ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Jan. 26: Israeli leaders vow Gaza war to go on; Hamas: ICJ ruling ‘contributes to isolating Israel’

New Hamas propaganda video shows 3 Israeli hostages * US pauses funding for UNRWA after staff accused of involvement in Oct. 7 * Rockets shot at Ashkelon for first time in 3 weeks

  • Protesters block the Kerem Shalom border crossing, January 26, 2024 to protest aid going into Gaza while hostages are being held (courtesy)
    Protesters block the Kerem Shalom border crossing, January 26, 2024 to protest aid going into Gaza while hostages are being held (courtesy)
  • President of the International Court of Justice Judge Joan E Donoghue delivers a ruling on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel as part of its accusations of state-led "genocide" in Gaza, January 26, 2024. (Youtube screenshot)
    President of the International Court of Justice Judge Joan E Donoghue delivers a ruling on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel as part of its accusations of state-led "genocide" in Gaza, January 26, 2024. (Youtube screenshot)
  • South Africa's delegation, left, and Israel's delegation, right, stand during a session at the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
    South Africa's delegation, left, and Israel's delegation, right, stand during a session at the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
  • Pro-Palestinian activists wave flags during a session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
    Pro-Palestinian activists wave flags during a session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
  • IDF troops operate in Gaza in this undated handout photo released January 26, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF troops operate in Gaza in this undated handout photo released January 26, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Sgt. Maj. (res.) Eliran Yeger. (Courtesy)
    Sgt. Maj. (res.) Eliran Yeger. (Courtesy)

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

Army said to warn Hamas reestablishing civil rule in parts of Gaza as Israeli forces pull back

The military has warned political leaders that Hamas has begun reestablishing its abilities for civil governance in parts of northern and central Gaza where some Israeli forces have been withdrawn, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Citing intelligence presented by the Israel Defense Forces, the report says Hamas-led municipalities have recently started to again provide services to Palestinians in their jurisdictions.

Two unnamed security sources tell the broadcaster they blame the government’s refusal to deliberate “the day after” in Gaza was helping create the space for Hamas to restore civil rule in parts of Gaza. The report adds the matter was brought up during last night’s meeting of the security cabinet, but no decisions were made.

Rocket sirens sound in community along border with Lebanon

A rocket alert again sounds in the town of Arab al-Aramshe along the Lebanon border, around 30 minutes after sirens were first activated there.

Qatari PM to reportedly visit Washington next week

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani will visit Washington next week, the Al-Monitor news site reports, as the Gulf state mediates negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report says the Qatari premier will likely meet with top Biden administration officials and US lawmakers while in DC.

He is first slated to visit Paris “in the coming days” to meet with the CIA director and top spy chiefs from Israel and Egypt, a security source tells AFP.

Rocket sirens activated in Lebanon border community for second time this evening

For the second time this evening, an incoming rocket alert sounds in Moshav Zarit near the border with Lebanon.

Houthis say they attacked British oil tanker in Gulf of Aden, causing fire

Yemen’s Houthis say their naval forces carried out an operation targeting “the British oil tanker Marlin Luanda” in the Gulf of Aden causing a fire to break out.

They used “a number of appropriate naval missiles, the strike was direct,” the Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea says in a statement.

White House says ‘no imminent developments’ in hostage talks, as envoy returns from Mideast

US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk speaks during the IISS Manama Dialogue security conference, in Manama on November 18, 2023. (Mazen Mahdi / AFP)
US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk speaks during the IISS Manama Dialogue security conference, in Manama on November 18, 2023. (Mazen Mahdi / AFP)

WASHINGTON — The United States is working to facilitate another deal on the release of hostages seized by Hamas and held in Gaza, but “imminent developments” are unlikely, the White House says.

“We should not expect any imminent developments,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tells journalists.

Kirby adds Middle East envoy Brett McGurk is returning to Washington after holding hostage talks in the region.

Additionally, the White House says US President Joe Biden spoke with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fatteh el-Sissi. Like Qatar, whose emir Biden also held a phone call with today, Egypt is mediating the hostage negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

Rocket alerts sound in farming towns along Lebanon border

Incoming rocket alerts are activated in the farming towns of Zarit and Shomera, near Israel’s border with Lebanon.

Shin Bet chief said to urge state commission be formed to investigate Oct. 7 attacks

Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security agency, speaks at the annual Cyber Week event at Tel Aviv University, on June 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet security agency, speaks at the annual Cyber Week event at Tel Aviv University, on June 27, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

During last night’s meeting of the security cabinet, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar urged the immediate establishment of a state commission of inquiry to examine Hamas’s October 7 attack, according to Hebrew media reports.

Bar’s reported call to set up the panel was in response to a lawmaker in the ruling Likud party’s promotion of a conspiracy seeking to link protesters against the judicial overhaul to the atrocities carried out by the Gaza-ruling terror group.

“The public desperately needs this and the Shin Bet does as well,” Bar is quoted as saying by Channel 12 news. “This will put an end to all the lies and conspiracies.”

The reports do not say how ministers reacted. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads Likud, has refused to set up such a commission — the most powerful and consequential investigative panel — to look into the failings that enabled the October 7 onslaught.

According to earlier reports, Bar was asked during the meeting by Transportation Minister Miri Regev of Likud whether there was any truth to the claims advanced by MK Tali Gotliv.

“It’s just a lie. What she did crosses a red line,” Bar reportedly responded.

France, Germany and UK denounce Iran over satellite launch

France, Germany and Britain condemn Iran’s launch of the Soraya satellite last week using the Ghaem-100 Space Launch Vehicle (SLV).

The SLV uses technology essential for the development of a long-range ballistic missile system, which could also allow Tehran to launch longer-range weapons, the countries say in a joint statement.

White House says Biden and Qatari emir discussed efforts to free hostages in Gaza

US President Joe Biden, right, shakes hands with the Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the Oval Office of the White House, January 31, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Alex Brandon/ File)
US President Joe Biden, right, shakes hands with the Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in the Oval Office of the White House, January 31, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Alex Brandon/ File)

US President Joe Biden just got off the phone with Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, with whom he discussed efforts to secure the release of the hostages in Gaza in addition to the ongoing war there, the White House says, adding that a readout will be issued shortly.

An initial Qatari readout says Biden thanked the emir for Doha’s mediation efforts.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recorded criticizing both the US and Qatar for not putting enough pressure on Hamas to release the remaining 136 hostages.

Saudi Arabia fetes ICJ’s imposition of emergency measures on Israel

Saudi Arabia welcomes the International Court of Justice ruling on South Africa’s request to impose emergency measures against Israel over its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Gulf country’s foreign ministry says in a statement.

The kingdom affirmed “its categorical rejection of the Israeli occupation’s practices and violations of the United Nations Convention on genocide,” it adds.

In separate ICJ opinion, Aharon Barak says ‘genocide more than just a word for me’

Retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak is sworn in as Israel’s appointee to the bench at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, January 11, 2024 (Screen grab)
Retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak is sworn in as Israel’s appointee to the bench at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, January 11, 2024 (Screen grab)

Retired Supreme Court chief justice Aharon Barak, serving as the Israeli representative at the International Court of Justice, issues a separate opinion after the court’s ruling in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.

Along with Uganda’s Julia Sebutinde, Barak was one of only two judges to oppose the court’s chief claim that Israeli actions in the war against Hamas may violate the Genocide Convention and in turn order Israel to ensure they do not.

Barak voted in favor of two measures included in the decision: Requiring Israel to do everything “within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip,” and ordering “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

In his separate opinion, Barak criticizes South Africa for focusing on Israel instead of Hamas for carrying out the October 7 terror onslaught that sparked the war in Gaza, saying it “wrongly sought to impute the crime of Cain to Abel.”

He also notes his own experience as a Holocaust survivor.

“Genocide is more than just a word for me; it represents calculated destruction and human behavior at its very worst,” Barak writes. “It is the gravest possible accusation and is deeply intertwined with my personal life experience.”

Additionally, Barak touts Israel’s commitment to adhering to international law during military operations and says the court should use international humanitarian law when assessing the war in Gaza, not the genocide convention.

Qatar, the key mediator in hostage talks, welcomes ICJ ruling against Israel

Qatar welcomes the International Court of Justice ruling on South Africa’s request to impose emergency measures against Israel over its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Gulf country’s foreign ministry says in a statement.

Qatar, where several Hamas political leaders are based, has served as the main mediator between the terror group that governs Gaza and Israeli officials in the conflict.

Italian president: October 7 attack ‘a gruesome replica of the horrors of the Shoah

Italian President Sergio Mattarella delivers his speech in Rome, January 26, 2024. (Paolo Giandotti/Italian Presidency via AP)
Italian President Sergio Mattarella delivers his speech in Rome, January 26, 2024. (Paolo Giandotti/Italian Presidency via AP)

ROME — Italy’s president denounces rising antisemitism and delivers a powerful speech in support of the Jewish people as he commemorates a Holocaust Remembrance Day overshadowed by Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and a rise in anti-Israel acts here.

In a ceremony at the Quirinale Palace attended by the premier and leaders of Italy’s Jewish community, President Sergio Mattarella calls the Holocaust “the most abominable of crimes” and recalls the complicity of Italians under Fascism in the deportation of Jews.

Mattarella’s tenure as president has been marked by strong affirmations in support of Jews, and he continued that Friday. He says the October 7 attacks by Hamas against Israel were “a gruesome replica of the horrors of the Shoah.”

But Mattarella also expresses anguish for the mounting Palestinian death toll in Gaza as a result of Israel’s military campaign and calls for fundamental human rights to be respected everywhere.

“Those who have suffered the vile attempt to erase their own people from the land know that one cannot deny another people the right to a state,” Mattarella says.

Antisemitic episodes in Italy hit an unprecedented high last year, with 216 incidents reported in the last three months of 2023 following the October 7 attack, compared to 241 in all of the previous year, the Antisemitism Observatory reported. Overall, 454 incidents of antisemitism were reported last year, the biggest-ever increase.

“The dead of Auschwitz, scattered in the wind, continually warn us: Man’s path proceeds along rough and risky roads,” Mattarella says. “This is also manifested by the return, in the world, of dangerous instances of antisemitism: of prejudice that traces back to ancient anti-Jewish stereotypes, reinforced by social media without control or modesty.”

Significantly, he quotes Primo Levi, the Italian-born Auschwitz survivor whose memoir “If This is a Man” remains a standard work of Holocaust literature. Just this week, Italy’s Jewish community denounced that pro-Palestinian protesters had cited Levi in a flyer promoting tomorrow’s planned protest, but in reference to Gaza, not the Holocaust.

US maintains genocide allegations against Israel are unfounded, after ICJ ruling

South African, left, and Israel's delegation, right, stand during session at the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
South African, left, and Israel's delegation, right, stand during session at the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

The United States stands by its position that South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice is “unfounded,” in its first response to the court’s decision to move forward with a case against Israel while stopping short of ordering an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“We continue to believe that allegations of genocide are unfounded and note the court did not make a finding about genocide or call for a ceasefire in its ruling and that it called for the unconditional, immediate release of all hostages being held by Hamas,” a US State Department spokesperson tells The Times of Israel.

“The court’s ruling is consistent with our view that Israel has the right to take action to ensure the terrorist attacks of October 7 cannot be repeated, in accordance with international law,” the spokesperson adds.

“We have consistently made clear that Israel must take all possible steps to minimize civilian harm, increase the flow of humanitarian assistance, and address dehumanizing rhetoric,” the US statement adds in an apparent reference to the court’s decision ordering Israel to take urgent steps to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza along with incendiary comments by its lawmakers.

The State Department spokesperson says the US recognizes the “vital role” that the ICJ plays in the peaceful settlement of disputes and adds that it will continue to monitor the proceedings as they move forward.

Germany says Israel ‘must adhere’ to ICJ ruling, calls on Hamas to free hostages

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks at the German Bundestag in Berlin on October 11, 2023. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks at the German Bundestag in Berlin on October 11, 2023. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)

BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says that Israel “must adhere” to the ICJ’s ruling, but also says Hamas needs to release its remaining hostages.

“The International Court of Justice did not decide on the main issue, but ordered temporary measures in the interim legal protection proceedings,” she says. “But these are also binding under international law. Israel must adhere to this.”

“At the same time, the court made it clear that Israel’s actions in Gaza follow the barbaric terror of October 7, and recalled that Hamas is also bound by international humanitarian law and must finally release all hostages,” Baerbock adds. “We will support this with all our might, as well as the measure ordered by Israel to urgently allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Ahead of Holocaust remembrance day, Biden warns against ‘efforts to minimize the horrors’ of Oct. 7

US President Joe Biden speaks at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, on January 25, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, on January 25, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, US President Joe Biden says it’s “more pressing than ever” to commemorate Nazi-led genocide of six million Jews following the Hamas onslaught on October 7.

“On October 7 Hamas terrorists unleashed pure, unadulterated evil on the people of Israel, slaughtering approximately 1,200 innocent people and taking hundreds more hostage — including survivors of the Shoah,” he says in a statement. “It was the worst atrocity committed against the Jewish people in a single day since the Holocaust.”

Biden notes the “alarming rise” in antisemitism in the United States and elsewhere following the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas, which he denounces as “unacceptable.”

“We cannot remember all that Jewish survivors of the Holocaust experienced and then stand silently by when Jews are attacked and targeted again today. Without equivocation or exception, we must also forcefully push back against attempts to ignore, deny, distort, and revise history,” he says.

“This includes Holocaust denialism and efforts to minimize the horrors that Hamas perpetrated on October 7, especially its appalling and unforgivable use of rape and sexual violence to terrorize victims.”

Biden also says Jews and Israelis are “close in our hearts.”

“We recommit to carrying forward the lessons of the Shoah, to fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate-fueled violence, and to bringing the hostages home. And we remember the enduring strength, spirit, and resilience of the Jewish people – even in the darkest of times,” he adds.

WHO denies Israeli accusation of ‘collusion’ with Hamas

This handout photograph taken and released on December 15, 2023 by the World Health Organization (WHO), shows Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivering remarks during a press conference with press correspondents to the United Nations (ACANU) at WHO headquarters in Geneva. (Photo by Christopher BLACK / World Health Organization (WHO) / AFP)
This handout photograph taken and released on December 15, 2023 by the World Health Organization (WHO), shows Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivering remarks during a press conference with press correspondents to the United Nations (ACANU) at WHO headquarters in Geneva. (Photo by Christopher BLACK / World Health Organization (WHO) / AFP)

GENEVA, Switzerland — The World Health Organization denies Israel’s claim that the WHO is in collusion with Hamas by ignoring Israeli evidence of the “military use” of hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also says that such accusations could endanger its staff on the ground.

Tedros is responding to claims made yesterday by Israeli Ambassador Meirav Eilon Shahar at a meeting of the UN health agency’s board.

“WHO refutes Israel’s accusation at the executive board meeting yesterday that WHO is in ‘collusion’ with Hamas and is ‘turning a blind eye’ to the suffering of hostages being held in Gaza,” Tedros says on X.

“Such false claims are harmful and can endanger our staff who are risking their lives to serve the vulnerable.

“As a United Nations agency, WHO is impartial and is working for the health and well-being of all people.”

Gallant praises US for pausing funding to UN agency for Palestinian refugees

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hails the US decision to pause funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees over allegations some of its employees took part in the Hamas-led October 7 terror onslaught, calling the move “an important step in holding UNRWA accountable.”

“Major changes need to take place so that international efforts, funds and humanitarian initiatives don’t fuel Hamas terrorism and the murder of Israelis,” Gallant writes on the X platform. “Terrorism under the guise of humanitarian work is a disgrace to the UN and the principles it claims to represent.”

Iran-backed militias in Iraq pledge to keep attacking US forces

Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi carry the coffin of a comrade, who died in American airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia groups the day before, during his funeral at the Hashed al-Shaabi headquarters in Baghdad on January 25, 2024. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)
Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi carry the coffin of a comrade, who died in American airstrikes targeting Iran-backed militia groups the day before, during his funeral at the Hashed al-Shaabi headquarters in Baghdad on January 25, 2024. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

BAGHDAD — Iran-allied armed groups vow to keep up attacks on US-led coalition forces in Iraq, ahead of imminent talks between Washington and Baghdad on the future of the foreign troops in the country.

Washington has forces in Iraq as part of the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, but after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war the troops have faced frequent attacks, prompting the US to launch retaliatory strikes in Iraq.

The volatile situation has pushed Iraq’s prime minister — whose government relies on the support of Iran-aligned parties — to call for the coalition to leave.

The United States and Iraq announced Thursday that discussions on the troops were set to start, with Baghdad expecting them to lead to a timeline for reducing the forces.

In a statement on Telegram, the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a loose alliance of Iran-linked groups that oppose US support for Israel in the Gaza conflict, says that American agreement to hold the talks is “an attempt to reshuffle the cards… and buy time.”

“The Islamic Resistance’s response will be to continue its operations… against the foreign presence… until their true intentions and the seriousness of their commitment to withdraw their forces are proven,” the group says.

In show of support, Argentina president says he’ll visit Israel in coming weeks

Argentina's President Javier Milei arrives at the Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires to attend an event to commemorate International Holocaust Day, on January 26, 2024. (Luis Robayo/AFP)
Argentina's President Javier Milei arrives at the Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires to attend an event to commemorate International Holocaust Day, on January 26, 2024. (Luis Robayo/AFP)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina’s libertarian President Javier Milei says he will travel to Israel in the “coming weeks,” one of his first overseas trips since the economist took office last month after pledging strong support for Israel during his campaign.

Milei is speaking during a Holocaust remembrance event in Buenos Aires, where he signals support for Israel in its ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza, adding that Argentina will “not remain silent in the face of Hamas terror.”

US warship shoots down missile fired at it by Yemen’s Houthis

The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in Souda Bay, Greece. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge/U.S. Navy via AP)
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in Souda Bay, Greece. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge/U.S. Navy via AP)

Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched a missile at a US warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden, forcing it to shoot down the projectile.

The attack on the USS Carney marks the latest by the rebels amid their campaign against ships traveling through the Red Sea and surrounding waters. The Houthis say the attacks aim to force a halt to Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels do immediately acknowledge today’s attack, although they typically take several hours afterward to claim their assaults.

The US and Britain have launched multiple rounds of airstrikes in the time since targeting Houthi missile depots and launcher sites in Yemen, a country that’s been wracked by conflict since the rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.

Rocket alerts sound in kibbutzim near Gaza border

A rocket warning alert is activated in Kissufim, a kibbutz near the Gaza Strip, shortly after sirens sounded in nearby Ein Hashlosha.

EU says it expects full compliance with ICJ ruling

The European Union says it expects Israel and Hamas to fully comply with the rulings of the International Court of Justice.

The UN’s top court ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians and to do more to help civilians — although it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

It called on Hamas and other terror groups to immediately release all the hostages they hold.

“Orders of the International Court of Justice are binding on the parties and they must comply with them. The European Union expects their full, immediate and effective implementation,” the European Commission says in a statement.

Egypt says it had hoped for ICJ demand for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

CAIRO — Egypt welcomes the International Court of Justice ruling on South Africa’s request to impose emergency measures against Israel over its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

A foreign ministry statement also says Egypt “was looking forward to the International Court of Justice demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as the Court ruled in similar cases,” stressing the need to respect and implement its decisions.

US pauses funding for UNRWA after staff accused of involvement in October 7 massacres

Workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) hand out flour rations and other supplies to people at an UNRWA warehouse in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 12, 2023, amid the war between Israel and the terror group Hamas. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) hand out flour rations and other supplies to people at an UNRWA warehouse in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 12, 2023, amid the war between Israel and the terror group Hamas. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

The United States is troubled by allegations that 12 UNRWA employees may have been involved in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and has temporarily paused funding, the State Department says.

“The Department of State has temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them,” spokesperson Matthew Miller says.

“There must be complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks of October 7,” he adds.

Miller says the US is in touch with Israel for more information.

The European Union’s top diplomat says he’s also “extremely concerned” by the allegations and that the bloc is in touch with UNRWA, but doesn’t announce a similar halt in funding.

“We are in contact with UNRWA, expect it to provide full transparency on the allegations and to take immediate measures against staff involved,” Josep Borrell says in a statement, while pledging to “assess further steps and draw lessons based on the result of the full and comprehensive investigation.”

Turkey’s Erdogan hails ‘valuable’ ICJ genocide decision

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart jn Ankara, on January 24, 2024. (Adem Altan/AFP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart jn Ankara, on January 24, 2024. (Adem Altan/AFP)

ISTANBUL — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomes a United Nations court ruling that Israel should prevent acts of genocide in Gaza, saying he hoped it will halt attacks against civilians.

“We hope that Israel’s attacks against women, children and the elderly will come to an end,” Erdogan says in a social media statement, calling the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling “valuable.”

Rocket sirens sound in Ashkelon for first time in three weeks

Incoming rocket sirens are activated in Ashkelon, the first time since January 4 that alerts have sounded in the southern coastal city near Gaza.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it hasn’t received any reports of rocket impacts or injuries.

Hamas publishes new propaganda clip showing 3 Israeli hostages in Gaza

L-R: Hostages Karina Ariev, Daniella Gilboa, and Doron Steinbrecher are seen in a Hamas propaganda clip published January 26, 2024. (Screenshot: Telegram)
L-R: Hostages Karina Ariev, Daniella Gilboa, and Doron Steinbrecher are seen in a Hamas propaganda clip published January 26, 2024. (Screenshot: Telegram)

The Hamas terror group has published a new propaganda video showing signs of life from three hostages held in the Gaza Strip.

In edited-together clips, the five-minute-long video shows Daniella Gilboa, Karina Ariev and Doron Steinbrecher, identifying themselves and asking the Israeli government to return them home.

Hamas says the video was filmed on day 107 of the war, meaning earlier this week, although it provides no evidence to support the claim.

Hamas has previously issued similar videos of hostages it is holding, in what Israel says is deplorable psychological warfare.

Most Israeli media do not carry the video clips themselves.

Iranian FM: Leaders of ‘fake Israeli regime… must be brought to justice immediately’

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian gestures during a discussion at the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian gestures during a discussion at the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024.(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s foreign minister calls for Israeli authorities to face justice after the World Court orders Israel to take measures to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza.

“Today, the authorities of the fake Israeli regime… must be brought to justice immediately for committing genocide and unprecedented war crimes against the Palestinians,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says on the X platform.

PA says genocide ruling by top UN court shows ‘no state above the law’

Palestinian Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, January 23, 2024. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)
Palestinian Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, January 23, 2024. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Authority says a ruling by the UN’s top court that Israel should do everything it can to prevent any acts of genocide in Gaza shows “no state is above the law.”

“The ICJ order is an important reminder that no state is above the law,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki says in a video statement, adding that the ruling “should serve as a wake-up call for Israel and actors who enabled its entrenched impunity.”

Gallant slams ICJ for not throwing out South Africa’s genocide case

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hits out at the International Court of Justice, saying Israel “does not need to be lectured on morality” while fighting Hamas in Gaza.

“The International Court of Justice in The Hague went above and beyond, when it granted South Africa’s antisemitic request to discuss the claim of genocide in Gaza, and now refuses to reject the petition outright,” he says in a statement.

“Those who seek justice, will not find it on the leather chairs of the court chambers in The Hague — they will find it in the Hamas tunnels in Gaza, where 136 hostages are held, and where those who murdered our children are hiding,” Gallant continues. “They will find it in the ‘Spirit of the IDF,’ a document that outlines the values and conduct of our moral and professional soldiers.”

He also vows Israel “will never forget” the Hamas-led terror onslaught on October 7, while pledging Israeli forces will continue working to “dismantle” Hamas and return the hostages.

After ICJ ruling, PM says Israel in ‘just war’ against Hamas, will fight until ‘total victory’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in a video statement on January 26, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in a video statement on January 26, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israel rejects the “vile” attempt to deny its right to defend itself and will continue to battle Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares following a provisional ruling of the International Court of Justice calling on Jerusalem to take measures to prevent the commission of genocidal acts against Palestinians.

“Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people,” Netanyahu says in an English-language video posted online.

“The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected. The charge of genocide leveled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it,” he continues.

Declaring Hamas a “genocidal” organization, Netanyahu argues that Israel’s war is against “terrorists, not against Palestinian civilians,” adding that Hamas has vowed to repeat the “atrocities” of October 7 “again and again.”

Despite the war, “we will continue to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and to do our utmost to keep civilians out of harm’s way, even as Hamas uses civilians as human shields,” he says.

“On the eve of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I again pledge as prime minister of Israel — Never Again,” he states, promising to “continue to do what is necessary to defend our country and defend our people.”

Netanyahu’s office also issues a statement in Hebrew on the decision, saying Israel is fighting a “just war” against “the Hamas monsters who murdered, raped, beheaded and kidnapped our citizens.” Unlike the Hebrew version, the statement does not mention humanitarian aid.

“The very claim that Israel is carrying out genocide against Palestinians is not only false, it’s outrageous, and the willingness of the court to deliberate it at all is a mark of disgrace that will not be erased for generations,” the premier says.

He also vows Israel will keep fighting “until total victory, until we defeat Hamas, return all the captives and ensure that Gaza will not again be a threat to Israel.”

Hamas cheers ICJ ruling: ‘Contributes to isolating Israel’

Palestinian terror group Hamas hails an “important” ruling by the UN’s top court that Israel should do everything it can to prevent any acts of genocide in Gaza, saying it “contributes to isolating Israel.”

“The (International) Court of Justice’s decision is an important development which contributes to isolating Israel and exposing its crimes in Gaza,” the Gaza-ruling terror organization says in a statement.

Netanyahu instructs cabinet members to refrain from responding to ICJ ruling, to no avail

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders members of his cabinet to refrain from responding to the International Court of Justice’s provisional ruling in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.

According to national broadcaster Kan, Netanyahu, via National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, instructed government ministers to hold off on any public statements before the release of an official government position on the matter.

While the court declined to order Israel to halt its military operation in the Gaza Strip, its ruling does call on Jerusalem to take measures to prevent the commission of genocidal acts against Palestinians.

Despite Netanyahu’s order, Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, both members of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, condemned the court on Friday.

Ben Gvir, whose rhetoric regarding the Palestinians was raised by South Africa to bolster its genocide claims against Israel, dismissed the court as “antisemitic,” declaring that its decision proves that the “court does not seek justice, but rather the persecution of Jewish people.”

“Never Again,” Wasserlauf tweeted in English, alongside an Israeli flag emoji.

UNRWA opens investigation into staff suspected of involvement in October 7 terror onslaught

UNRWA, the UN organization for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, says it has opened a probe into the alleged involvement of several of its employees in the October 7 terror onslaught in southern Israel by Hamas, and that it had severed ties with these staff members.

“The Israeli authorities have provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of several UNRWA employees in the horrific attacks on Israel on October 7,” says Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General.

“To protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.”

‘Never again:’ Far-right lawmaker dismisses ICJ ruling on Israel’s war with Hamas

Negev, Galilee and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf appears to dismiss the International Court of Justice ruling calling on Israel to take measures to prevent the commission of genocidal acts against Palestinians.

In an English-language tweet, Wasserlauf, a member of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party, declares “Never Again” alongside an emoji of an Israeli flag.

His statement follows Ben Gvir’s own public criticism of the court, which he described as “antisemitic.”

Hamas congratulates ICJ for decision that ‘isolates’ Israel

The International Court of Justice decision is an important development that contributes to isolating Israel and exposing its crimes in Gaza, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri tells Reuters.

“We call for forcing the occupation to implement the court’s decisions,” he adds.

 

 

 

South Africa welcomes provisional measures against Israel over war in Gaza

South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandorthe, left, attends the session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandorthe, left, attends the session of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

South Africa hails what it called a “decisive victory” for the international rule of law after the International Court of Justice ruled in favor of its request to impose emergency measures against Israel over its military operations in Gaza.

The ICJ issued a series of measures, saying Israel must prevent the killing or injuring of Gaza’s Palestinians, must prevent conditions calculated to wholly or partly destroy Gaza’s populace, and must prevent conditions intended to prevent births among Gazans.

However, it stopped short of granting South Africa’s demand for an international unilateral ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas.

Ben Gvir slams ICJ as antisemitic, says Israel should ignore ruling on provisional measures

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir slams the International Court of Justice for issuing a series of provisional measures against Israel, calling the international body “antisemitic.”

“The decision of the antisemitic court in The Hague proves what was already known: This court does not seek justice, but rather the persecution of Jewish people. They were silent during the Holocaust and today they continue the hypocrisy and take it another step further,” he says.

The ICJ in its current iteration was founded in 1945.

“Decisions that endanger the continued existence of the State of Israel must not be listened to,” Ben Gvir adds. “We must continue defeating the enemy until complete victory.”

World Court tells Israel to ‘take all measures’ to prevent genocide in Gaza; stops short of ordering ceasefire

President of the International Court of Justice Judge Joan E Donoghue delivers a ruling on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel as part of its accusations of state-led "genocide" in Gaza, January 26, 2024. (Youtube screenshot)
President of the International Court of Justice Judge Joan E Donoghue delivers a ruling on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel as part of its accusations of state-led "genocide" in Gaza, January 26, 2024. (Youtube screenshot)

The International Court of Justice issues a series of provisional measures against Israel on the basis that the rights of the Palestinians not to be subject to genocide must be protected before the court can make a final ruling on the merits of the case.

The court says that Israel must “take all measures within its power” to prevent the commission of genocidal acts against the Palestinians as laid out in Article 2 of the Genocide Convention.

Critically, however, the court does not grant South Africa’s demand for an immediate unilateral ceasefire in Israel’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza.

It says Israel must prevent the killing or injuring of Gaza’s Palestinians, must prevent conditions calculated to wholly or partly destroy Gaza’s populace, and must prevent conditions intended to prevent births among Gazans.

The measures are supported by an overwhelming 15-2 majority on the bench, including by its US president Joan Donoghue. Israel’s Aharon Barak is one of the dissenters.

The court also orders Israel to take steps to prevent and punish incitement to genocide against the Palestinians, and take measures to provide “urgently needed assistance to address the adverse conditions of life in Gaza.”

ICJ president says conditions to issue provisional measures against Israel have been met

President of the International Court of Justice Judge Joan Donoghue cites several inflammatory comments made by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, then-Energy Minister Yisrael Katz and President Isaac Herzog, which could be interpreted as seeking to kill civilians in Gaza.

“The aforementioned facts and circumstances are sufficient to conclude that at least some rights of the Palestinians to be protected from acts of genocide and related prohibited acts in Article 3 of the Genocide Convention, and the rights of South Africa to seek protection of these rights,” states Donoghue.

These comments appear to indicate that the ICJ accepts that there is plausibility to South Africa’s claims that the Palestinians need to be protected from genocide by Israel under the terms of the Genocide Convention.

Donoghue states therefore that the “conditions required by its statue to indicate [provisional measures] have been met.”

ICJ president says court will not throw out genocide case as Israel requested

President of the International Court of Justice Judge Joan E Donoghue delivers a ruling on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel as part of its accusations of state-led "genocide" in Gaza, January 26, 2024. (Youtube screenshot)
President of the International Court of Justice Judge Joan E Donoghue delivers a ruling on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel as part of its accusations of state-led "genocide" in Gaza, January 26, 2024. (Youtube screenshot)

President of the International Court of Justice Judge Joan E. Donoghue begins reading the court order relating to South Africa’s application for the court to issue provisional measures against Israel on allegations that it is committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Donoghue says: “In the court’s view, at least some of the acts and omissions committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the genocide convention. In light of the following, the court concludes it has prima facie jurisdiction to entertain the case on the basis of Article 9 of the Genocide Convention.”

She adds: “The court cannot accede to Israel’s request that it not entertain the application.”

IDF says it carried out strikes against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon

The IDF says it carried out strikes against Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon in response to recent attacks on northern Israel.

A short while ago, an IAF fighter jet struck a building used by the terror group in Bint Jbeil, and last night another building was struck in Khiam, the military says.

Earlier today several rockets were fired from Lebanon at the Mount Hermon area, landing in open areas.

The IDF says it shelled the launch sites, as well as other areas in southern Lebanon, presumably to foil planned Hezbollah attacks.

WATCH: International Court of Justice issues ruling on genocide case against Israel

The International Court of Justice begins delivering its ruling on South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel, which is accused at the court of state-led “genocide” for its military operation in Gaza against Hamas.

The ruling can be watched here and below.

The ruling is not focused on the core accusation of the case — whether genocide occurred — but on the urgent intervention sought by South Africa.

Among the measures South Africa requested is an immediate halt to Israel’s military campaign, which it launched in response to the devastating Hamas-led attack on October 7, when Palestinian terrorists murdered some 1,200 people in a rampage through southern Israel and abducted 253 as hostages to Gaza, where most are still held.

Cold weather is making war-torn Gaza Strip ‘uninhabitable,’ UN human rights official warns

Palestinians look for salvageable items amid the rubble of buildings destroyed in Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 25, 2024. (AFP)
Palestinians look for salvageable items amid the rubble of buildings destroyed in Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 25, 2024. (AFP)

The cold and stormy winter weather in Gaza is making the Palestinian enclave “completely uninhabitable” after months of war, a UN human rights official warns.

“I fear that many more civilians will die,” says Ajith Sunghay, head of the UN human rights department responsible for overseeing Gaza and the West Bank.

Sunghay says his office is also concerned about the impact of rainy and cold weather in Gaza.

“It was entirely predictable at this time of the year, and risks making an already unsanitary situation completely uninhabitable for the people,” he says.

“Most have no warm clothes or blankets. Northern Gaza, where IDF bombardment continues, is barely accessible, even to provide basic humanitarian aid.”

 

UK maritime agency says it received report of incident off the coast of Yemen

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) says it has received a report of an incident some 60 nautical miles from Yemen’s port city of Al Hudaydah.

The maritime agency says explosions were heard and missiles were sighted around four nautical miles away from the reporting vessel.

A second explosion was reported less than one nautical mile away from the ship’s location, but the vessel and crew are confirmed to be safe and unharmed, the report says.

 

Biden said to tell Netanyahu he cannot support year-long war in Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, October 18, 2023. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

US President Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone conversation last week that he will not support a year-long war in Gaza, Hebrew media outlet Walla reports.

Citing two anonymous US officials, the report alleges that Biden asked Netanyahu to speed up the transition to low-intensity fighting against Hamas that would reduce harm to civilians.

Biden reportedly told Netanyahu that he does not understand what Israel’s strategy for ending the war is, and pressed him to provide an answer as to what the plan is for the day after the war ends.

In response to the Walla report, Netanyahu’s office says, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appreciates President Biden’s support and made it clear in his conversation with him that Israel is determined to continue the war until all its goals are completed.”

EU chief von der Leyen warns: Global turbulence is the ‘new normal’

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warns that global disruptions and volatility are the “new normal,” with more geo-economic tensions on the horizon.

“2024 will be a decisive year, with more geo-economic tensions expected — from the Red Sea to the Taiwan Strait — which also means more frequent disruptions to supply chains and greater volatility on the energy markets,” she tells a climate conference in Hamburg.

“International competition is becoming harder. That is the new normal that we have to deal with.”

Industries in Europe have been severely hit by Russia’s war on Ukraine, which has disrupted supply chains and driven up energy prices, sparking sustained inflation.

The difficulties faced by businesses have been compounded by attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

IDF says reservist Eliran Yeger killed in Gaza, bringing ground op death toll to 220

Sgt. Maj. (res.) Eliran Yeger. (Courtesy)
Sgt. Maj. (res.) Eliran Yeger. (Courtesy)

The IDF announces the death of a reservist killed during fighting in the Gaza Strip yesterday, bringing the toll of slain troops in the ground offensive against Hamas to 220.

He is named as Sgt. Maj. (res.) Eliran Yeger, 36, of the Combat Engineering Corps’ 8170th Battalion, from Tel Aviv.

Yeger was killed during a gun battle with Hamas operatives in southern Gaza.

IDF releases drone footage of airstrike on RPG-wielding Hamas operatives in Khan Younis

A three-man Hamas cell armed with RPGs is seen in southern Gaza's Khan Younis before being struck, in footage released by the IDF on January 26, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
A three-man Hamas cell armed with RPGs is seen in southern Gaza's Khan Younis before being struck, in footage released by the IDF on January 26, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF releases drone footage showing a group of RPG-wielding Hamas operatives being spotted in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, before being struck by an aircraft.

The three-man Hamas cell was identified by soldiers of the Border Defense Corps’ 636th Combat Intelligence Collection unit, who also called in the strike.

The unit has been operating alongside troops in Khan Younis in recent weeks, locating some 200 tunnel entrances, aiding in destroying more than 130 Hamas sites and nearly a dozen rocket launchers, and targeting numerous Hamas cells, the IDF says.

Freight traveling through the Suez Canal dropped by 45% since start of Houthi attacks

In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan transits through the Suez Canal, Egypt, on August, 6, 2023. 
(Moises Sandoval/US Department of Defense/AFP)
In this image obtained from the US Department of Defense, the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan transits through the Suez Canal, Egypt, on August, 6, 2023. (Moises Sandoval/US Department of Defense/AFP)

Freight going through the Suez Canal has dropped by 45 percent in the two months since attacks by Yemen’s Houthis led shipping groups to divert freight, disrupting already strained maritime trading routes, UN agency UNCTAD says.

UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which supports developing countries in global trade, warns of higher inflation risks, food security uncertainty, and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Shipping companies have diverted ships from the Red Sea since the Iran-backed Houthis, who control most of the populated parts of Yemen, began attacking vessels transiting through the Red Sea in what it says is support for Palestinians in Gaza. Many of the vessels targeted, however, have no proven links to Israel.

The United States and Britain have responded with air strikes against the Houthis.

The agency says 39% fewer ships than at the start of December transited the canal, leading to a 45% decline in freight tonnage.

IDF calls for residents of Khan Younis refugee camp, other neighborhoods in city to evacuate

The IDF is calling on residents of a number of neighborhoods in western Khan Younis to evacuate to the nearby al-Mawasi area in southern Gaza, as the military’s ground offensive expands.

Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, publishes a map of the zones that need to be evacuated alongside the announcement.

The zones include the al-Nasr and al-Amal neighborhoods, the Khan Younis refugee camp, and the city center.

In the largest operation in a month, Israeli forces encircled and pushed through Khan Younis over the past few days, where many Palestinians sheltered after leaving northern Gaza, the early focus of the war.

Citing decreased demand, El Al suspends Tel Aviv-Johannesburg flights from April 1

Illustrative: An El Al flight takes off at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv, October 25, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Illustrative: An El Al flight takes off at Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv, October 25, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

El Al announces that it will suspend flights along the Tel Aviv-Johannesburg route starting April 1 due to decreased demand.

The airline’s announcement comes ahead of a ruling from the International Court of Justice regarding South Africa’s request for emergency measures against Israel, which it accused of state-led genocide for the war against Hamas in Gaza.

El Al does not say, however, whether this has impacted their decision to suspend flights to South Africa.

The airline says that it will redistribute the widebody aircraft it uses on the route to expand current destinations while examining new routes.

 

Hamas-run health ministry raises Gaza war death toll to 26,083

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that 26,083 people have been killed since the start of its war with Israel, and another 64,487 people have been wounded.

The ministry adds that some 183 people were killed in the past 24 hours.

The figures are unverified and are believed to include close to 10,000 Hamas operatives Israel said it has killed during fighting in the Strip, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.

For third day in a row, protesters block aid from entering Gaza at Kerem Shalom crossing

Families of hostages held in Gaza and other protesters are holding a demonstration at the Kerem Shalom border crossing to prevent humanitarian aid from entering the Gaza Strip for the third day in a row.

Hundreds more protesters are expected to arrive at the border crossing throughout the day.

The protesters are demanding that all humanitarian aid entering the war-torn strip be cut off until the hostages are freed and returned to Israel.

In a statement, the group of protesters say they walked a roundabout way in order to avoid roadblocks set up to prevent their arrival.

Evan Gershkovich loses arrest appeal in Moscow court, will remain in custody until end of March

Jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich loses his arrest appeal after a Moscow сourt rules that he must remain in custody until March 30, 2024.

Gershkovich was arrested on March 29, 2023, in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage that carry up to 20 years in prison.

The reporter denies the charges.

IDF says heavy fighting continues in Khan Younis, dozens of Hamas fighters killed

The IDF says fighting continues deep within Khan Younis, with ground forces of the 98th Division killing dozens of Hamas gunmen and the Air Force carrying out a wave of strikes.

Overnight, IAF fighter jets struck several Hamas sites in the Khan Younis area, including apartments used by operatives, weapons depots, observation posts, and staging grounds, the military says.

In Khan Younis, the IDF says that the division’s Paratroopers Brigade spotted five Hamas gunmen entering a building, and directed an airstrike on them.

Nearby, the Maglan unit spotted four Hamas operatives who had fired an anti-tank missile hours earlier, and directed a fighter jet to strike them, the IDF says, adding that several more gunmen were killed by troops in the area.

The Givati Brigade, meanwhile, eliminated a six-man Hamas cell with tank shelling and sniper fire in the Khan Younis area, the IDF says.

In northern Gaza, the military says IAF fighter jets struck several Hamas sites, including a building that was booby-trapped, an anti-tank launch position, and a tunnel shaft, while reservists of the 5th Brigade killed several Hamas gunmen with tank shelling and by directing airstrikes in the area.

The IDF says the Navy also carried out strikes along the Gaza coast overnight, as part of support for troops of the Nahal Brigade who are maneuvering in the Strip.

IDF warns public of possible sounds of explosions, gunshots during weekend training sessions

IDF training exercises are scheduled to be conducted in multiple locations across Israel over the weekend, the military says.

As a result of the training, residents in nearby areas may hear gunshots and explosions, it adds.

It requests that the public avoid closed military areas and stresses that failing to do so is both illegal and could pose a severe risk to the lives of those who enter.

Gallant, US defense secretary discuss war, efforts to release hostages from Gaza

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke with US Defense Secretary General Lloyd Austin about the ongoing efforts to release the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, his office says.

Gallant thanked Austin and the US government for their involvement in various efforts to release the hostages, and provided updates about the progress being made to dismantle Hamas and end the terror group’s 16-year rule of the Gaza Strip, his office says in a summary of the conversation.

The two defense officials also discussed the continued skirmishes on Israel’s border with Lebanon, where Hezbollah forces are launching rockets, missiles and drones on a near daily basis.

Gallant thanked Austin for his personal support for Israel’s security and for various actions being taken by the US to stabilize the region, his office adds.

Iran denies receiving warning from US ahead of ISIS bombings which killed 95 people

Iran has denied that the US government issued a warning to Tehran about last month’s ISIS bombing ahead of time, Hebrew media outlet Ynet reports.

According to an anonymous US official earlier this week, the US informed Tehran about the intentions of the Afghanistan branch of ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, to carry out suicide bombings in Kerman days before the attack occurred.

Speaking to state-affiliated media, however, an Iranian official rejected the claim that they received a warning from the US, Ynet reports.

The attack in Kerman was carried out during a commemoration for the late Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the Revolutionary Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force, and killed 95 people and wounded dozens of others.

 

US state of Alabama executes death row prisoner using nitrogen gas in controversial first

A sign for Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama,, is shown on Thursday, January 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)
A sign for Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama,, is shown on Thursday, January 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

The southern US state of Alabama on Thursday put to death a convicted murderer using nitrogen gas, the first time the controversial method criticized by human rights advocates has been used in the country.

Kenneth Eugene Smith was pronounced dead at 8:25 p.m. on Thursday evening, the state attorney general says.

“Justice has been served. Tonight, Kenneth Smith was put to death for the heinous act he committed over 35 years ago,” the statement by Attorney General Steve Marshall says.

Smith, 58, was on death row for more than three decades after being convicted of the 1988 murder-for-hire of a pastor’s wife.

He was put to death at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama by nitrogen hypoxia, which involved pumping nitrogen gas into a facemask, causing him to suffocate.

According to media witnesses, he “began writhing and thrashing for approximately two to four minutes, followed by around five minutes of heavy breathing,” local news outlet AL.com reports.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm told reporters that it appeared Smith was “holding his breath as long as he could” and that there was “involuntary movement” and gasping, which was “expected.”

The curtain over the media witness room opened at 7:53 pm, AL.com says, with Smith pronounced dead less than 35 minutes later.

After protests, US said pressing Israel to ensure aid keeps entering through Gaza crossing

Protesters near the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza on January 25, 2024. (Eli Katzoff/Times of Israel)
Protesters near the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza on January 25, 2024. (Eli Katzoff/Times of Israel)

Biden administration officials are pressing Israel to ensure the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza remains open, the Kan public broadcaster reports, after protesters — among them relatives of hostages held by Hamas — blocked trucks of aid from reaching the enclave for a second straight day.

According to the report, the US officials called for the crossing to continue operating as usual and said Israel must ensure aid continues flowing into Gaza, without specifically referring to the protests.

Iranian sources say China pressing Tehran to rein in Houthi attacks on shipping

Visiting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, February 14, 2023. (Yan Yan/Xinhua via AP)
Visiting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, February 14, 2023. (Yan Yan/Xinhua via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Chinese officials have asked their Iranian counterparts to help rein in attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthis, or risk harming business relations with Beijing, four Iranian sources and a diplomat familiar with the matter say.

The discussions about the attacks and trade between China and Iran took place at several recent meetings in Beijing and Tehran, the Iranian sources say, declining to provide details about when they took place or who attended.

“Basically, China says: ‘If our interests are harmed in any way, it will impact our business with Tehran. So tell the Houthis to show restraint’,” says one Iranian official briefed on the talks, who speaks to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Chinese officials, however, did not make any specific comments or threats about how Beijing’s trading relationship with Iran could be affected if its interests were damaged by Houthi attacks, the four Iranian sources say.

While China has been Iran’s biggest trading partner for the past decade, their trade relationship is lopsided.

Chinese oil refiners, for example, bought over 90 percent of Iran’s crude exports last year, according to tanker tracking data from trade analytics firm Kpler, as US sanctions kept many other customers away and Chinese firms profited from heavy discounts.

Iranian oil, though, only accounts for 10% of China’s crude imports and Beijing has an array of suppliers that could plug shortfalls from elsewhere.

The Iranian sources say Beijing has made it clear it would be very disappointed with Tehran if any vessels linked to China were hit, or the country’s interests were affected in any way.

But while China was important to Iran, Tehran also had proxies in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, besides the Houthis in Yemen, and its regional alliances and priorities played a major role in its decision making, one of the Iranian insiders says.

Pentagon chief and Gallant discuss Gaza war, fighting between Israel and Hezbollah

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant give a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant give a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin spoke Thursday with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant about the Israeli military campaign against the Gaza-ruling Hamas terrorist organization and cross-border skirmishes between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, his office says.

A statement from the US Defense Department says Austin “reiterate[d] US support for Israel’s right to defend itself and the importance of ensuring uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.”

“Secretary Austin reaffirmed the US commitment to the pursuit of diplomacy to resolve tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border and the shared goal of avoiding regional escalation,” the readout adds.

Blinken speaks with South African FM before ICJ rules in genocide case against Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor at the State Department in Washington on September 26, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor at the State Department in Washington on September 26, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a phone call with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor, before the International Court of Justice rules on whether or not to order emergency measures against Israel in its war against Hamas.

Friday’s ruling by The Hague-based court, which Pandor is slated to be in attendance for, is in response to South Africa’s charge that Israel is committing “genocide” in the Gaza Strip. Among the measures South Africa requested is an immediate halt to Israel’s military operation against Hamas, launched in response to the Gaza-ruling terror group’s shock October 7 onslaught.

A readout from the State Department says that during their phone call Thursday, Blinken and Pandor discussed “the conflict in Gaza, including the need to protect civilian lives, ensure sustained humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians, and work towards lasting regional peace that ensures Israel’s security and advances the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

“The secretary reaffirmed support for Israel’s right to ensure the terrorist attacks of October 7 can never be repeated,” it adds.

The statement noticeably does not mention South Africa’s ICJ case, which Blinken has previously called “meritless.” Speaking to reporters earlier Thursday during a tour of Africa that does not include a stop in South Africa, he said “those views stand,” while stressing Washington’s relations with Pretoria would not suffer.

“Of course our relationship with South Africa is vitally important and it is a very broad and deep relationship covering many, many issues,” Blinken said.

“When we have a disagreement on one particular matter, it doesn’t take away from the important work that we are doing together,” he added.

Federal jury convicts man for defacing Michigan synagogue with swastika, other graffiti

MARQUETTE, Michigan — A federal jury has convicted a man on two counts for defacing one of Michigan’s oldest synagogues with a swastika and other graffiti in 2019, prosecutors say Thursday.

Nathan Weeden, 23, of Houghton has been found guilty of conspiring against rights and damaging religious property, prosecutors say.

According to prosecutors, swastikas and symbols associated with The Base, a white supremacist group, were sprayed on the outside of Temple Jacob in Hancock in the Upper Peninsula. Weeden and co-conspirators dubbed their plan “Operation Kristallnacht,” which means “Night of Broken Glass” and refers to November 9-10, 1938, when Nazis killed Jews and burned their homes, synagogues, schools and places of business.

“This defendant shamelessly desecrated Temple Jacob when he emblazoned swastikas — a symbol of extermination — on their Temple walls,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division says in a news release. “Such conduct is unacceptable and criminal under any circumstances but doing so in furtherance of a self-described ‘Operation Kristallnacht’ conspiracy is beyond disgraceful.”

A message seeking comment was left with Weeden’s attorney.

Two co-conspirators of Weeden were previously convicted in the case.

The construction of Temple Jacob was completed in 1912.

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