ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Jan. 27: Germany, Scotland freeze UNRWA funds as agency head slams ‘collective punishment’

Netanyahu says hostage protests prompt Hamas to raise its demands * Thousands rally for hostages and against government in Tel Aviv, six arrested as group attempts to block road

  • Relatives and supporters hold placards bearing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, during a rally calling for their release, in Tel Aviv on January 27, 2024. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
    Relatives and supporters hold placards bearing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, during a rally calling for their release, in Tel Aviv on January 27, 2024. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
  • Police detain a man during a demonstration calling for new elections in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Police detain a man during a demonstration calling for new elections in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • Palestinians flee Khan Younis during an Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 27, 2024. (AP/Fatima Shbair)
    Palestinians flee Khan Younis during an Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 27, 2024. (AP/Fatima Shbair)
  • People attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held held hostage by Hamas in Gaza at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
    People attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held held hostage by Hamas in Gaza at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
  • Protesters picket outside the private residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Caesarea on January 27, 2024. (Moked Caesarea/Benny Meshi)
    Protesters picket outside the private residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Caesarea on January 27, 2024. (Moked Caesarea/Benny Meshi)
  • Israeli soldiers patrol an area near the northern kibbutz of Kfar Blum close to the border with Lebanon on January 25, 2024 (Jalaa Marey / AFP)
    Israeli soldiers patrol an area near the northern kibbutz of Kfar Blum close to the border with Lebanon on January 25, 2024 (Jalaa Marey / AFP)
  • Palestinians displaced by the Israeli offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip walk through a makeshift tent camp in Rafah on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP/Fatima Shbair)
    Palestinians displaced by the Israeli offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip walk through a makeshift tent camp in Rafah on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP/Fatima Shbair)
  • Left-wing activists in Tel Aviv protest against the war and call for ceasefire in Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza, January 27, 2024. (Itai Ron/Flash90)
    Left-wing activists in Tel Aviv protest against the war and call for ceasefire in Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza, January 27, 2024. (Itai Ron/Flash90)

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

With a fake beard and a wig: Ben Gvir goes undercover at a Jaffa police station

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir carried out an undercover investigation at a police station in Jaffa while wearing a disguise, Hebrew media outlet N12 reports.

In a photograph published by the outlet, the far-right lawmaker can be seen sporting a fake beard and wig, a gray wool hat and a zippered jacket, a far cry from his usual outfit of a buttoned shirt, tie, and suit jacket.

Police officers are said to have criticized Ben Gvir for the undercover investigation, N12 says, citing anonymous officers who allegedly complained Ben Gvir was “trying to take over the organization.”

Germany becomes latest EU member state to pull funding from UNRWA

Germany announces that it is suspending funding to UNRWA over allegations of staff involvement in the October 7 terror onslaught in southern Israel.

It is the latest of several European Union countries to pull funding after Italy, the Netherlands and Finland announced that they were doing the same. The EU as a whole has not decided to suspend funding, however.

 

Scotland announces suspension of funding to UNRWA, calls allegations ‘concerning’

Scotland has paused funding to UNRWA over the alleged involvement of several members of its staff in the October 7 terror onslaught in Israel by Hamas, a spokesperson for the Scottish government tells local media outlets.

The spokesperson says that the government has requested updates from UNRWA as the investigation into the alleged involvement proceeds, and says that Scotland has “no plans to provide further support to UNRWA at this stage.”

“These allegations are particularly concerning at a time when the international community must continue to find mechanisms to maintain, and increase the levels of life-saving aid getting into Gaza,” the spokesperson adds.

The parents of the wife of Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf were trapped in Gaza for several weeks at the start of the war.

Yousaf has repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas and for the immediate release of the hostages.

 

UNRWA chief urges countries to reconsider ‘shocking’ decision to pull funding

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini adresses the assembly on the opening day of the Global Refugee Forum, in Geneva on December 13, 2023. (Photo by JEAN-GUY PYTHON / POOL / AFP)
UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini adresses the assembly on the opening day of the Global Refugee Forum, in Geneva on December 13, 2023. (Photo by JEAN-GUY PYTHON / POOL / AFP)

Commissioner-general of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini urges countries to reconsider their suspension of funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, saying that their decision threatens the “ongoing humanitarian work” in Gaza.

Lazzarini’s request comes after nine countries announced that they were pulling funding due to alleged involvement by several staff members in Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught in southern Israel.

“It is shocking to see a suspension of funds to the Agency in reaction to allegations against a small group of staff, especially given the immediate action that UNRWA took by terminating their contracts and asking for a transparent independent investigation,” he says.

“UNRWA is the primary humanitarian agency in Gaza, with over 2 million people depending on it for their sheer survival. Many are hungry as the clock is ticking towards a looming famine,” he adds.

“It would be immensely irresponsible to sanction an Agency and an entire community it serves because of allegations of criminal acts against some individuals, especially at a time of war, displacement and political crises in the region. ”

At protest outside PM’s Caesarea home, relative of hostages offers up prayer for their safe return

During a protest outside Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea, Ali al-Ziyadne, whose brother Yussuf and nephew Hamzeh are held captive in Gaza, reads a verse from the Quran in prayer for the release of his relatives.

He denounces the prime minister for not coming out to meet the protesters, who have rallied outside his seaside home several times in recent weeks.

“I speak in the name of many in Israeli society, whose voice is not always heard,” says Ziyahdneh. “You have never seen such unity in a call for action.”

He paraphrases the words of Jon Polin, father of the hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, from last week’s protest: “136 coffins is not a victory picture, Mr. Netanyahu.”

An additional two members of the Ziyadneh family, Bilal and Aisha, were also taken captive on October 7 but were released during the weeklong truce in late November.

Mounted police break up anti-government protest in Tel Aviv

An anti-government protester is arrested at a rally in Tel Aviv after demonstrators blocked Kaplan Street and prevented traffic from passing, January 27, 2024. (Ben Cohen)
An anti-government protester is arrested at a rally in Tel Aviv after demonstrators blocked Kaplan Street and prevented traffic from passing, January 27, 2024. (Ben Cohen)

Mounted police have begun dispersing demonstrators at an anti-government rally in Tel Aviv after they moved from Habima Square and blocked traffic on Kaplan Street.

In videos from the scene, protesters can be seen pushing back at the mounted police, with witnesses claiming that at least one violent arrest has been made.

 

 

Polish woman whose family rescued Jews during Holocaust pleads with Hamas to release hostage

Janina Rosciszewska, a 92-year-old Polish woman whose parents and brother risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, asks Hamas to release the hostages they are holding.

In a filmed message played for thousands of people gathered at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, she asks Hamas to free the hostages abducted from Israel on October 7, in the name of all the Righteous Among the Nations, Israel’s official title for non-Jewish rescuers of Jews from the genocide.

“They have done nothing, they are no more to blame that they were born Jewish than I am for being born Polish,” says Rosciszewska, who was recognized along with her parents and brother as Righteous Among the Nations in 1990.

The Rosciszewskis are responsible for the survival of the Bierzyński family, whose members they harbored at great peril in their home in Dolina Będkowska near Krakow.

Rosciszewska’s message comes on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which coincides with the 16th consecutive rally on the square for the return of the hostages.

Brother of slain hostage Jonathan Samerano appeals for unity during rally at Hostages Square

Yair Samerano, brother of slain hostage Jonathan Samerano, speaks at a rally at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2024. (Noam Lehmann)
Yair Samerano, brother of slain hostage Jonathan Samerano, speaks at a rally at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2024. (Noam Lehmann)

Yair Samerano, brother of slain hostage Jonathan Samerano, whose body is still held in Gaza, speaks at the protest at Hostages Square.

He implores Netanyahu to sign a deal for the return of the hostages, including the return of Hisham al-Sayed and Avera Mangistu, who have been held captive in Gaza since 2014 and 2015, as well as the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the 2014 Gaza war and whose bodies were never returned.

Samerano ends his speech with a plea to promote national cohesion. He tells the audience not to use epithets like “Bibi-ist” and “leftist traitors.” “It hurts us,” he says, “our power is in our unity.”

The Samerano family was recently targeted by zealous anti-government protesters, who were said to shout out the hostage’s mother at a rally last week, accusing her of being a Netanyahu acolyte.

Netanyahu in the wake of the ICJ rulings: We act according to our security needs

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference about the ongoing war in Gaza, January 27, 2024. (Screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference about the ongoing war in Gaza, January 27, 2024. (Screenshot)

Asked what the IDF will do next in Gaza, after Khan Younis, Netanyahu says Israel cannot allow “organized [Hamas] fighting forces in Gaza” but will not detail the next steps.

He again cites “ex” officers who claimed the war would end in January. It won’t end “until all our goals are achieved,” he says.

Asked about a claim by Maayan Sherman that her son Ron was killed by poison gas used by the IDF in the area where Ron was held hostage in Gaza, Netanyahu says the IDF follows the laws of war and does everything it can to avoid harming hostages.

Asked why he didn’t get the cabinet to approve the entry of flour to Gaza, he says this is “fake news” and that the issue as handled was unanimously backed by the war cabinet and presented to the full cabinet as well.

Finally, asked whether he is disappointed by The Hague’s decision, he says it is “very disappointing” that the genocide case against Israel was even brought to the ICJ.

He notes that the court did not order a ceasefire in the war.

“In any case, we act as needed for our security, and we will decide in the coming days as regards the future.”

Relatives of hostages slam PM: Netanyahu needs to fix errors of Oct. 7, not scold the victims

Members of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for stating during a press conference earlier this evening that the protests in Israel demanding a hostage deal only result in Hamas raising its demands.

“The families are meeting with world leaders, led efforts for the transfer of medicine to the hostages, brought the president of the International Criminal Court to Israel and mobilized the media and the world’s most powerful influencers in support of Israel and the hostages,” says the forum in a statement.

“We expect the prime minister to remember that he is an elected official whose job it is to correct the errors [of October 7], not scold those whose family members were kidnapped,” it adds.

Netanyahu: Protests on behalf of hostages cause Hamas to raise its demands

Netanyahu is asked about the repeated gatherings of protesters blocking aid going into Gaza through Kerem Shalom.

“Without minimal aid to Gaza,” he says, “we cannot complete the task and finish the war.”

He says he understands why families of hostages [some of whom are among those blocking the aid] are doing so, but that Israel’s policy is to allow the aid to enter. He says instructions have been given to put a stop to the blocking of the aid trucks and expects that the matter will be resolved in the coming days.

Regarding families of hostages protesting outside his home, who the reporter says were moved further away this week, Netanyahu is asked: Was this on his orders and will he speak to the families?

Netanyahu says they have the right to protest. “I haven’t given any instructions to the security authorities” on moving them further from his home. “I meet with them all the time,” he says of the hostages’ families.

To his sorrow, he says, “someone recorded” some of those conversations, “and it doesn’t help.”

He says “Nobody has to incentivize me” to work on getting the hostages back. He recalls that he was injured as a soldier in the successful resolution of the Sabena hijacking incident [in 1972], and that his brother Yoni died in the Entebbe rescue. “I’m working [on getting the hostages back] all the time.”

He empathizes with the emotions of the hostages’ families. But the protests at Kerem Shalom, and other protests on behalf of the hostages, “as far as I can see,” he says, “only raise” Hamas’s demands and “push off the goal that we all want: the return of all of our hostages.”

Sister of Gaza hostage: I can’t sing the national anthem, I don’t feel safe in Israel anymore

Ye’ela David, sister of Eviatar David, who was taken hostage from the Supernova Music Festival on October 7, takes the stage at the anti-government rally at Tel Aviv’s HaBima Square.

She talks about the conditions in which young male hostages are being held by Hamas in Gaza, saying, “We hear testimonies about the inhumane treatment… the attempt to make these people into empty shells. Including through sexual abuse,” she says.

Referencing the Holocaust, she says, “We say ‘never again’ every year, meaning this catastrophe can never repeat itself; 113 days ago it happened in our home.”

“I can no longer sing the national anthem line ‘to be a free nation in our land,'” she tells the audience, saying she no longer feels safe in her own country. “I can no longer hear the words ‘destroying Hamas’ before I hear ‘returning the hostages.’ If we don’t get them back, it will forever be a moral blemish on this country’s character,” she adds.

Ahead of conference on reviving Jewish settlement in Gaza, PM says he opposes idea and government does not back it

Asked about Gaza after the war, Netanyahu repeats that “we will destroy the Hamas leadership,” and its military and civilian capacities will be destroyed. After that, “a different” kind of governance, a non-terrorist administration, will need to be constructed in Gaza.

He is asked about tomorrow’s conference being held in Jerusalem on reviving Jewish settlement in Gaza, at which some ministers and MKs from his coalition will appear.

He says MKs and ministers are allowed to speak their minds but Israel’s policy on “day after” Gaza was set by the full cabinet, which is the body authorized to make such decisions, and that no decision [to resettle Gaza] has been made. His opposition to revived Jewish settlement in Gaza “has not changed,” he says.

He is asked how people sending their loved ones to the IDF should feel about the government funding organizations that help some Israelis avoid army service.

“Another biased, unfair, inaccurate question,” Netanyahu retorts. He says other political parties have been ready to allow the ultra-Orthodox not to serve in the IDF when seeking to woo the support of ultra-Orthodox parties.

“I’ve seen Haredim in their masses volunteering,” he says, for the harrowing work of collecting bodies [in organizations such as ZAKA] and “helping in any way they can.” Some are joining the army, he notes.

Again turning on the reporter, Netanyahu accuses him of trying to spread division in Israel. He says Israel has been unified, “a great achievement,” and the reporter is trying to undo that unity.

He also says the government is funding theaters that put on productions that say terrible things about the State of Israel. “They define us… with definitions close to accusing us of being Nazis. I think that is divisive too. But we haven’t bothered to fix that.”

He repeats: “Again, I’ll deal with destroying Hamas, and you run the war against me.”

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, weekly hostage rally draws link between the Nazi genocide and October 7

Thousands attend the weekly rally in Tel Aviv for the release of hostages in Gaza, which this week fell on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27.

The rally occurred separately from an anti-government protest taking place elsewhere in Tel Aviv.

The rally, the 16th consecutive event on Tel Aviv’s so-called Hostages Square since October 7, kicked off with a prayer for the safety and well-being of Israel Defense Forces in Gaza.

The rally follows the death of 24 troops in Gaza in a single day in the collapse of two buildings and the crowd is invited to observe a minute of silence in their memory and all other Israeli victims of the war that broke out on October 7.

Sivan Cohen Saban, the host of the event and a co-founder of the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, which organizes the weekly rallies, reads out a letter by Major Eli Levy, a 24-year-old commander of a company in the 202nd battalion of the Paratroopers Brigade, who was among the fatalities in Gaza. “We won’t be back until all hostages return even if takes us two years,” she quotes a letter the Levy left behind.

Cohen Saban notes the well-known phrase “never again” in connection with the Holocaust. She says that for Israelis after October 7, “never again is now.” She introduces a filmed message by Iga Sofiaja Bonkiene, whose family rescued Jews in Lithuania from the Holocaust.

“I really would like to ask and appeal to the people of Gaza to help release the abducted, I know it’s hard against Hamas but just as we helped people against the Nazis you, too, can help and save the kidnapped with information or in any other way,” Bonkiene says.

Yosef Avi Yair Engel, the son of two Holocaust survivors and grandfather to released hostage Ofir Engel, lists what he sees as parallels between what happened to Holocaust victims and to the victims of the October 7 massacres.

“Then, as now, there was a nation determined to kill Jews,” he says. “Then, as now, the world stays silent,” he said, citing the legal action against Israel at the International Court of Justice in the Hague for genocide, an allegation that Israel and many of its allies reject.

Relative of hostage says government must be overthrown for prioritizing ‘war over life’

Noam Dan, a relative of Gaza hostage Ofer Kalderon, speaks at the anti-government rally at Habima Square in Tel Aviv as her sister Lee Dan translates into sign language.

“There is no time for the women who are being raped and men who are being raped, in body and soul. Their time is up. The polite struggle is over. Netanyahu — your time is up,” she declares, accusing the prime minister of lying to hostages’ families and preventing a deal to get the captives back.

“A government that prioritizes war and revenge over life, in the name of outlandish political ideas and messianic ideals, that sacrifices the hostages,” must be overthrown, says Dan, calling for the immediate consolidation of a postwar plan including painful diplomatic concessions to secure the hostages’ immediate release while they are still alive.

“As long as they are there, their blood is on all of our hands,” she says, imploring the audience to join the families’ struggle.

Netanyahu denies harming ties with Egypt; says he does not retract his criticisms of Qatar

Taking questions at a press conference, Netanyahu repeats his insistence that investigations of the events surrounding October 7 should wait until the end of the war. “I don’t want officers, commanders and statespeople” needing to hire lawyers to deal with such investigations during the fighting. “There’ll be time for these things later.”

Regarding Likud MK Tally Gotliv’s peddling of conspiracy theories, he says his office has condemned the things she has said, including her exposing the identity of a Shin Bet officer.

Pressed further on this, Netanyahu castigates the journalist querying him, saying the reporter, Matan Hodorov, came to the press conference not to ask questions but to attack the prime minister. “I fight Hamas, and you fight me. That’s the division of labor,” says Netanyahu.

Asked by Hodorov whether he has harmed relations with Egypt and Qatar, and thus hurt the prospects for the release of hostages, Netanyahu snipes sarcastically at “the objective framing of the question” and insists Israel-Egypt ties are “intact.”

“They worry about their interests and I worry about our interests,” he says.

He does not retract his criticisms of Qatar and says he uses every avenue to put pressure on Hamas to try to return the hostages.

“Qatar hosts the heads of Hamas, it also funds Hamas and it has leverage over Hamas,” he says. “It promised to ensure that the medicines would reach… our hostages. And it said it could help to return [the hostages]. So it should place its pressure on [Hamas]. It placed itself as a mediator. Please, prove it and return our hostages. And meantime, transfer the medicines to them.”

Netanyahu: ICJ’s handling of false genocide claims against Israel shows Holocaust lessons not learned

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brandishes a copy of Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' in Arabic that was recovered from Gaza as he speaks at a press conference about the ongoing war against Hamas, January 27, 2024. (Screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brandishes a copy of Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' in Arabic that was recovered from Gaza as he speaks at a press conference about the ongoing war against Hamas, January 27, 2024. (Screenshot)

Speaking at a televised press conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogizes the many soldiers who fell in Gaza this week and says Israel must achieve all the goals of the war in their memory — destroying Hamas, bringing all the hostages home, and ensuring that Gaza does not again constitute a threat to Israel.

Noting that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, he says Israel will never forget the October 7 massacres and atrocities and abductions, and “we will never forgive what the Hamas monsters did to our sons and daughters.”

There is “no alternative to complete victory,” he says.

He says it was outrageous that South Africa went to The Hague and falsely accused Israel of genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, and that it is Hamas that seeks genocide against Israel and the Jewish people. South Africa, he says, went to The Hague “on behalf of Hamas.”

He holds up a volume of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Arabic, found in Hamas-run Gaza, and says this is how “the new Nazis” educate their children.

He denounces The Hague for failing to summarily reject the genocide allegations against Israel.

“The readiness of the court” to even hear the “ridiculous” case, he says, “proves that many in the world have not learned a thing from the Holocaust.”

“But we have learned,” he says, and “the main lesson of the Holocaust is that only we will defend ourselves by ourselves. Nobody will do it for us.”

Israel needs to be strong and determined, and fight back, he says.

“The Jewish state rose from the ashes of the Holocaust to ensure defensive power for the Jewish people,” he says, stressing Israel’s basic right to defend itself. “Nobody will take [that right] from us,” he adds, saying there is no war more just than this one and no army more moral than the IDF.

The war was imposed on Israel by a despicable enemy that openly declares that it wants to destroy all Jews, he says. On October 7, “If they could have, they would have slaughtered us all.”

If Israel does not destroy Hamas, “the next slaughter is only a matter of time.”

Israel will continue the war for as long as it takes to destroy Hamas, he vows.

He also says he has told the defense and finance minister to draw up a “huge plan” to strengthen our security industries for the decades ahead, and promises substantial financial investment in Israel’s defense industries “to ensure our security independence and freedom of action.”

“There are those among us who doubt our determination and capacity” to destroy Hamas, Netanyahu says, citing various “ex” senior officials “sowing doubt and pessimism.”

“They are a small minority,” he says, and “they are wrong. We will achieve complete victory.”

Far-right minister Smotrich says protests in Israel harm chances of hostages in Gaza

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

“The more that people protest against the government and in support of a deal to release the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, the less likely it is that they’ll be released,” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich tells Channel 12.

“Whoever looks you in the eye and says we’ll bring back all of the hostages alive is lying to you,” the right-wing minister says, stressing his belief that only continuing the war will lead to their release.

“There is nothing that hurts our chance of bringing the hostages home more than the protests,” he says, referring to the rallies organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which overwhelmingly calls for a second hostage deal to return the 136 people still held captive by Hamas and other terror groups.

The right-wing minister refuses to answer the question of whether or not he considers returning the hostages to be more important than eliminating Hamas from the Palestinian enclave, saying, “We have an obligation to destroy Hamas and make sure that they can’t return.”

He adds that anyone calling for a ceasefire or for Israel to withdraw is, in his eyes, helping the enemy.

Smotrich also says “there will be an Israeli military administration in Gaza” after the war.

He elaborates: “Because we all agree that we need to stay in Gaza and rule there militarily. And we won’t have military control if we don’t have civil control there. Nobody else will do it…”

Moment of silence for Oct. 7 victims broken by counter-protester at anti-government rally

Thousands attend an anti-government rally at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2024. (Gilad Furst)
Thousands attend an anti-government rally at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2024. (Gilad Furst)

Activist Shirel Hogeg, whose family survived the Hamas attacks on Kfar Aza. asks that a moment of silence be observed for the victims of Hamas’s brutal October 7 onslaught, but the silence is broken by a right-wing counter-protester.

“The failed government continues as though nothing happened,” says Hogeg, and the crowd erupts: “Guilty! Guilty! Shame! Shame!”

“The police arrest protesters and indict them in minutes. The government fires a prominent spokesman for insufficient loyalty,” Hogeg continues, referring to a recent alleged spat between Sara Netanyahu and government spokesman Eylon Levy, who in the end kept his job.

Hogeg expresses gratitude for anti-judicial overhaul activist Shikma Bressler, who, along with her husband, has been at the center of a conspiracy theory spread by Likud MK Tally Gotliv in recent days, claims that have been slammed by the Shin Bet and Mossad agencies.

“I embrace you and your family,” says Hogeg. “In future civics textbooks, you will be remembered as a warrior who saved democracy.”

Musician Sara Tirosh leads the crowd of thousands in singing the national anthem. When she is done, the crows erupts: “Elections now!”

Pro-ceasefire and anti-Netanyahu protesters come together as Habima Square rally begins

Left-Wing protesters from Looking the Occupation in the Eyes hold signs reading, 'The day after is now,' at an anti-government protest in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2024. (Noam Lehmann)
Left-Wing protesters from Looking the Occupation in the Eyes hold signs reading, 'The day after is now,' at an anti-government protest in Tel Aviv, January 27, 2024. (Noam Lehmann)

Protesters from different groups and organizations gather at Habima Square for tonight’s anti-government rally.

Closest to the stage, protesters bear signs decrying the government’s alleged failure on October 7 and calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation. Among them are members of the Pink Front, an anti-Netanyahu protest group formed in 2020.

Further back are a contingent of peace organizations, calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to Israel’s military presence in the West Bank.

On the outskirts of the square, a left-wing contingent from the group Looking the Occupation in the Eyes bears signs reading, “The day after is now,” apparently referencing the need to decide on Gaza’s future.

In front of them, a lone protester, Ben-El Mashiach of Tel Aviv, clad in an Israeli flag, wields a loudspeaker accusing the left-wing group of being privileged and hypocritical, accusing them of living in abandoned Arab towns in modern-day north Tel Aviv.

“I have no problem with most of the protesters, only this group of radicals,” he says.

The rally opens with a video criticizing hard-right coalition lawmakers and accusing the government of “zero leadership,” as the crowd jeers.

IDF says it’s increasing preparedness on northern front with ‘intensive’ training

Troops of the 226th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade carry out a drill in northern Israel, in a handout image published January 27, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the 226th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade carry out a drill in northern Israel, in a handout image published January 27, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says it is further increasing its preparedness on the northern border, publishing footage from recent “intensive” training exercises carried out by the 226th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade.

“As part of the process of increasing readiness on the northern border, the Northern Command held intensive training sessions last week to strengthen competence and readiness for the moment of decision,” the IDF says in a statement.

The 226th Brigade, under the 146th Division, with combat engineers, tanks, artillery and other infantry forces, carried out drills simulating fighting in urban areas more applicable to Lebanon, amid winter weather, according to the IDF.

Since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip, the IDF says it has carried out more than 100 days worth of drills, including 40 battalion-level exercises.

The drills come amid repeated attacks by Hezbollah and allied Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon on northern Israel, with fears of a wider conflict emerging.

Washington asks Beijing to press Iran for end to Houthi attacks in Red Sea

Washington has asked Beijing to press Iran for an end to attacks on Red Sea shipping carried out by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, a senior White House official says.

During a meeting in Bangkok with top China diplomat Wang Yi, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan “raised the importance of Beijing using [its] leverage with Iran to call for an end, and bring an end” to the attacks that the rebel groups claim are in support of Palestinians and Gaza, the official tells reporters.

Anti-government protesters gather at Habima Square in Tel Aviv for rally

Protesters gather at HaBima Square, ahead of an anti-government demonstration, January 27, 2024. (Noam Lehmann)
Protesters gather at HaBima Square, ahead of an anti-government demonstration, January 27, 2024. (Noam Lehmann)

People have begun to gather at Habima Square in Tel Aviv ahead of this evening’s protests calling for elections to replace the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Demonstrators chant: “We won’t form a government of racists, we won’t form a government of criminals.”

A contingent from the Pink Front, an Israeli activist group, leads a chant with drums, singing: “The High Court protects all of us,” apparently referring to the government’s currently frozen judicial overhaul efforts that would curtail the High Court’s power.

The main protest and speeches begin at 6:30 p.m.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz calls for firing of UNRWA chief after countries pull funding

Foreign Minister Israel Katz calls for the UN to remove UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini from his position over the alleged involvement of several of the agency’s workers participating in Hamas’s murderous October 7 onslaught on southern Israel.

“The USA, Canada, Australia, Finland, Italy and Great Britain announced the suspension of funding to UNRWA after it became clear that some of its employees took part in the terrible massacre on October 7,” Katz says.

“The UN should immediately fire the heads of UNRWA and open an independent and transparent investigation into everything that happened in UNRWA-Hamas Gaza. I call on other countries to follow suit,” he adds.

“Many of the UNRWA employees are members of Hamas who assist it in providing shelter for terrorist activities and maintaining its rule. We must make sure that UNRWA will not be part of the day after in Gaza.”

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Putin repeats Ukraine Nazi claims

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath laying commemoration ceremony at the Piskaryovskoye Cemetery where most of the Leningrad Siege victims were buried during World War II, in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath laying commemoration ceremony at the Piskaryovskoye Cemetery where most of the Leningrad Siege victims were buried during World War II, in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukraine “glorifies” Adolf Hitler’s SS killing squads and vowed to “eradicate Nazism,” as he opens a memorial marking 80 years since the end of the siege of Leningrad.

The Russian leader has repeatedly invoked the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War to justify his current offensive against Ukraine.

His comments come on International Holocaust Remembrance Day as the world marked the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp during World War II by Soviet Red Army troops.

His charge that Ukraine is a fascist state that needs “de-Nazifying” has been debunked as false by independent experts.

“The regime in Kyiv glorifies Hitler’s accomplices, the SS,” Putin says.

And Russia would “do everything possible to suppress and finally eradicate Nazism,” he adds.

“The followers of Nazi executioners, whatever they call themselves today, are doomed,” he says near Saint Petersburg, his hometown and the modern-day name of Leningrad.

Ukraine, the West and independent scholars have repeatedly rejected Putin’s attempt to cast Kyiv as Nazi sympathizers.

He was speaking at the opening of a new memorial complex to victims of the siege of Leningrad — an event that forms a major part of Putin’s personal identity and one that has totemic importance for millions of Russians.

More than 800,000 people died from starvation, disease and bombardment during the 872-day encirclement by German forces in the Second World War.

Putin had earlier on Saturday visited a cemetery where more than 400,000 victims were buried in mass graves.

The Soviet Red Army broke the siege on January 27, 1944. Although he was born after the war, Putin’s elder brother died of starvation during the siege.

IDF launches wave of strikes on Hezbollah after attacks on northern Israel

The IDF says it carried out a new wave of strikes on Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon in response to attacks on northern Israel.

Fighter jets hit Hezbollah infrastructure in Blida, Marwahin and Ayta ash-Shab, the IDF says.

The strikes come following several rocket attacks on northern Israel earlier today.

Hostages’ families protest outside Netanyahu’s Caesarea home

Dozens of people, including family members of those held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, are protesting outside the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the seaside town of Caesarea.

The demonstrators are holding up pictures of 136 people still being held in Gaza, calling out their names and demanding that the government “bring them home now.”

IDF downs ‘suspicious aerial target’ headed to Israel in Lebanese airspace

The IDF says it intercepted a “suspicious aerial target,” believed to be a drone, that was heading toward Israeli airspace from Lebanon earlier today.

The incident set off suspected drone infiltration alarms in several communities in the Upper Galilee.

A military spokesperson says the target was downed over Lebanese airspace, before it crossed into Israel.

‘Down with Hamas’: IDF publishes footage of Gazans protesting terror group rule

Footage published by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known by its acronym COGAT, claims to show hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip calling for the end of the Hamas terror group’s rule.

“Down with Hamas,” Palestinians chant, according to COGAT.

The video was filmed yesterday at a humanitarian corridor set up by the Israeli army in the Khan Younis area.

The corridor has enabled Palestinians to flee the active combat zone in Khan Younis to the al-Mawasi area on the Strip’s coast.

“In recent days, we see more and more evidence of public criticism voiced by the residents of Gaza against the Hamas terror organization,” says Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, head of COGAT.

“The residents of the Gaza Strip rightly prefer their well-being and the safety of their children over the continued military build-up of Hamas and the acts of terror that harm them and their future,” he says in a Facebook post.

US, allies said mulling pushing Abbas aside to give PA post-war role in Gaza

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, in Ramallah in the West Bank on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, in Ramallah in the West Bank on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Pool Photo via AP)

The US is leading a group of some 10 nations trying to find solutions to end the Gaza war and install a stable government in the Strip after the conflict, The New York Times reports.

The efforts are working on three tracks that include a hostage release and ceasefire, overhauling the Palestinian Authority, and Saudi normalization with Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The report says that a number of ideas are being considered, but acknowledges that some of them are “provisional, long shots or strongly opposed by some parties.”

Among the ideas being considered is “transferring power within the Palestinian Authority from the incumbent president, Mahmoud Abbas, to a new prime minister, while letting Mr. Abbas retain a ceremonial role.”

They are also considering sending an “Arab peacekeeping force to Gaza to bolster a new Palestinian administration there.”

They are also considering “passing a UN Security Council resolution, backed by the United States, that would recognize the Palestinians’ right to statehood,” the report says.

Yemen leader calls on US, Saudis to ‘eliminate’ threat from rebel Houthis

Yemen President Rashad al-Alimi speaks during a plenary session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Yemen President Rashad al-Alimi speaks during a plenary session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Yemen’s internationally recognized government says “defensive” US and British strikes on the Houthi rebels aren’t enough and called for US and Saudi support to “eliminate” their ability to stage attacks on Red Sea shipping.

“Defensive operations are not the solution. The solution is to eliminate the Houthis’ military capabilities,” Rashad al-Alimi, head of the Saudi-backed presidential leadership council, tells a briefing with journalists in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Rocket warning sirens sound in the north

Rocket warning sirens are sounding in northern Israel.

The sirens go off in the communities of Iftach, Mevuot Hermon Regional Council, Ramot Naftali, Malkia and Dishon.

The communities have been largely evacuated of civilians since October 8, when Hezbollah-led forces began launching daily attacks on Israeli communities and military posts along the border. The terror group says it is doing so to support Gaza amid Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group, triggered by its October 7 massacre.

UK, Finland announce halts to UNRWA funding

Workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) agency talk together in the playground of an UNRWA-run school that has been converted into a shelter for displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 25, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) agency talk together in the playground of an UNRWA-run school that has been converted into a shelter for displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 25, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Britain said it has joined the US in “temporarily pausing” future funding for the United Nations’ agency for Palestinians in Gaza, while it reviews “concerning allegations” that UNRWA staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

“The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attack against Israel, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK Government has repeatedly condemned,” the UK Foreign Office says in a statement.

Finland also announces its halting aid.

“The allegations of UNRWA staff involvement in the 7th Oct terrorist attacks in Israel are extremely concerning. Finland will temporarily pause funding to UNRWA, and will follow the outcome of the independent investigation,” writes Finland’s Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Ville Tavio.

“Finland does not give aid that benefits Hamas,” he says.

Company says fire extinguished on tanker hit by Houthi missile, crew safe

In this photo provided by the Indian Navy on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, a view of the oil tanker Marlin Luanda on fire after an attack, in the Gulf of Aden. (Indian Navy via AP)
In this photo provided by the Indian Navy on Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, a view of the oil tanker Marlin Luanda on fire after an attack, in the Gulf of Aden. (Indian Navy via AP)

The crew aboard a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker hit by a missile launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels extinguished an hourslong fire onboard the stricken vessel sparked by the strike, authorities say

The attack on the Marlin Luanda further complicated the Red Sea crisis caused by the Iranian-backed rebels’ attacks over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The tanker carried Russian-produced naphtha, a flammable oil, drawing Moscow further into a conflict that so far it had blamed on the US.

Early Saturday, US forces conducted a strike against a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed at the Red Sea and prepared to launch, the US military’s Central Command said. That attack came after the USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, had to shoot down a Houthi missile targeting it.

The Marlin Luanda burned for hours in the Gulf of Aden until being extinguished today by its crew of 25 Indian nationals and two Sri Lankans, says Trafigura, a Singapore-based trading firm. No one was injured by the blast, it added.

“We are pleased to confirm that all crew on board the Marlin Luanda are safe and the fire in the cargo tank has been fully extinguished,” Trafigura says. “The vessel is now sailing towards a safe harbor.”

Gunmen in Iran kill 9 foreigners near Pakistan border

Gunmen in Iran’s southeast near the Pakistan border killed nine foreign nationals Saturday, Iranian media report, more than a week after the neighbors exchanged deadly cross-border fire.

“According to witnesses, this morning unknown armed men killed nine non-Iranians in a house in the Sirkan neighborhood of Saravan city” in Sistan-Baluchistan province, the Mehr news agency reports.

UK says it has ‘considerable concerns’ about ICJ ruling, rejects genocide accusation

Presiding judge Joan Donoghue, right, opens the session at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)
Presiding judge Joan Donoghue, right, opens the session at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

The British government says it had “considerable concerns” about a ruling by the United Nation’s top court that Israel should do everything it can to prevent any acts of genocide in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Friday handed down its first judgment in a case brought by South Africa that also ordered Israel to allow humanitarian access to the Palestinian territory, but did not call for a ceasefire.

“We respect the role and independence of the ICJ. However… we have considerable concerns about this case, which is not helpful in the goal of achieving a sustainable ceasefire,” a Foreign Office spokesperson says in a statement.

“Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas in line with IHL [international humanitarian law],” the spokesperson adds.

“Our view is that Israel’s actions in Gaza cannot be described as genocide, which is why we thought South Africa’s decision to bring the case was wrong and provocative.”

South Africa has accused Israel of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide Convention — set up in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust — during its military campaign in Gaza, sparked by the October 7 attacks by Hamas.

The Foreign Office, however, adds that it welcomed the ICJ’s call for the immediate release of hostages and to get more aid into Gaza.

“We are clear that an immediate pause is necessary to get aid in and hostages out, and then we want to build towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire, without a return to the fighting.”

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Germany’s Scholz warns of antisemitism, threats to democracy

People light candles at the Holocaust Memorial at the eve of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
People light candles at the Holocaust Memorial at the eve of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz calls on all citizens to defend Germany’s democracy and fight antisemitism as the country marks the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War II.

Since 1996, Germany has also marked January 27 as a day to remember the horrors of the Holocaust.

“’Never again’ is every day,” Scholz says in his weekly video podcast. “January 27 calls out to us: Stay visible! Stay audible! Against antisemitism, against racism, against misanthropy — and for our democracy.”

“’Never again’ demands the vigilance of everyone,” Scholz says. “Our democracy is not God-given. It is man-made.”

“It is strong when we support it,’ he adds. ”And it needs us when it is under attack.”

Scholz referred specifically to the threat posed by the rise of far-right populists in Germany, elsewhere across Europe and worldwide “who are stirring up fears and sowing hatred.”

At the same time, the chancellor praises the millions of Germans who have joined pro-democracy protests in recent weeks.

“Our country is on its feet right now. Millions of citizens are taking to the streets: For democracy, for respect and humanity,” he says, adding that it was their solidarity “that makes our democracy strong. Showing it confidently in public — as is happening now — is a good thing.”

Two children carrying Israeli flag slip under Gaza border fence amid settler activity

In an unusual incident on Thursday, two young Israeli children managed to slip under the Gaza border fence, heading toward the Strip while carrying an Israeli flag.

The incident occurred as dozens of settler activists arrived at the border near Mefalsim to plant trees for the Tu Bishvat holiday, despite the area being a closed military zone.

The IDF says the two children crawled under the fence, built in Israeli territory, but did not cross into Gaza territory.

In the video, an adult can be heard encouraging one child to “plant the flag well.”

The incident comes amid increased calls by right-wing activists to resettle Gaza after the war, despite the government saying it has no intention to do so.

As the army arrived to disperse the illegal gathering on the border, the children headed back under the fence, the IDF says.

Top PLO official warns of risks of cutting funding for UNRWA

Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the PLO Hussein al-Sheikh at a meeting in Amman, Jordan, November 4, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool photo via AP)
Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the PLO Hussein al-Sheikh at a meeting in Amman, Jordan, November 4, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool photo via AP)

The decision by some countries to cease support for the UN relief agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) entails great political and relief risks, Hussein al-Sheikh, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization says.

“We call on countries that announced the cessation of their support for UNRWA to immediately reverse their decision,” he said, adding that it “entails great political and humanitarian relief risks, as at this particular time.”

“We need the maximum support for this international organization and not stopping support and assistance to it,” he says.

IDF releases footage of strike on Hamas RPG cell in Khan Younis

The Israeli military releases new footage showing strikes on a Hamas RPG cell in the Khan Younis area.

The IDF says troops of the Commando Brigade’s Egoz unit spotted the operatives preparing to fire RPGs at the forces, and opened fire toward them.

The gunmen then fled into a building, which was struck by an aircraft. The IDF says secondary explosions seen in the video indicate that the building stored explosives.

Another strike was carried out against additional members of the cell that tried to flee.

The IDF says the Commando Brigade has killed more than 100 Hamas operatives, destroyed dozens of the terror group’s sites, and seized many weapons over the past week in Khan Younis.

In a recent operation, the brigade’s Egoz unit raided a Hamas weapons depot, where the IDF says it located firearms and diving equipment. The unit also raided the home of a Hamas official who the IDF says is close to the terror group’s leader Yahya Sinwar.

Hamas says 174 Palestinians killed in Gaza in past 24 hours, death toll at 26,257

Palestinians look at the destruction after an apparent Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
Palestinians look at the destruction after an apparent Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says 174 Palestinians have been killed in fighting in the Strip in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll since the start of the war to 26,257.

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

Report: Egypt weighed recalling envoy after Israel blamed Cairo for holding up Gaza aid

A convoy of trucks carrying aid supplies for Gaza from Egypt waits on the main Ismailia desert road, about 300 kms east of the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, on the way to the Rafah crossing on October 16, 2023. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)
A convoy of trucks carrying aid supplies for Gaza from Egypt waits on the main Ismailia desert road, about 300 kms east of the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, on the way to the Rafah crossing on October 16, 2023. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

Comments from Israel’s legal team at the genocide hearing at The Hague that Egypt was to blame for failures to deliver Gaza aid through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing so angered officials that Cairo debated withdrawing its ambassador from Israel, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Top Egyptian intelligence and security officials called a meeting the same day to discuss pulling the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv in response to the comments,” the journal says.

However, after a five-hour discussion, it was decided to only issue a statement denying the claims.

Ties between Israel and Egypt, the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel, have become tense over the ongoing Gaza war amid Egyptian fears Israel plans to push hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into the Sinai.

Israeli plans to retake control of a key buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border has also sparked anger in Cairo.

Nevertheless, Egypt has played a key role in mediating a hostage release deal with Hamas and is involved in talks for a new agreement.

Hamas slams Israeli ‘threats’ against UNRWA

Workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian 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. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)
Workers of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian 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. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

The Hamas terror group slams Israeli “threats” against the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after Israel accused several UNRWA staff of involvement in Hamas’s October 7 attack.

“We ask the UN and the international organizations to not cave in to the threats and blackmail” from Israel, Hamas’s press office says in a post on Telegram.

Israel to seek to stop UNRWA activities in Gaza after war, demands steps against leadership

Foreign Minister Israel Katz holds up a paper photo of hostages kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border attack in Israel, as he arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, January 22, 2024. (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz holds up a paper photo of hostages kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border attack in Israel, as he arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels, January 22, 2024. (Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Israel will seek to stop the UN agency for Palestinian refugees from operating in Gaza after the war, Foreign Minister Israel Katz says, after UNRWA fired several staff members for their involvement in Hamas’s October 7 assault.

The foreign ministry aims to ensure “that UNRWA will not be a part of the day after,” Katz says on X, formerly Twitter, adding that he would try to gather support from the US, EU, and other major donors to the agency, several of whom have suspended funding in the wake of the revelations.

“We have been warning for years: UNRWA perpetuates the refugee issue, obstructs peace, and serves as a civilian arm of Hamas in Gaza,” Katz writes in a rare public statement on Shabbat.

“UNRWA is not the solution – many of its employees are Hamas affiliates with murderous ideologies, aiding in terror activities and preserving its authority,” Katz says.

He also demands that the UN “take immediate personal actions” against the UNRWA leadership.

Italy joins countries suspending financing for UNRWA

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, left, talks with Foreign Minister Israel Katz at Yad Vashem the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, left, talks with Foreign Minister Israel Katz at Yad Vashem the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Italy has decided to suspend financing of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani says.

The decision follows allegations that some UNRWA workers were involved in the October 7 attacks in Israel carried out by Hamas, though Tajani made no direct reference to those suspicions.

“The Italian government has suspended financing of the UNRWA after the atrocious attack on Israel on October 7,” Tajani posts on social media platform X, adding that some of Italy’s allies had already taken the same decision.

Police close Route 90 along the Dead Sea due to flooding

Police close a large stretch of the main route along the Dead Sea, and heavy rains cause floods in the desert area.

Route 90 is closed from the Lido Junction at the north of the Dead Sea to the Metsoke Dragot Junction in both directions. A section of the road near Ein Gedi is also closed.

Police call on the public not to try and reach the area.

Rocket fired at Sderot, no injuries

One rocket is fired from the Gaza Strip at the southern city of Sderot.

The municipality says the projectile landed in an open area outside the city.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says it has received no reports of injuries following the attack.

Jordan’s ‘October 7’ restaurant says it’s changing name due to political pressure

A restaurant named 'October 7,' apparently celebrating Hamas's massacre in southern Israel, in the Southern Mazar district, south of the city of Kerak, Jordan, in a clip posted on January 24, 2024. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A restaurant named 'October 7,' apparently celebrating Hamas's massacre in southern Israel, in the Southern Mazar district, south of the city of Kerak, Jordan, in a clip posted on January 24, 2024. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A new restaurant in Jordan that named itself “October 7,” apparently celebrating Palestinian terror group Hamas’s massacre of 1,200 people in a brutal rampage through southern Israel on that day, says it’s changing the name due to pressure.

Video of the shawarma joint in the Southern Mazar district, south of the city of Kerak near the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, had gone viral, leading to complaints from Israel about the offensive name.

The Ynet news site quotes a Facebook post from the owner saying that he was forced to change the name due to “political pressure,” with local authorities informing him that they would withhold his business license, claiming it is forbidden to give a restaurant a name with political connotations.

“The date October 7 is an honorable date and will remain engraved in our hearts forever. I wasn’t looking for fame, trends or marketing. I am proud of myself and proud that I shook the fragile entity [Israel] by using the name of a shawarma restaurant and struck terror in their hearts for at least two days,” he writes, adding that he has not come up with a new name yet.

The name drew an outcry in Israel, including from Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, who reacted angrily, demanding condemnation from Jordanian leaders.

“The disgraceful glorification of October 7th has to stop. The incitement and hatred against Israel breeds the terrorism and extremism which led to the brutal massacre of October 7th,” Lapid tweeted in English. “We expect the Jordanian government to condemn this publicly and unequivocally.”

IDF says numerous Hamas operatives killed amid intensive fighting in Khan Younis

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 27, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 27, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF says intensive fighting continues in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, as its 98th Division advances in the area, killing numerous Hamas operatives.

Amid the offensive, the IDF says the division’s Commando Brigade directed an airstrike against three Hamas operatives who were attempting to plant explosives devices near the troops.

Meanwhile, the Maglan commando unit raided several Hamas sites in Khan Younis, including a weapons depot, and the Egoz commando unit “eliminated many armed terrorists at close range,” the IDF says.

Also in Khan Younis, the IDF says the Givati Brigade killed “a large number” of Hamas operatives in several separate clashes.

In one of the encounters, a seven-man Hamas cell that fired RPGs at troops from a building was shelled by an IDF tank, the military says, adding that Givati soldiers killed several more gunmen in the area.

In another incident in Khan Younis, the 7th Armored Brigade spotted a Hamas operative preparing an observation post to later direct an attack on troops. The IDF says the soldiers called in an airstrike.

Shipping company says no casualties in Friday missile attack on fuel tanker in Gulf of Aden

Trafigura says that no casualties or injuries were reported onboard fuel tanker Marlin Luanda after a missile struck the vessel as it transited the Gulf of Aden yesterday.

It was the latest assault by Iran-backed Houthis in their campaign against ships traveling through the Red Sea and surrounding waters, which has disrupted global trade amid Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Sirens sound in towns close to Lebanon border

Sirens sound in towns near the Lebanon border, warning of incoming rocket fire.

It is the fourth round of sirens in just over an hour.

The communities have been largely evacuated of civilians since October 8, when Hezbollah-led forces began launching daily attacks on Israeli communities and military posts along the border. The terror group says it is doing so to support Gaza amid Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group, triggered by its October 7 massacre.

Sirens sound near Lebanon border for third time within an hour

Sirens sound close to the Lebanon border for the third time within an hour.

Alerts are heard in Shlomi.

Earlier, a projectile fell in an open area near the town.

Sirens sound in northern border towns warning of suspected Hezbollah drone attack

Sirens sound in a number of communities close to the border of Lebanon, warning of a suspected drone attack.

The continued violence along the border comes amid diplomatic efforts to avert a full-scale war with Hezbollah.

Israel has been warning that it would be forced to move against the Iran-backed terror group with force if talks fail and there is no other way to allow residents evacuated from northern border communities to return.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Nazi camp survivors to mark 79th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

A rabbi says prayers on the eve of the 79th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau at the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto, in Warsaw, Poland, Jan. 26, 2024 (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
A rabbi says prayers on the eve of the 79th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau at the Monument to the Heroes of the Ghetto, in Warsaw, Poland, Jan. 26, 2024 (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

A group of survivors of Nazi death camps will mark the 79th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp during World War II in a modest ceremony today in southern Poland.

Some 20 survivors from various camps around Europe are to lay wreaths at the Death Wall in Auschwitz and hold prayers at the monument in Birkenau. They will memorialize some 1.1 million camp victims, mostly Jews.

Marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the survivors are to be accompanied by Polish Senate Speaker Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, Culture Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz and Israeli ambassador Yacov Livne.

The theme of the observances is the human being, symbolized in simple, hand-drawn portraits. They are meant to stress that the horror of Auschwitz-Birkenau lies in the suffering of people held and killed there.

Rocket sirens sound in Shlomi near Lebanon border

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

On October 8, Hezbollah-led forces began launching daily attacks on Israeli communities and military posts along the border, with the terror group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group, triggered by its October 7 massacre.

The Hezbollah attacks on Israel have led to mass evacuations of nearly all residents in towns near the border.

US and British airstrikes target Yemen port, Iran-backed Houthis say

The Houthi’s Al-Masira television says the US and the UK launched two airstrikes that targeted the port of Ras Issa in Yemen’s Hodeidah province.

The airstrikes came as Yemen’s Houthi rebels have stepped up attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea, including a hit that sparked a fire on a fuel tanker Friday.

UN Security Council to meet after ICJ ruling on Gaza war

The UN Security Council will meet next week over the decision by the global body’s top court calling for Israel to prevent the commission of genocidal acts against Palestinians in Gaza, the council’s presidency announces.

The Wednesday meeting was called by Algeria, whose ministry of foreign affairs said it would give “binding effect to the pronouncement of the International Court of Justice on the provisional measures imposed on the Israeli occupation.”

The ICJ earlier ruled 15-2 that there was “plausibility” to South Africa’s claims that Palestinians require protection from genocide.

However, the court did not take the action most desired by South Africa and feared by Israel — that of ordering an immediate, unilateral ceasefire which would have stymied the war effort and indicated that the court believes genocide is actively taking place.

The ICJ decision “gives the clear message that in order to do all the things that they are asking for, you need a ceasefire for it to happen,” Palestinian Authority Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said.

“So fasten your seat belts,” he said, hinting that the Arab Group, represented on the council by Algeria, would push for one.

The Security Council, long divided on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, has only agreed to two resolutions since the October 7 Hamas attacks triggered the latest war following a mass killing spree by thousands of Palestinian terrorists that day in which 1,200 were killed and 253 taken hostage.

In December, the UN demanded aid deliveries “at scale” to Gaza. The US previously vetoed a resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Australian PM condemns neo-Nazis after arrest of ‘disguised’ group

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has condemned domestic neo-Nazi activity after a black-clad group was arrested on the country’s national day, which saw rallies in support of its Indigenous people.

Police said that on Friday, a holiday known as Australia Day, they arrested six people and issued 55 others with infringement notices for offensive behavior at a train station in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales state.

The group was “heavily disguised”, police said.

“I was horrified,” Albanese tells reporters in the town of Orange, about 203 kilometers (126 miles) from Sydney, when asked about the group on Saturday.

“I don’t want to see people in balaclavas dressed in black from head to toe, who are engaged in neo-Nazi activity in this country,” Albanese says.

Such activity “is rightly being condemned by all decent people,” he ys, adding that Australia had seen a rise in neo-Nazism.

Australia Day commemorates the day Britain established New South Wales as a penal colony, but many Indigenous Australians reject it as marking the start of injustices suffered since European colonization.

Friday saw thousands rally at “Invasion Day” events in state capitals backing the Indigenous community, many of whom want to drop celebrations or move the date.

Earlier this month, new laws banning the Nazi salute and display or sale of symbols associated with terror groups came into effect in Australia in response to more antisemitic incidents following the Israel-Hamas war, triggered by the Palestinian terror group’s October 7 killing spree across southern Israel.

At the time, the center-left Labor government said the laws sent a clear message there was no place in Australia for those who glorify the Holocaust or terrorist acts.

Biden, Qatari emir agree hostage deal key to pause in Gaza fighting — White House

US President Joe Biden spoke with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani about Gaza and they agreed that efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas were key to securing a longer pause in fighting, the White House says.

“Both leaders affirmed that a hostage deal is central to establishing a prolonged humanitarian pause in the fighting and ensure additional life-saving humanitarian assistance reaches civilians in need throughout Gaza,” according to a readout of the call.

Both leaders also “committed to staying engaged until all hostages are reunited with their families and reaffirmed their shared vision of a peaceful, secure, and integrated Middle East region,” the statement says.

Biden’s Middle East adviser Brett McGurk was in Doha this week for discussions about the possibility of another hostage deal between Israel and Hamas.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday the US would support a longer humanitarian pause in combat in Gaza to ensure hostages could be released and aid brought in.

Biden also spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi earlier.

Houthi missile damages oil tanker in Gulf of Aden, US hits Houthi target

A Houthi anti-ship missile damaged an oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Friday but no injuries were reported and a US Navy ship was providing assistance, the US military says.

The Marshall Islands-flagged Marlin Luanda issued a distress call and reported damage, US Central Command says in a post on X, formerly Twitter. The USS Carney and other coalition ships were providing assistance to the oil tanker, it said.

About eight hours later, the US military destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed into the Red Sea and ready to launch, Central Command says.

The missile “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region,” it says.

Biden speaks to Egypt’s Sissi about ongoing Gaza war, efforts to free hostages held by Hamas

US President Joe Biden spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi today to discuss the ongoing war in Gaza and efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas.

According to a readout of the call, Biden thanked Egypt for its “important role in this process,” and the leaders “affirmed that all efforts must now be made to conclude a deal that would result in the release of all hostages together with a prolonged humanitarian pause in the fighting.”

Biden and Sissi also discussed intensifying efforts to increase the delivery of “humanitarian assistance into and throughout Gaza,” and agreed to continue their close coordination on the matter.

They also agreed to “set the conditions for a durable and sustainable peace in the Middle East, to include the establishment of a Palestinian state and equal measures of dignity and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

Sky News sorry after presenter compares idea of ‘voluntary relocation’ of Gazans to Holocaust

Sky News issues an apology following an earlier interview with Likud lawmaker Danny Danon in which a presenter compared his comments on voluntary “relocation” of Gazans amid the war, to how Jewish people were treated during the Holocaust.

The presenter, Belle Donati, “made a comparison between Mr. Danon’s comments on Israel’s war with Hamas and the treatment of Jewish people in the Holocaust. Sky News recognizes the complete inappropriateness of this comparison and the offensive nature of those comments.”

“Sky News would like to apologize unreservedly for the comparison and to Mr. Danon personally for making the comparison,” says another presenter reading the Sky News statement.

During the interview Danon was discussing an idea he outlined in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece he co-wrote in November urging “countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate.”

In her questioning, Donati falsely claimed Danon “suggested the ethnic cleansing of some of Gaza’s population,” to which he objected and said he was speaking about “voluntary immigration.”

“I think anyone in the world who voluntary [sic] wants to move to another country should be eligible to do that,” he says while Donati appears impatient, looking offscreen.

“Yes, the sort of voluntary relocation of many Jewish people during the Holocaust,” she opines, trying to move on quickly to another question.

“How can you compare that, shame on you for that comparison,” Danon says. “That is a shameful and antisemitic equation…This is pure antisemitism.”

In a post later on X, Danon called Donati an “insolent interviewer.”

After US, Canada moves to immediately suspend UNRWA funding

Canada announces it is immediately suspending funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) amid an investigation into allegations 12 employees may have been involved in the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel.

Canada’s Minister of International Development Ahmed Hussen says in a post on X that Ottawa “unequivocally condemns the October 7th attack on Israel” and that he is “deeply troubled by the allegations relating to some UNRWA employees.”

“I have instructed Global Affairs Canada to pause all additional funding to UNRWA pending the outcome of the investigation,” he writes.

Hussen also posts a statement that welcomes the UN investigation and indicates funds will be sent via “other partners.”

“As UNRWA undertakes this investigation, Canada will not reduce its support to the people of Gaza. Canada will continue to work with other partners to provide life-saving assistance to civilians in Gaza,” reads the letter.

Last June, Canada announced a donation of $100 million to UNRWA over four years to deliver “core programs that support basic education, health, social services and livelihood opportunities and protect the rights of Palestinian refugees,” according to a National Post report.

Canada’s announcement came hours after Washington said it would pause critical funding to the organization as the agency said it sacked “several” employees accused by Israel of involvement in the unprecedented shock attack.

Israel has reportedly provided UNRWA with information that pointed to the active participation of staffers along with the use of the agency’s vehicles and facilities in the October 7 terror onslaught. “This was strong and corroborated intelligence,” an Israeli official told Axios, adding that “a lot of the intelligence” was collected from terrorists who were captured during the October 7 attack.

Germany’s Olaf Scholz says dark neo-Nazi networks are on the rise

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for the cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (AP/Markus Schreiber)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for the cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (AP/Markus Schreiber)

Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz voices concern over the rise of the extreme-right in the country, 79 years after the Auschwitz extermination camp was liberated.

“New reports are emerging all the time: about neo-Nazis and their dark networks,” the Social Democrat says in a recorded video speech commemorating the January 27, 1945 liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops, and marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“At the same time, right-wing populists are gaining ground, fueling fear and sowing hatred,” Scholz says, adding that this should not be accepted.

Indeed, protests against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party have been gaining momentum in the wake of a report that two senior party members joined a meeting to discuss plans for the mass deportation of citizens of foreign origin, with countrywide demonstrations heading into their third week.

The protesters are looking to curb support for the AfD, which is polling in second place nationally and first in the three eastern German states holding elections this year.

“It is the cohesion of democrats that makes our democracy strong,” Scholz says

“Showing it confidently in public – as is happening now – feels good,” he adds.

The chancellor also welcomed a landmark ruling to cut funding to the radical right-wing party Die Heimat, which sparked a debate on whether a similar step could be taken against the nationalist AfD party, referring to the decision as “very good.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

US jury says Trump must pay additional $83 million in defamation case

NEW YORK — A jury has awarded an additional $83.3 million to former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who says former US president Donald Trump damaged her reputation by calling her a liar after she accused him of sexual assault.

The verdict is the second time in nine months that a jury addressed Carroll’s claim that Trump assaulted her in a New York City department store in 1996.

Another jury last May found Trump liable for sexual abuse and ordered him to pay $5 million. This defamation trial was over things Trump said about Carroll while he was president.

Trump continues to insist he was falsely accused.

IDF says it hit Hezbollah sites in south Lebanon; terror group announces 4 fighters killed

The IDF says it carried out airstrikes on Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon earlier today, which apparently killed four members of the terror group.

Two sites hit by fighter jets in the village of Beit Lif were being manned by Hezbollah operatives, the IDF says. Another site was struck in Deir Aames.

Hezbollah names four members killed “on the road to Jerusalem,” its term for operatives slain in Israeli strikes. Their deaths bring the terror group’s toll since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip to 171.

Several rockets were also fired from Lebanon at northern Israel in the last few hours. The IDF says it is shelling the launch sites with artillery.

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