Efraim Jackman.

Incoming Foreign Minister Katz: We are at height of World War III, my focus is on the hostages

Outgoing Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (L) and his replacement Israel Katz shake hands at the ceremony in Jerusalem marking the handover, January 2, 2024. (Shlomi Amsalem/Foreign Ministry)
Outgoing Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (L) and his replacement Israel Katz shake hands at the ceremony in Jerusalem marking the handover, January 2, 2024. (Shlomi Amsalem/Foreign Ministry)

At a ceremony in Jerusalem marking the beginning of his tenure as foreign minister, Israel Katz says that Israel is “at the height of World War III against Iran and radical Islam.”

Katz, who replaces Eli Cohen as Israel’s top diplomat according to their rotation agreement, pledges that “we will achieve our goal of toppling Hamas.”

Speaking to diplomats and ministry employees, the senior Likudnik emphasizes that his top priority is bringing the hostages home: “Our commitment as a country and as a ministry is first of all to bring the hostages home with new initiatives, to exert global pressure.”

He also writes on X that his leading concern is “The hostages. The hostages. The hostages.”

He adds that his second priority is maintaining international legitimacy for continued combat against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Cohen, who is now energy minister, highlights his efforts to keep the hostages in the minds of international leaders, and says the Foreign Ministry’s work since October 7 has brought about “support that no one thought we would receive.”

Tony Blair says he won’t help resettle Gazans elsewhere, dismisses report as a lie

Former British prime minister Tony Blair attends the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in London, November 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Former British prime minister Tony Blair attends the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in London, November 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair strongly denies an Israeli media report linking him to talks last week about the resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza in other countries.

Channel 12 claimed without citing a source on Sunday that Blair, who left office in 2007 and later a Middle East envoy charged with building up Palestinian institutions, was in Israel last week.

The news channel said he held meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz about a mediation role after the war with Hamas.

He could also act as a go-between with moderate Arab states about the “voluntary resettlement” of Gazans, the Channel 12 report added.

But the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a nonprofit organization he set up in 2016, says the report was “a lie.”

“The story was published without any contact with Tony Blair or his team. No such discussion has taken place,” it says in a statement.

“Nor would Tony Blair have such a discussion. The idea is wrong in principle. Gazans should be able to stay and live in Gaza.”

Far-right coalition parties in Israel are pushing for resettling parts of the Strip and encouraging Palestinians to leave the enclave, and are flatly ruling out any postwar plan that includes a governing role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, putting the government at odds with demands from the United States and other international allies.

Sderot mayor and Upper Galilee council head slam lack of concrete plan to ensure safety along borders

File: Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern city of Sderot, attends a press conference in Jerusalem, March 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
File: Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern city of Sderot, attends a press conference in Jerusalem, March 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Mayor of the southern city of Sderot Alon Davidi and the head of the northern Upper Galilee Reginal Council Giora Zaltz tell Channel 12 that neither of them is prepared to bring their displaced populations back to their homes until there is a concrete plan in place for their safety.

“There’s nothing to discuss on the subject of people returning home until the Israeli government tells the residents what’s happening and how they’ll protect them,” Davidi says.

He adds that even though the IDF has control over the northern part of the Gaza Strip for now, eventually the troops will withdraw and the threat to Israel will return unless something changes.

In the north, Zaltz warns that if Israel “doesn’t significantly harm Hezbollah’s ability to act,” the war against the terror group will have been lost, and “on a national level, the north, as well as the south, will be taken 30 years backward.”

He says that after almost three months of war, there is still no government body dedicated to overseeing civilians from northern Israel, thousands of whom have been displaced.

“We want to come back to our industry, to farming, to high-tech and to education,” Zaltz says. “We will come back but we don’t deserve to continue living in this enormous fear.”

He adds that “if the government doesn’t start to assume responsibility for the north and the south we will be in a very very bad place.”

Former attorney general Mandelblit lauds High Court judicial overhaul ruling as ‘second legal revolution’

Former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference organized by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), in Tel Aviv, on December 28, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference organized by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), in Tel Aviv, on December 28, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Former attorney general Avichai Mandelblit welcomes the High Court of Justice’s landmark decision striking down the government’s reasonableness law, calling the ruling, the first to annul one of Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws, a “second legal revolution.”

“I want to congratulate my friends Yariv Levin and Simcha Rothman. If Aharon Barak is the father of the first legal revolution – they should receive the title of the fathers of the second legal revolution,” Mandelblit tells Army Radio in a dig at the two conservative politicians who pushed for the legislation at the heart of the case.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin and Constitution, Law and Justice Committee chairman Rothman are two of the primary architects behind the government’s efforts to restrict the court’s powers of judicial review and impose greater political control over the judiciary, notably including over the appointment of judges.

During his time leading the top court, Barak led what was widely seen as a “constitutional revolution,” declaring the country’s so-called Basic Laws to be quasi-constitutional and expanding the judiciary’s power in a way that raised objections from the Israeli right.

Underpinning Mandelblit’s snipe at Levin and Rothman is the fact that, in its ruling yesterday, the court not only narrowly struck down the reasonableness limitation law, but an overwhelming 12 of the 15 justices ruled that the court has the authority to strike down Basic Laws, and a 13th said it has the right to do so in extreme circumstances.

That stance is being widely seen as a historic ruling, enshrining the principle that there are limits to the powers of the governing political majority, and that it does not have the right to undermine Israel’s democratic nature.

Hamas health ministry in Gaza says more than 22,000 killed since start of war

The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip says that more than 22,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas, triggered by the terror group’s brutal October 7 massacres in southern Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 abducted.

According to the health ministry, a total of 22,185 Palestinians have been killed and 57,035 injured as a result of the fighting in Gaza.

The numbers provided by the health ministry cannot be independently verified, however, and do not differentiate between civilians and combatants, of whom Israel believes it has killed over 8,500.

Reserves soldier who was critically injured in Gaza blast released from hospital after 53 days

Elisha Madan, who was critically injured in Gaza blast that killed four, is released from hospital after 53 days. (Shaare Zedek Medical Center)
Elisha Madan, who was critically injured in Gaza blast that killed four, is released from hospital after 53 days. (Shaare Zedek Medical Center)

Shaare Zedek Medical Center announces that 53 days after being critically injured in an explosion in the Gaza Strip, Elisha Madan has been released from hospital and will continue his rehabilitation at home.

Madan was injured by a blast from a booby-trapped tunnel shaft next to a mosque in the Beit Hanoun area that killed four soldiers in early November.

The hospital says that Madan’s treatment in the hospital included multiple surgeries and treatments.

In a statement, Madan thanks the medical team for their round-the-clock care, saying, “There is no way I would be this healthy, happy and optimistic without you,” and calling them “the dream of every seriously injured person.”

“Thank you so much for saving my life,” he adds.

379 passengers rescued from Japan Airlines plane that caught fire on runway at Tokyo airport

A Japan Airlines airplane is on fire after a possible collision with a Coast Guard aircraft with on the runway of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

Live footage on public broadcaster NHK shows the plane moving briskly along the runway before an explosion of orange flames bursts from beneath it.

In a statement, Japan Airlines said all 379 passengers who had been on board were safely rescued from the burning plane.

The television footage shows flames coming out of windows and the plane’s nose on the ground as rescue workers spray it.

There is also burning debris on the runway and the airport has been closed.

Suspected drone infiltration siren sounds in northern Israel

Suspected drone infiltration alerts sound in northern Israel.

The sirens are heard in the communities of Iftach, Malkia and Ramot Naftali, among others.

IDF says troops raided, destroyed home of Hamas’s Gaza City Brigade commander

The IDF says troops of the 460th Armored Brigade recently raided the home of Hamas’s Gaza City Brigade commander in the area of the Daraj and Tuffah neighborhoods, where troops found weaponry and infrastructure.

It says that during the fighting over the area, troops encountered and killed dozens of Hamas operatives, located tunnel shafts, caches of weapons, and intelligence materials.

According to the IDF, intelligence findings found in the area link the main mosque in the Daraj and Tuffah neighborhoods to Hamas’s October 7 onslaught on southern Israel.

The home of the Hamas commander was later destroyed.

Turkish media claims 33 people arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel

Turkish media sources report that 33 people have been arrested for allegedly spying for Israel.

According to reports, arrest warrants were issued for 46 suspects, of whom 33 were arrested across eight provinces of Turkey.

The media reports quote Turkish authorities as saying efforts to arrest the remaining 13 people are still underway.

IDF confirms strikes in Syria overnight, says it hit Syrian Army ‘infrastructure’

The IDF confirms it carried out strikes on Syria overnight in response to rocket fire on northern Israel.

In a short statement, the IDF says it struck “infrastructure” belonging to the Syrian Army.

It does not elaborate further on where the targets were located, or how the strikes were carried out.

Syria accused Israel of carrying out airstrikes in the Damascus area. The state-run SANA news agency says “material losses” were caused.

Israeli fighter jets strike Hezbollah targets in Lebanon after missiles fired at Shlomi

The IDF says fighter jets carried out strikes on Hezbollah positions in the Lebanese village of Yaroun, close to the border.

It also confirms that two missiles were fired from Lebanon at Shlomi.

Two anti-tank guided missiles fired from Lebanon at northern town of Shlomi cause light damage

Two anti-tank guided missiles were fired from Lebanon at the northern border community of Shlomi, local authorities say.

In a statement, the Shlomi local council says one of the missiles hit near a building, causing light damage.

No sirens sounded in the town, as short-range anti-tank missiles do not have a trajectory.

“This is a very serious incident and miraculously no physical damage was caused to the residents. The [attack] this morning illustrates the great danger of the current situation for the residents of Shlomi,” says Shlomi Mayor Gabi Naaman.

“We will not agree to live in this situation,” Naaman adds in the statement.

Armed drone shot down over Iraq’s Erbil airport where US forces are stationed

An armed drone is shot down over Erbil airport in northern Iraq, where US and other international forces are stationed, two security sources say.

It is not clear if the foiled attack caused any damage or casualties, the sources add.

The attempted attack is the third one to be thwarted in the last two days. On Monday, defense systems shot down an armed drone over the Ain al-Assad airbase in western Iraq, which hosts international forces, including the US. Several hours earlier, a drone was shot down over Erbil airport.

Joint Navy, Air Force and ground troops strike takes out Hamas operatives along Gaza coast

The IDF provides a morning update on its recent activity in Gaza, as fighting continues throughout the Strip.

Navy forces and ground troops identified Hamas operatives planting explosives devices along the coast and nearby buildings, the IDF says.

It says the Navy, Air Force, and ground troops struck and killed the operatives and destroyed the explosive devices.

South of Gaza City, the IDF says, the 179th Reserve Armored Brigade spotted three Hamas operatives entering a building known to be used by the terror group.

An IAF fighter jet struck the building, killing the operatives inside. The IDF says several secondary blasts were seen, indicating the building was used as a weapons depot.

Also in central Gaza, the 646th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade found a Hamas weapons lab and long-range rocket launchers.

In the al-Bureij area, troops of the Golani Brigade located a number of rockets that were hidden near a UNRWA school, the IDF says.

In southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the IDF says the Paratroopers Brigade attacked several Hamas sites and raided apartments where Hamas stored weapons.

While the IDF has indicated ground operations are slowing down in northern Gaza, it says that troops of the 261st Brigade (the Bahad 1 officers’ school in wartime) killed dozens of Hamas operatives in the Jabaliya area.

The IDF says some of the operatives were attempting to plant explosives, some were operating drones, and others were armed and driving toward the troops.

Former Mossad chief Zvi Zamir, who led the agency during the Yom Kippur War, dies at 98

Zvi Zamir (Courtesy)
Zvi Zamir (Courtesy)

Former Mossad chief Zvi Zamir has passed away at the age of 98, Hebrew media reports.

Zamir served as the head of the Mossad from 1968 to 1974 and led the intelligence agency during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Maersk still plans to return to Red Sea route after Houthi attack, but in reduced capacity

Denmark’s Maersk still plans to sail more than 30 container vessels through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea in the time ahead despite a weekend attack on one of its ships in the area, a company schedule released last night shows.

But Maersk also puts on hold plans for some vessels to use the Red Sea route amid the continued risk of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, saying it will announce the itinerary for each ship at a later time.

Maersk on Sunday paused all Red Sea sailings for 48 hours following attempts by the Houthis to board its Maersk Hangzhou vessel, although US military helicopters ultimately repelled the attack and killed 10 members of the Iran-backed group.

On December 24, Maersk said it was preparing a near-complete return to the Red Sea, citing the deployment of a US-led military operation to protect vessels after the Houthis launched more than 20 attacks on vessels passing through the Red Sea shipping route.

After the weekend attack, however, a detailed comparison of Maersk’s latest itinerary with one released last week shows that the company has put on hold plans for at least 17 vessels to travel through the Red Sea. New plans will be announced at a later time, the company says.

IDF reserves officer moderately hurt in West Bank gun battle; 4 Palestinian gunmen killed

An IDF reserves officer was moderately injured during an overnight raid in the West Bank town of Azzun, the IDF says.

During the raid, IDF troops of the 8211th Reserves Battalion killed four armed terror operatives who had attacked the troops with explosives and live fire from inside a barricaded house, the IDF says.

After locating the building in which the four terror operatives were hiding, the troops engaged in an exchange of fire, during which one of the soldiers was moderately injured. He was evacuated to the hospital and his family was informed, the military says.

The IDF adds that elsewhere in the West Bank, IDF soldiers, Border Police troops and the Shin Bet security agency arrested seven wanted suspects and confiscated illegally acquired weapons.

Since October 7 and the war against Hamas in Gaza, IDF troops operating in the West Bank have arrested more than 2,550 suspects, of whom some 1,300 were found to have ties to Hamas, the IDF says.

Guns used by four armed terror operatives in the West Bank town of Azzun, January 2, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Syria says alleged Israeli strike on outskirts of Damascus causes material damage

A Syrian military statement says an alleged Israeli air strike early this morning (Tuesday) that came from the direction of the Golan Heights targeting positions in the outskirts of Damascus caused some material damage, Syrian state news agency SANA reports.

Israel steps up strikes in south Gaza overnight, residents say

Israeli aircraft and tanks stepped up strikes in southern Gaza overnight, residents say, after it announced plans to pull back some troops, a move the US said signaled a gradual shift to lower intensity operations in the north of the enclave.

Israel says the war in Gaza has many more months to go but would be shifting into a lower gear in the northern part of the Strip after three months of all-out war.

US official: Biden admin pushed Israel for lower-intensity fighting in Gaza, troop withdrawal

Israel’s plans to withdraw some forces from combat in the Gaza Strip appear to signal that Israel is shifting to lower-intensity fighting in the Palestinian enclave, a move the Biden administration has been pushing for, a US official tells NBC News.

The official notes that fighting is still happening in northern Gaza and there were no immediate changes to operations in southern Gaza.

The IDF said Sunday it was beginning to release five brigades from combat in Gaza, as the military increasingly gains control on the ground.

On Monday, Israeli military officials said they were preparing for residents of some Gaza border communities that have largely been empty since October 7 to begin returning home soon, amid further indications the fighting was shifting into a lower gear in the northern part of the Strip, after three months of punishing all-out war.

Israelis in communities within seven kilometers (4.3 miles) of Gaza were mostly evacuated in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 assault on southern Israel by the terror group, which rules the Strip, when terrorists massacred 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped some 240 people to Gaza.

Israel responded to the October 7 massacres with a military campaign – including a major ground incursion – aimed at destroying Hamas, removing it from power in Gaza, and rescuing the hostages.

The military said it believes the war against the terror group will likely continue throughout 2024, and said it was prepared for lengthy fighting, though in different phases from the high-intensity campaign it has waged so far.

The chief of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, said earlier Monday that the fighting in Gaza “will continue in a variety of methods, in a variety of intensities, and in varying forms.”

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said last week that the military is expanding its operations in southern and central Gaza as it is close to dismantling all of Hamas’s battalions in the northern part of the Strip, but he warned that the war will last “many more months.”

Hezbollah says four members killed tonight in south Lebanon strikes

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group says on its Telegram account that four of its fighters were killed in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah initially said three were killed before updating the number to four later in the day.

The statement gave no detail about how the four were killed but said they “were martyred on the road to (liberate) Jerusalem.”

Security sources said the first three were killed in Israeli strikes on two houses in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila near the border where Hezbollah maintains security control.

Hezbollah, an ally of Palestinian Islamist terror group Hamas, has been exchanging near-daily fire with Israel across Lebanon’s southern frontier since the eruption of the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza in early October, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists killed 1,200 people and took some 240 hostages.

The Israeli military said on Monday it struck a series of targets in Lebanon, including “military sites” where Hezbollah was operating.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Hamas.

Hezbollah has named 138 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 19 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 19 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

The skirmishes on the border have also resulted in four civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of nine IDF soldiers. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Anti-Israel protesters in caravan of cars with ‘intifada’ graffiti restrict access to busy NYC airport

Access to a busy terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was restricted Monday as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters converged on the airport for the second time in a week.

Videos posted online show heavy traffic and a slow-moving line of cars, some flying Palestinian flags and featuring text on the windows such as “intifada,” “f*ck Israel,” “long live the resistance [Hamas]” and “stop the genocide.”

Police directed a line of cars around a checkpoint. Protesters also had planned to arrive at the airport in Queens, New York, by public transportation.

The New Year’s Day action was the latest in a series of protests around the nation calling for a ceasefire since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7 when thousands of terrorists invaded Israel and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took another 240 as hostages to the Gaza Strip. Last Wednesday, activists brought traffic to a standstill on an expressway leading up to JFK for about 20 minutes. Protesters shut down a major thoroughfare leading to the Los Angeles International Airport on the same day.

Entry into JFK’s Terminal 4 was temporarily restricted Monday afternoon to ticketed passengers, employees and people with what authorities consider a valid reason to be there, such as passenger pickups, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the region’s airports.

Similarly, AirTrain access was temporarily restricted to ticketed passengers and employees.

“The Port Authority, in coordination with our local, state, and federal partners, has deployed safety and security measures to help ensure an uninterrupted travel experience at JFK,” port authority spokesperson Seth Stein said in an email.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey didn’t report any arrests.

City officials had warned people flying out of JFK on Monday, a busy travel day, to get to the airport early because of the protests.

Police said the caravan of cars was later headed to protest outside LaGuardia Airport, which is also in Queens.

US carrier sent to Mediterranean after Hamas Oct. 7 massacre to return to base

The USS Gerald R. Ford, arrives in Halifax on Oct. 28, 2022. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
The USS Gerald R. Ford, arrives in Halifax on Oct. 28, 2022. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

The US aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, deployed to the eastern Mediterranean after the deadly attack on Israel by Palestinian terror group Hamas on October 7, will return to the United States “in the coming days,” the US Navy says.

Sent to “contribute to our regional deterrence and defense posture,” the carrier will “redeploy to its home port as scheduled to prepare for future deployments,” the Navy announces in a statement.

“The Department of Defense continually evaluates force posture globally and will retain extensive capability both in the Mediterranean and across the Middle East,” the statement adds.

The Navy says it was “collaborating with Allies and partners to bolster maritime security in the region.”

It notes that the Defense Department will continue to rely on the presence of its forces in the region — including the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group — “to deter any state or non-state actor from escalating this crisis beyond Gaza.”

A new generation aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford is a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered ship equipped with new technologies.

After Hamas’ murderous assault on Israel on October 7 — when Palestinian terrorists killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took some 240 hostages — Washington provided military support to Israel and reinforced its forces in the region, including the USS Gerald R. Ford and other warships. It came with a warning to Iran, Hamas’s backers, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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