ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Jan. 28: Japan joins growing group of nations freezing UNRWA funds over Oct. 7 participation

A dozen ministers urge resettling postwar Gaza at gleeful right-wing confab * Herzog: ICJ ‘twisted my words’ in its ruling * IDF hits Hezbollah targets as missiles fired at north

  • A worker rests as displaced Palestinians receive food aid at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) center in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
    A worker rests as displaced Palestinians receive food aid at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) center in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
  • Visitors look at photos of those murdered by terrorists during the Hamas-led onslaught on Oct. 7 and the Israelis killed in the subsequent war in the Gaza Strip, displayed on a giant screen at the National Library in Jerusalem, Jan. 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
    Visitors look at photos of those murdered by terrorists during the Hamas-led onslaught on Oct. 7 and the Israelis killed in the subsequent war in the Gaza Strip, displayed on a giant screen at the National Library in Jerusalem, Jan. 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
  • Israeli soldiers operating on the northern border in an undated photo released by the military on January 28, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli soldiers operating on the northern border in an undated photo released by the military on January 28, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
  • A picture taken from Lebanon's southern village of Majdelzoun shows smoke billowing during an Israeli airstrike on its outskirts towards Zibqin village, January 28, 2024. (KAWNAT HAJU / AFP)
    A picture taken from Lebanon's southern village of Majdelzoun shows smoke billowing during an Israeli airstrike on its outskirts towards Zibqin village, January 28, 2024. (KAWNAT HAJU / AFP)
  • Ministers and MKs dance during a conference calling to resettle the Gaza Strip at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on January 28, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
    Ministers and MKs dance during a conference calling to resettle the Gaza Strip at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on January 28, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
  • Cpt. (res.) Assaf Peleg, commander of the civilian defense squad in Kiryat Malachi poses for a picture, January 28, 2024 (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
    Cpt. (res.) Assaf Peleg, commander of the civilian defense squad in Kiryat Malachi poses for a picture, January 28, 2024 (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
  • Mourners at the funeral of Sgt. Maj. (res.) Eliran Yeger at Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery, on January 28, 2024 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Mourners at the funeral of Sgt. Maj. (res.) Eliran Yeger at Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery, on January 28, 2024 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

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

Japan says it is pausing UNRWA funding, is ‘extremely concerned’ about allegations

Japan says it has decided to suspend additional funding to the United Nations’ agency for Palestinians in Gaza while the agency conducts an investigation into evidence that its staff was involved in Hamas’s October 7 onslaught in Israel.

Japan is “extremely concerned about the alleged involvement of UNRWA staff members in the terror attack on Israel” and has been “strongly urging UNRWA to conduct the investigation in a prompt and complete manner,” the foreign ministry says in a statement.

Japan is the sixth biggest donor to the agency, according to UNRWA’s 2022 data.

Gantz: War against Hamas could last an entire generation, hostages must remain top priority

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz gives a statement on January 4, 2024. (Courtesy)
War cabinet minister Benny Gantz gives a statement on January 4, 2024. (Courtesy)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz tells residents of the evacuated southern communities that the war against Hamas could last “a year, a decade, or even an entire generation,” and acknowledges the urgent need to ensure the release of the hostages still held in Gaza, Channel 12 reports.

“There is time to destroy Hamas; there is no time left for the hostages; right now, they are the priority,” he tells representatives of various Gaza border communities during a meeting about the ongoing war.

“Complete removal of the threat will take time; we are hoping for relative security by the summer,” he says, and adds that the troops in Gaza will soon reach the city of Rafah, which borders Egypt.

Trump’s ambassador Friedman: Biden hampering Israel war effort; talk of indiscriminate bombing an ‘outright lie’

File: US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on October 30, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP)
File: US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on October 30, 2020. (Debbie Hill/Pool Photo via AP)

David Friedman, ambassador to Israel under president Donald Trump, tells Channel 12 that President Joe Biden is hampering Israel’s war effort, and that the president’s charge last month of indiscriminate bombing by Israel in Gaza is a lie.

Friedman, who on October 12 tweeted his gratitude for “the moral, tactical, diplomatic and military support” that the Biden administration was providing for Israel, says he feels differently now and was always concerned “that the president’s commitment would fade.”

He says Biden has made “some inappropriate comments. He spoke about the ‘indiscriminate bombing’ that Israel engaged in, which I think is an outright lie… He speaks continuously about this need to impose a two-state solution, which I think is tone-deaf right now. He is, I think, to some extent hampering the war effort by this desire to force Israel to engage in I think what he refers to as low-intensity combat. Why are people on the ground blowing up an empty building when it could be done by the air? I don’t know. I’m certainly not in a position to cast blame. But that’s sort of the kind of messaging that America has been giving Israel.”

Asked what Trump meant when he said that October 7 would not have happened under his presidency, Friedman says the point is that “all this malign activity goes back to a strong Iran. When we left office, Iran was weak. If we were still in office, I think Iran would still be weak.”

He adds that there were Hamas attacks during his four years as ambassador, and “at no time did the United States put any handcuffs or limitations on Israel’s ability to respond.”

Friedman, who was in Israel on October 7, called the failure to prevent the Hamas onslaught “a colossal failure on the part of the Israeli military, intelligence and political arms together. It was a real mistake and I pray that this never happens again and those mistakes are corrected. And I assume they will be.”

He says the Palestinian Authority must not be allowed to run post-war Gaza. “I don’t trust the Palestinian Authority,” he says. “They pay terrorists to kill Jews. They are corrupt. They engage in all kinds of malign behavior. And they are not suited to run Gaza or to run Judea and Samaria.”

Friedman says Israel-Saudi normalization would have happened were Trump still in office, and will yet happen, and that a Palestinian state is not a prerequisite. He notes that the Trump administration brokered Israel-UAE normalization despite disagreements on that issue.

“A Palestinian state would be a terrorist state. And the last thing that the Saudis need, or the Emiratis need, or Israel needs or Jordan needs is a terrorist state smack in the middle of the Middle East.”

Friedman says he is “hoping and praying for a decisive [Israeli] military victory and then for a rebuilding — physically, politically, militarily and emotionally — of the Israeli people. We’re praying for that every day.”

US defense secretary vows response to Iran-linked attack against troops in Jordan

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, November 22, 2023. (Cliff Owen/AP)
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, November 22, 2023. (Cliff Owen/AP)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin blames “Iran-backed militias” for repeated attacks on US forces, pledging “we will respond at a time and place of our choosing.”

“I am outraged and deeply saddened by the deaths of three of our US service members and the wounding of other American troops in an attack last night against US and Coalition forces, who were deployed to a site in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border to work for the lasting defeat of ISIS,” he says in a statement from the Defense Department.

“These brave Americans and their families are in my prayers, and the entire Department of Defense mourns their loss.”

“The President and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces, and we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our troops and our interests.”

Hezbollah terror group says three members killed in Israeli airstrikes

The Hezbollah terror group names three 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 174.

The announcement comes following several IDF strikes on Hezbollah positions in Lebanon today, in response to attacks on northern Israel.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz extends condolences to families of US troops killed in Jordan

Foreign Minister Israel Katz extends condolences to the families of the three US soldiers killed in a drone strike in Jordan.

“We stand united in our values and battle against a common enemy,” Katz writes on X. “Their sacrifice will always be remembered. Rest in peace.”

He also wishes a “speedy recovery” to some 30 troops injured in the same attack.

 

Jordan condemns ‘terrorist attack’ on US troops, says it is cooperating with Washington to secure front

Jordan condemns the “terrorist attack” on a military advance post just inside its border with Syria that killed three US military personnel and injured dozens, and says it is cooperating with Washington to secure its frontier.

Earlier, a Jordanian government spokesperson had said the attack was on a US base in Syria adjacent to the border but not on Jordanian soil.

After attack on US troops in Jordan, Trump says there would be ‘world peace’ if not for Biden

Former US president Donald Trump raises his fist as he leaves his apartment building, Thursday, Jan 25, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
Former US president Donald Trump raises his fist as he leaves his apartment building, Thursday, Jan 25, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Former US president Donald Trump blames President Joe Biden for the attack against US troops in Jordan which killed three and wounded dozens of others, and says this would “never have happened” if he was still president.

Sharing condolences with the families of the service members killed in the attack, Trump says, “This brazen attack on the United States is yet another horrific and tragic consequence of Joe Biden’s weakness and surrender.”

Three years ago, Iran was weak, broke and totally under control. Thanks to my Maximum Pressure policy, the Iranian Regime could barely scrape two dollars together to fund their terrorist proxies,” he claims. “Then Joe Biden came in and gave Iran billions of dollars, which the Regime has used to spread bloodshed and carnage throughout the Middle East.”

“This attack would NEVER have happened if I was President, not even a chance. Just like the Iranian-backed Hamas attack on Israel would never have happened, the War in Ukraine would never have happened, and we would right now have Peace throughout the World,” the former president claims. “Instead, we are on the brink of World War 3.”

Accusation of war crimes lodged against IDF reservists who went to The Hague

Israeli reservists in The Hague on behalf of the DiploAct program, January 2024. (DiploAct)
Israeli reservists in The Hague on behalf of the DiploAct program, January 2024. (DiploAct)

Several IDF reserve soldiers have become the subject of a war crimes complaint submitted in Holland against the background of the genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, after they traveled to The Hague to draw international attention to the crimes carried out by Hamas on October 7, Channel 12 reports.

According to the report, the reservists, who were released from fighting in Gaza in order to attend Friday’s ruling on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, gave a series of interviews to international media outlets in defense of the war against the Hamas terror group.

After a social media post from one of the reservists came to light, in which he referenced the Amalekites, the biblical enemy of the ancient Israelites, in relation to Hamas, a complaint was lodged with Dutch prosecutors for the reservists to be investigated.

A quote from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the Amalekites was cited by the South African legal team in its genocide allegations against Israel two weeks ago. In response, the Prime Minister’s Office said that when Netanyahu used the biblical quotation “Remember what Amalek did to you,” he was using it as a way of describing the savage Hamas attack of October 7, and certainly not as a call for wanton killings. The PMO pointed out that the same phrase appears in a permanent exhibit at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, as well at a memorial in The Hague itself for Dutch Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

The reservists were reportedly advised to lie low following the incident and have since returned to Israel.

In a statement, the IDF’s spokesperson’s unit says the reservists were “given standard instructions for this type of incident,” and adds that they “returned on a pre-scheduled flight.”

Iron Dome shoots down projectile fired at Ashkelon from Gaza, no injuries reported

One rocket is fired from the Gaza Strip at the southern coastal city of Ashkelon a short while ago.

The projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, according to the municipality.

There are no reports of damage or injuries.

Surveillance camera footage shows the launch from Gaza.

Rocket sirens sound in Ashkelon, Gaza border communities

Sirens sound in Ashkelon and Gaza border communities, warning of potential incoming rockets.

The sirens can be heard in Ashkelon, Netiv HaAssara and Yad Mordechai, among other locations.

At settlements conference, Ben Gvir repeats call for ‘voluntary emigration’ of Palestinians

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks at the "Settlements Bring Security" conference in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Jeremy Sharon/The Times of Israel)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks at the "Settlements Bring Security" conference in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Jeremy Sharon/The Times of Israel)

National Security Minister and ultranationalist leader Itamar Ben Gvir says that Israel should “encourage voluntary emigration” of Palestinians as part of the country’s response to the October 7 atrocities during an address to the resettle Gaza conference in Jerusalem.

He also calls for the rebuilding of settlements in the Gaza Strip and says that he and others warned that the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza would bring about increased terrorism from the territory.

“Part of defeating this concept is to go home to Gush Katif and northern Samaria,” he adds.

“We must fulfill what our Torah says, ‘You will inherit the inhabitants of the land so that they do not become thorns in your side,’ we must encourage them to leave,” Ben Gvir continues.

“I turn to you Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” he says accompanied by boos from the crowd.

“It would be a shame to wait another 15 years to go back to Gush Katif. This is the time to return to home, to build settlements, for the death penalty for terrorists and the time for victory.”

Activists hold up a placard stating, “Only transfer will bring peace” at a conference urging revived Jewish settlement in Gaza, at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024 (Jeremy Sharon / Times of Israel)

Activists hold up a placard stating: “Only transfer will bring peace.

Ben Gvir says: “To encourage voluntarily, yes; to encourage voluntarily, you’re right. To encourage them voluntarily to go away from here, you’re right.”

Calls to strike Iran grow in US after 3 troops killed in Jordan

Republican calls grow in the US for a direct strike on Iran after three US troops were killed in Jordan.

GOP Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas says: “The only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East. Anything less will confirm Joe Biden as a coward unworthy of being commander-in-chief.”

“Target Tehran,” John Cornyn of Texas writes on X, formerly Twitter, while South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham writes, “Hit Iran now. Hit them hard.”

In addition, Former NATO commander and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark calls for Biden to “take out their capabilities and strike hard at the source: Iran.”

Settler leader Yossi Dagan: ‘The Oslo Accords are dead, the people of Israel live’

Chairman of the Samaria Regional Council in the West Bank Yossi Dagan speaks at the "Settlements Bring Security" conference in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Jeremy Sharon/The Times of Israel)
Chairman of the Samaria Regional Council in the West Bank Yossi Dagan speaks at the "Settlements Bring Security" conference in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Jeremy Sharon/The Times of Israel)

Chairman of the Samaria Regional Council in the West Bank Yossi Dagan describes the October 7 massacres as “a Holocaust” at the conference to re-establish Israeli settlements in Gaza, and says that those atrocities mean that the Oslo Accords are dead.

In a fiery speech, Dagan, one of the principal organizers of the conference, insists that “the entire Land of Israel is ours” to wild applause, and insists that settlements also bolster security for Israel.

“The Oslo Accords are dead, the people of Israel live,” he declares to thunderous acclaim from the hundreds-strong crowd.

“After the holocaust we suffered [on October 7], the only ethical and godly decision is to return to the northern Samaria settlements and to return to the Gaza Strip, to Gush Katif,” he says referencing also the Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank, which were evacuated in 2005 along with the settlements in Gaza.

“We say to the government, take back our land and rebuild settlements in Samaria and the Gaza Strip.”

Prime Minister’s Office: Hostage deal talks ‘constructive,’ but significant gaps remain

Demonstrators hold up signs during a rally to demand the release of hostages held by the Hamas terror group, near the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on January 22, 2024. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Demonstrators hold up signs during a rally to demand the release of hostages held by the Hamas terror group, near the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on January 22, 2024. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The Prime Minister’s Office confirms that the four-way meeting about a possible major hostage deal between the US, Israel, Qatar and Egypt took place “in Europe” and calls the discussions “constructive.”

“There are still significant gaps that the sides will discuss this week in additional meetings,” the PMO adds.

Herzog slams ICJ for twisting words, using fragmented quotes in genocide case ruling

President Isaac Herzog speaks during a 24-hour rally for hostages marking 100 days since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, on January 14, 2024. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)
President Isaac Herzog speaks during a 24-hour rally for hostages marking 100 days since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, on January 14, 2024. (Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

In sharp criticism of the International Court of Justice, President Isaac Herzog says his words were twisted “with the intention of supporting an unfounded legal contention” in Friday’s ruling that there is “plausibility” to South Africa’s genocide case against Israel.

“There is something shocking about seeing how the ‘post-truth’ phenomenon permeates even the most important institutions,” Herzog says at an event hosted at the President’s Residence. “Even on a personal level, I was disgusted by the way they twisted my words, using very, very partial and fragmented quotes.”

In Friday’s ruling, the ICJ cited comments by Herzog, among other officials, that it said had raised concerns among judges on the court.

However, the comments were taken from a press briefing given by the president on October 12, and were not one statement, as the ICJ presented it, but an amalgamation of several comments with the surrounding context removed.

12 ministers, 15 coalition MKs attend conference calling for Jewish settlements in Gaza

Hundreds of settler activists attend the "Settlements Bring Security" conference in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Jeremy Sharon/The Times of Israel)
Hundreds of settler activists attend the "Settlements Bring Security" conference in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Jeremy Sharon/The Times of Israel)

Twelve cabinet ministers and 15 additional coalition MKs are attending the resettle Gaza conference in Jerusalem, organizers say, including Religious Zionism leader Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Otzma Yehudit leader National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, and Likud ministers Miki Zohar, Haim Katz, Idit Silman, May Golan, Shlomo Karhi and Amichai Chikli.

The entire Otzma Yehudit Knesset faction is also present, led by party leader Ben Gvir, while far-right religious leaders including the influential Rabbi Dov Lior are also in attendance.

Organizers say 5,000 people are in attendance.

The crowd is overwhelmingly from the religious-Zionism community. Hundreds of youths, as well as many families along with their young children, are among those participating in the conference, which is calling for the revival of Jewish settlements in Gaza.

The conference is entitled “Settlements Bring Security” and the International Convention Center where it is being held is replete with banners and posters advocating for reconstructing the settlements.

Israel dismantled the 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, and compelled their 8,000 residents to leave, when it unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, pulling back to the pre-1967 lines. Hamas violently ousted the Fatah faction of the PA and seized power in Gaza in 2007.

Paris meeting on possible major hostage deal comes to an end, some progress said to be made

The Paris meeting between CIA Director Bill Burns, Mossad chief David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel has ended, Kan news reports.

They were said to be discussing a major hostage deal that would eventually see all captives released in exchange for a two-month pause in fighting. Hamas, however, has been demanding a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza as a condition for a deal.

A diplomatic official tells Kan that there is some progress in the talks.

Estonia becomes latest country to suspend funding of UNRWA

Estonia becomes the latest country to suspend funding of UNRWA this week in light of evidence that staffers participated in the October 7 atrocities.

“Concerning the recent very serious allegations against UNRWA, Estonia will not continue with the funding of the organization,” Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna states on X, formerly Twitter.

He also calls for a “quick and in-depth investigation” of the allegations.

34 US troops evaluated for possible traumatic brain injury after Jordan drone strike

At least 34 personnel are being evaluated for possible traumatic brain injury in Saturday night’s drone strike on a US base in Jordan, a US official tells Reuters, after initial reports said 25 were hurt in the attack.

“While we’re still gathering facts, this is most assuredly the work of an Iranian-backed militia group,” a second official says.

Jordan’s government denies that the attack took place on its soil, according to Al Arabiya.

At Jerusalem conference, settler activists call for return to Jewish settlements in Gaza

Miriam Sofer at the Settlements Bring Security conference for building Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, January 28, 2024 (Jeremy Sharon/The Times of Israel)
Miriam Sofer at the Settlements Bring Security conference for building Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, January 28, 2024 (Jeremy Sharon/The Times of Israel)

Thousands of settler activists gather in Jerusalem for a conference on building settlements in the Gaza Strip once again, organized by the Nachala settlement organization, together with the Samaria Regional Council in the West Bank, and other groups.

The conference in Jerusalem is entitled “Settlements Bring Security” and the International Convention Center where it is being held is replete with banners and posters advocating for reconstructing the settlements.

A central display exhibits a map of the Gaza Strip showing where the former Israeli settlements were located and where the conference organizers wish to establish six new settlements in the Palestinian enclave, including in urban areas of the southern city of Khan Younis and in the heart of Gaza City.

Miriam Sofer from the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel who is staffing a concession stand selling T-shirts promoting settlement construction in Gaza explains that the location of the planned settlements for Gaza has been strategically chosen to allow greater military control of the territory.

Formerly a resident of the Katif settlement in Gaza, she rejects the notion that it would be impossible for Israelis to return to live safely in Gaza.

“We used to go and buy shoes and clothes in Khan Younis, we used to get our car fixed there,” she says when asked if the lives of Israelis would not be severely endangered by living in Palestinian population centers.

“If we live there, they’ll live according to our rules. Even today when I leave the house I’m afraid of terror attacks. But if you don’t live somewhere in the Land of Israel because you’re afraid, you’ll end up living in the sea.”

Biden vows retaliation after Iran-linked drone strike kills 3 US troops in Jordan

US President Joe Biden vows to strike back after a drone attack he blamed on Iran-backed militant groups killed three US troops in northeast Jordan.

“Have no doubt — we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing,” the president says in a statement.

IDF says it struck Hezbollah observation posts, military infrastructure in South Lebanon

The IDF says it struck further Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon today.

Sites hit a short while ago by fighter jets in Marwahin, Dhayra and Ayta ash-Shab included observation posts and other military infrastructure, according to the IDF.

Earlier today, the IDF says it hit a Hezbollah command center and additional infrastructure in southern Lebanon.

Several rockets were fired today by Hezbollah at the Margaliot and Zar’it areas, all landing in open areas, according to the IDF.

Additionally, the IDF says it fired interceptor missiles at two “suspicious aerial targets” over northern Israel. It says the incident is over, without elaborating.

Herzog: Genocide case against Israel at the World Court is ‘blood libel’

The genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice is a form of “blood libel,” President Isaac Herzog says during an event held at the President’s Residence in the memory of IDF soldiers killed in the war against Hamas in Gaza.

“We are fighting an exceptionally just campaign. A campaign for the return of the hostages, those who are held and tortured by Hamas murderers in an unparalleled crime against humanity,” says Herzog.

“We are fighting a campaign to restore security to our citizens, women and men, elderly and babies. A whole people which Hamas didn’t just declare their desire to wipe from face of the earth, but actually set out on a brutal massacre to destroy – and is still working hard to do so.”

Stressing that Israel has “the full right to self-defense,” Herzog says that “everyone with sense can see that Israel is acting in accordance with international law.”

“The very fact that the hearing at the court in The Hague was held on the eve of International Holocaust Memorial Day, to judge whether the democratic, moral and responsible State of Israel, which rose from the ashes of the Holocaust with the overwhelming support of the family of nations and its institutions was guilty of committing genocide, is a blood libel that undermines the very values on which this court was established,” he says in sharp criticism of the ruling.

He adds that Israel is committed to ensuring that humanitarian aid continues to enter Gaza, and says he is “deeply sorry” for the tragedy that innocent Palestinians in Gaza are going through.

Three US soldiers killed, 25 injured in Iran-linked drone strike on military base in Jordan

Jordanian soldiers control the border between Syria and Jordan, near the town of Nasib, southern Syria, on July 1, 2018.
( AFP/ Mohamad ABAZEED)
Jordanian soldiers control the border between Syria and Jordan, near the town of Nasib, southern Syria, on July 1, 2018. ( AFP/ Mohamad ABAZEED)

Three US soldiers were killed and 25 were injured in a drone strike on a US military base in northeast Jordan, close to the Syrian border overnight.

US President Joe Biden says that the attack was carried out by “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq,” the Reuters news agency reports.

The incident marks the first time that US troops have been killed in the Middle East since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

Gallant: While Hamas in Qatar enjoy their luxuries, in Gaza they surrender, are killed by the thousands

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to reserve troops of the IDF's 11th Brigade, January 28, 2024. (Elad Malka)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to reserve troops of the IDF's 11th Brigade, January 28, 2024. (Elad Malka)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant says that while Hamas leaders in Qatar are enjoying a life full of luxuries, the terror group’s commanders on the ground in Gaza are dying and surrendering by the thousands, bringing a hostage deal closer to fruition.

Speaking to IDF reserves of the 11th Brigade who were released from duty in Gaza several days ago, Gallant says that thanks to their actions inside the Hamas-run enclave, Israel is now “holding a negotiation process to bring about the release of hostages.”

“The terrorists who enjoy luxury cars, planes and hotels are trying to strengthen their demands. Those who are in the field know very well what is happening — hundreds of terrorists are surrendering, thousands are killed, their weapon storage warehouses are being destroyed,” he says.

“These are not things that are taken for granted, this is happening thanks to your actions and the actions of your friends.”

He adds that “as long as we have hostages in the Gaza Strip we have no moral right to stop looking for the women, the children, the soldiers who are there — we have to keep going until the end.”

Former US speaker Pelosi claims pro-Gaza ceasefire protests have ties to Russia

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi walks to a news conference to address sea level rise along the city's waterfront in San Francisco, Friday, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi walks to a news conference to address sea level rise along the city's waterfront in San Francisco, Friday, January 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Former speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi tells CNN’s “State of the Union” program that calls for a ceasefire in Gaza benefit Russia.

Pelosi says that while US has to do what it can to “try and stop the suffering in Gaza,” she does not believe that a ceasefire is the correct way to go about it.

“For them to call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin’s message,” she says. “Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine.”

“I think some of these protests are spontaneous and organic and sincere,” she says of the pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests that have swept across the US since October, “but some I think are connected to Russia, and I say that having looked at this for a long time.”

Pelosi adds that she believes the FBI should investigate the root of the protests and where they emerged from.

Likud MK Danny Danon asks Sky News to fire news anchor who compared Gaza War to Holocaust

Likud MK Danny Danon is interviewed by Sky News presenter Belle Donati, January 26, 2024 (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Likud MK Danny Danon is interviewed by Sky News presenter Belle Donati, January 26, 2024 (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Likud MK Danny Danon asks Sky News to terminate the employment of a news anchor who likened his comments in support of voluntary relocation of Gazans amid the war to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust during an interview on Friday.

In a letter shared by the lawmaker on X, formerly Twitter, he writes that while he acknowledges “Sky News’s prompt apology following the antisemitic remarks,” he has yet to receive a “personal and sincere apology from Ms. Belle Donati herself, directed both to me and the entire Jewish community.”

Danon also draws attention to Donati’s online presence, which he says “exhibits a discernible bias and clear anti-Israel stance.”

“I anticipate that you will undertake the necessary measures to facilitate the immediate resignation of Ms. Donati from her current position,” he concludes.

White House says no change to US policy on Israel after NBC report on weapon deliveries

The White House says there is no change in its Israel policy after NBC News reported the United States was discussing using weapon sales to Israel as leverage to convince the Israeli government to scale back fighting in Gaza.

“Israel has a right and obligation to defend themselves against the threat of Hamas, while abiding by international humanitarian law and protecting civilian lives, and we remain committed to support Israel in its fight against Hamas,” a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council says. “We have done so since October 7, and will continue to. There has not been a change in our policy.”

Newly published IDF footage shows gun battle between troops, Hamas cell in Khan Younis

The IDF releases footage from a gun battle in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis last weekend, as soldiers of the Paratroopers Brigade chased down a Hamas cell that killed a soldier.

The incident on January 19 began during an army raid in Khan Younis, when Hamas operatives fired an RPG at a tank, killing Sgt. First Class (res.) Uriel Aviad Silberman, 23, of the Kiryati Brigade’s 7421st Battalion, and wounding three other soldiers.

The Paratroopers Brigade’s reconnaissance unit chased after the gunmen, killing nine of them in close-quarters fighting, the IDF says.

Amid the pursuit, several soldiers entered a building where the operatives fled and engaged in a gun battle. Commanders of the reconnaissance unit entered shortly after, killing members of the cell and extracting their troops out, according to the IDF.

During the chase after the gunmen, the IDF says troops directed several airstrikes and artillery shelling at targets in close proximity, where Hamas activity was identified.

Hospitals in Khan Younis at risk of collapse, running out of oxygen, Gaza medics warn

Medical facilities are at risk of collapse in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, the Hamas-run health ministry warns as fighting rages inside and around the city.

Palestinian medics and residents allege that Israel continues to bomb areas around the two main hospitals in Khan Younis, hindering efforts by rescue teams to respond to desperate calls from people caught in the crossfire.

“There is a complete failure of the healthcare system at Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals,” says a health ministry spokesman.

Israel says it is taking steps to keep hospitals running and minimize civilian casualties.

It accuses Hamas of operating in densely populated areas, including around hospitals, and using civilians as human shields and has released photos and videos supporting this allegation, which the Islamist group denies.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society says in a statement that medical teams at Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis are unable to perform surgeries because oxygen supplies were depleted.

 

Netanyahu to WSJ: The war in Gaza is going ‘better than expected’ despite some tough days

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the Wall Street Journal in a weekend interview that Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza is going “better than many expected.”

“It took the US and its allies nine months to defeat radical forces in Mosul,” he tells the WSJ of the 2016-2017 war against ISIS in Iraq.

“Mosul is smaller than Gaza and did not have the massive terror underground infrastructure. We’re now in the fourth month, but we’ve had tough days.”

He adds that despite what it might look like from the outside, he believes he represents the views held by the majority of Israelis when it comes to the day after the war in Gaza and the future of the Palestinians.

“Some in the United States believe that the obstacle to peace with the Palestinians is me,” he tells the WSJ. “They don’t realize that I reflect the view of most Israelis.”

Mother of Cedrick Garin, who was killed fighting in Gaza, will receive Israeli citizenship

The mother of Cedrick Garin will receive Israeli citizenship after he was killed in Gaza last week, Interior Minister Moshe Arbel has decided, Hebrew-language daily Haaretz reports.

Garin was the only child of his parents Imelda and Rico, who came to Israel from the Philippines before he was born.

His father was deported when Cedrick was two years old, but his mother remained with him in Israel as a temporary resident.

Garin received Israeli citizenship upon completing his military service. Following his death in Gaza last week when two buildings collapsed and killed 21 IDF soldiers, his mother will now receive citizenship as well, the report states.

NBC: US weighs slowing or pausing some weapon deliveries to Israel as leverage to scale back war in Gaza

Left: US President Joe Biden at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, North Carolina, March 28, 2023. (AP/Carolyn Kaster); Right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool photo via AP)
Left: US President Joe Biden at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, North Carolina, March 28, 2023. (AP/Carolyn Kaster); Right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool photo via AP)

According to NBC, citing 3 US officials, the Biden Administration is weighing using weapons sales as leverage to pressure Israel to reduce the intensity of its operations in the Gaza Strip.

Although no decisions have been made, the White House asked the Defense Department to review which weapons could be used as leverage on Israel, says the report, pointing at 155 mm artillery shells and JDAM kits to turn missiles into precision munitions.

NBC says defensive systems are not under consideration.

“The administration is focused on offensive military equipment in its review of what it could possibly withhold or delay,” the report says. It also notes, however, that officials “have also discussed offering the Israeli government more of the weapons it has requested” — to encourage Israel “to take some steps the administration has requested.

One of Washington’s goals is to convince Israel to open humanitarian corridors to allow more aid to reach Gazans. The US has also repeatedly urged Israel to do more to reduce civilian casualties.

“There’s a lot more that needs to be done and that they need to be more careful about,” says an administration official.

In defense of UNRWA, Jordan’s FM says suspension of funds is ‘collective punishment’

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi comes out in defense of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after a string of countries have suspended their funding to the body following accusations that several of its staff were involved in the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught on southern Israel.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Safadi writes that “UNRWA is the lifeline for over 2m Palestinians facing starvation in Gaza. It shouldn’t be collectively punished upon allegations against 12 persons out of its 13,000 staff.”

“UNRWA acted responsibly and began an investigation. We urge countries that suspended funds to reverse [their] decision,” Safadi adds, echoing a call made yesterday by UNRWA’s Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini.

UNRWA provides services, such as education and health, in ten Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan – the only Arab country where Palestinians have been granted citizenship. According to the agency’s data, only about 18% of the country’s two million Palestinians and their descendants still live in camps.

There are today 58 designated refugee camps across the areas in which UNRWA operates, in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz has said the body “must be replaced with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development” and has called for the resignation of the agency’s head Lazzarini.

Significant number of Hamas weapons come from IDF duds, NYT reports

Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israel launched airstrikes following rocket fire aimed at Israel from the Hamas-run Strip early on January 27, 2023. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City as Israel launched airstrikes following rocket fire aimed at Israel from the Hamas-run Strip early on January 27, 2023. (Mahmud Hams / AFP)

Hamas gets a “significant number” of its weapons from IDF duds, reports The New York Times, citing Israeli and Western intelligence officials, and a former senior Israeli police officer.

Intelligence gleaned during the ongoing war in Gaza has helped Israel understand that it badly underestimated the number of rockets and other explosives Hamas was able to create from munitions that failed to detonate. One Western military official says that most of Hamas’s explosives used in the war have come from unexploded IDF shells and missiles.

An Israeli intelligence officer tells NYT that the failure rate for IDF munitions fired into Gaza could be as high as 15 percent.

Another significant source of weapons is theft from IDF bases, which reach the West Bank or Gaza via the Sinai desert.

Hamas is able to saw into warheads of up to 2,000 pounds and repurpose the explosives, according to the report.

France is latest to suspend UNRWA funding amid ‘exceptionally serious’ Oct. 7 allegations

Palestinian terrorists walk and drive away from a kibbutz near the border fence with the Gaza Strip, while carrying out a devastating cross-border attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo)
Palestinian terrorists walk and drive away from a kibbutz near the border fence with the Gaza Strip, while carrying out a devastating cross-border attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo)

Paris says it is suspending funding to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA after accusations of staff involvement in the Hamas-led October 7 onslaught on southern Israel communities.

“France has not planned a new payment for the first half of 2024 and will decide when the time comes of the action to take together with the United Nations and the main donors,” the foreign ministry says, calling the allegations “exceptionally serious.”

UNRWA said on Friday it had fired several employees over the unspecified accusations about the involvement of some of its staff in the devastating attack.

Donors including the US, Germany, Britain, Italy, Australia, and Finland announced they had suspended additional funding to the agency over the accusations.

Sa’ar says he’ll start work on filing genocide case against Iran at International Court of Justice

MK Gideon Sa'ar attends a faction meeting of the National Unity party at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Gideon Sa'ar attends a faction meeting of the National Unity party at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 20, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Cabinet minister Gideon Sa’ar says he will begin working on having Israel file a case against Iran in the International Court of Justice on genocide charges, pointing out that Iranian leaders have called for Israel’s destruction and that Iran gives strong backing to Hamas and other Gaza terror groups that carried out the October 7 atrocities.

Numerous experts in international law have said that the massacres and other crimes carried out by Hamas on October 7 likely constitute a genocidal act since they appear to have been aimed at destroying “in whole or in part” a national group, in this case Israelis.

“There are public statements by senior Iranian officials in favor of destroying Israel,” Sa’ar tells the Kan public broadcaster.

“Iran finances, arms, and trains all the jihadi terrorists organizations including Hamas and Islamic Jihad which carried out October 7, so in my opinion there is an abundance of evidence which can be submitted to the court in the Hague,” adds Sa’ar, a former justice minister.

He notes that he has spoken with National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi on the issue and says that he intends to ensure that such a suit is filed against Iran.

“Israel is a small and persecuted nation that is fighting for its life and at the same time is fighting on the international stage for its right to self defense. It is a nation that is truly at risk of genocide given that there are enemies around it that declaredly want to destroy it,” he says.

2 rockets fired from Gaza at Sderot, 3 fired from Lebanon at Kiryat Shmona

Two rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip at the southern city of Sderot.

One was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, while the other landed outside the city, according to the municipality.

In the north, at least three rockets are fired from Lebanon at Kiryat Shmona.

Footage posted to social media shows three plumes of smoke from the projectiles that apparently landed in open areas.

There are no reports of damage or injuries in the attacks.

Rocket sirens sound in Gaza border communities

Rocket sirens sound in three communities close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

Alerts are heard in Sderot, Ibim and Nir Am.

Amid protests to prevent aid entering Gaza, IDF declares Kerem Shalom crossing a closed military zone

Activists block the Kerem Shalom crossing to prevent humanitarian aid entering Gaza, January 28, 2024 (Courtesy Tzav 9 activist group)
Activists block the Kerem Shalom crossing to prevent humanitarian aid entering Gaza, January 28, 2024 (Courtesy Tzav 9 activist group)

Amid protests at the Kerem Shalom border crossing preventing aid from entering the Gaza Strip, the IDF has announced a closed military zone in the area.

The IDF says the chief of the Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman, signed the order last night, following a new assessment of the situation.

The order means it will be illegal for civilians to be in the area of the crossing, as well as on nearby roads.

Activists, including the families of some of the hostages held by terrorists in Gaza, have been blocking the Kerem Shalom crossing for several days, to prevent humanitarian aid from entering the Strip.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government voted last month to reopen the crossing for the entry of aid into the Strip amid a growing humanitarian crisis there.

Channel 12 estimates that 200-300 activists are currently protesting at the border crossing.

UK says British warship repelled Houthi drone attack in Red Sea

A British warship, the HMS Diamond, repelled a drone attack yesterday from Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis in the Red Sea, British officials say.

“Deploying her Sea Viper missile system, Diamond destroyed a drone targeting her with no injuries or damage sustained to Diamond or her crew,” the British Defense Ministry says in a statement.

“These intolerable and illegal attacks are completely unacceptable and it is our duty to protect the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.”

The Houthis began launching waves of exploding drones and missiles at vessels on Nov. 19 in response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza, which themselves were sparked by the Hamas terror group’s devastating October 7 attack.

On Friday, a tanker vessel was attacked, sparking a fire on board.

US and British warplanes, ships and submarines have responded to the Houthi attacks on shipping with dozens of retaliatory strikes across Yemen against Houthi forces.

Rocket sirens sound in Kiryat Shmona near Lebanon border

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

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

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

FM Katz meets with GOP senator Graham to discuss ‘future regional prospects’

Foreign Minister Israel Katz meets with US GOP Senator Lindsey Graham in Tel Aviv, January 28, 2024 (Foreign Ministry)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz meets with US GOP Senator Lindsey Graham in Tel Aviv, January 28, 2024 (Foreign Ministry)

Foreign Minister Israel Katz meets with US GOP Senator Lindsey Graham in Tel Aviv to discuss “future regional prospects,” says Katz.

Graham was also in Israel earlier this month before flying to Saudi Arabia to further a normalization deal with Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman.

Before the October 7 Hamas onslaught, the US had been trying to broker a landmark agreement in which Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for US security guarantees, aid in establishing a civilian nuclear program in the kingdom, and progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said last week that the kingdom will not normalize relations with Israel nor contribute to Gaza’s reconstruction without a credible pathway to a Palestinian state.

Argentina president to visit Israel next month

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)

Argentina’s President Javier Milei will visit Israel on February 6-9, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

Milei, who was elected last month, has been an outspoken supporter of Israel, and has said he wants to convert to Judaism.

On Friday, Milei said he would come to to Israel in the “coming weeks,” a visit that would “constitute a new chapter in the brotherhood between our two nations.”

Eleven Argentinian citizens are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

Abbas spokesman: If Hamas were to win Palestinian elections, we’d hand over government to them

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

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and spokesperson for President Mahmoud Abbas, says that were Hamas to win in future Palestinian general elections, Abbas would be ready to hand over control of the PA to the terror group.

In an interview with the Saudi news channel Al Arabiya yesterday, Abu Rudeineh stresses that the Palestinian people need to find common ground and formulate a unified position, and that for the time being “the address for political decisions is the Palestine Liberation Organization and its President Mahmoud Abbas,” but after the war the PA “is ready to hold general elections, and if Hamas wins, the president will hand over the Authority.”

The Palestinian Authority has not held general elections since 2006, when Hamas won a majority of the seats in the legislative council, and subsequently staged a violent coup in the Gaza Strip.

Since the outbreak of the war, various PA officials have called for integrating the political wing of Hamas in a future Palestinian government, claiming that it is an essential component of Palestinian society.

Elections are seen by many in the international community as a key stage in the reform and revival of the Palestinian Authority, a body that is perceived as corrupt and ineffective, in order to boost its legitimacy and potentially enable it to take control over the Gaza Strip after the war.

Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that their goal in the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught is the eradication of the terror group.

1 killed in armed attack on church in Istanbul, minister says

Two masked gunmen attack an Istanbul church during Sunday Mass, killing one, says Turkey’s Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya. More were injured at the Santa Maria Church, according to reports.

Local media also report the deceased was a 72-year-old woman.

Yerlikaya says that “a large-scale investigation” has begun, as well as an effort to apprehend the attackers.

“We strongly condemn this vile attack,” he tweets.

In light of Oct. 7, Holocaust section of matriculation exam won’t be mandatory this year

Illustrative image of students visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative image of students visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

In light of the October 7 atrocities perpetrated upon southern Israeli communities by Hamas-led terrorists, high school students will not be required to take the Holocaust section of the history matriculation exam, which is normally mandatory, the Education Ministry says in a statement.

“Many inquiries were received from professionals and parents noting that dealing with the Holocaust raises great emotional and mental difficulties. Therefore it was decided to, temporarily, not obligate the students to take the Holocaust chapter of the matriculation exam,” the ministry says in a statement, the day after Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The decision is only valid for the current academic year.

The Holocaust section will remain in the history exam, the ministry notes, but will not be mandatory and students will have the option to refrain from taking it, subject to the discretion of the teacher and school officials.

The annual high school Holocaust education trips to concentration camps in Poland, which were to have resumed this year after a three-year absence, were canceled in November due to the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war the previous month, triggered by the October 7 onslaught.

Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief arrives in Paris for hostage deal talks – report

File: Mossad Director David Barnea speaks during a Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), in Tel Aviv, on September 10, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
File: Mossad Director David Barnea speaks during a Conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), in Tel Aviv, on September 10, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Israeli delegation headed by Mossad chief David Barnea has arrived in Paris for talks with the US, Qatar, and Egypt on a potential hostage deal with Hamas, Sky News Arabic reports.

They will meet this evening.

US negotiators are reportedly making progress on a potential agreement under which Israel would pause military operations against Hamas in Gaza for two months in exchange for the release of more than 100 hostages abducted in the Palestinian terror group’s devastating October 7 attack on Israel, according to two senior administration officials.

However, Israeli officials, cited by Channel 12, have played down expectations, saying that Hamas is stubbornly clinging to demands that Israel completely end the war while leaving the terror group in power over Gaza.

IDF says fighter jets hit two Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon

A picture taken from Lebanon's southern village of Majdelzoun shows smoke billowing during an Israeli air strike on its outskirts towards Zibqin village, on January 28, 2024 (KAWNAT HAJU / AFP)
A picture taken from Lebanon's southern village of Majdelzoun shows smoke billowing during an Israeli air strike on its outskirts towards Zibqin village, on January 28, 2024 (KAWNAT HAJU / AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces says fighter jets carried out strikes on two Hezbollah sites in the southern Lebanon villages of Zibqin and Houla this morning,

It adds that troops also shelled a number of areas in southern Lebanon with artillery to “remove threats.”

PA lambasts donor nations’ decision to suspend UNRWA funding as ‘collective punishment’

File: A United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) fuel truck arrives at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on November 22, 2023. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)
File: A United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) fuel truck arrives at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on November 22, 2023. (Khaled Desouki/AFP)

The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry describes the suspension of funds to UNRWA by a number of countries, including the US and the UK, as a form of “collective punishment” and “deplorable double standards.”

Nine countries have recently announced they are freezing funding for the UN Palestinian refugee agency after Israel showed evidence that a number of its employees had been involved in the October 7 onslaught.

Ramallah’s Foreign Ministry defines the decision as “highly politicized, disproportionate and unjustified,” especially in light of the fact that the agency’s Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said an independent investigation will be launched into the Israeli claims.

Echoing comments that Lazzarini made last night, Ramallah said it sees the decision to suspend funding to UNRWA as a form of “collective punishment,” stressing that the agency is about to run out of money and will not be able to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees throughout the region.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz has called for Lazzarini to quit and said the body “must be replaced with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development” after Gaza’s bloodiest war.

War erupted on October 7 when some 1,200 people, most of them civilians, were killed by Hamas terrorists who rampaged across southern Israel. Another 253 people, also largely civilians, were abducted and taken into Gaza, where 132 remain.

Israel responded with a massive offensive aimed at destroying Hamas in Gaza, where it has ruled since 2007, and bringing back the hostages.

Activists say they’ve blocked Kerem Shalom crossing to stop humanitarian aid entering Gaza

Activists, including the families of some of the Gaza hostages, have blocked the Kerem Shalom crossing to prevent humanitarian aid entering Gaza, Channel 13 reports.

The cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government voted last month to reopen the crossing for the entry of aid into the Strip amid a growing humanitarian crisis there.

The Kan public broadcaster reports that a number of trucks entered the enclave before the protesters arrived.

The activists tell Channel 13 they walked through fields to reach the border after police set up roadblocks in an attempt to hinder their passage.

Activists from the Tzav 9 organization say that “hundreds” of people have arrived to stop the trucks crossing, although videos circulating on social media appear to show a few dozen.

“No aid goes in until the hostages come home,” the organization says.

Hamas-run health ministry says Gaza death toll at 26,422

Palestinians displaced in the Gaza Strip walk through a makeshift tent camp in Rafah on Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
Palestinians displaced in the Gaza Strip walk through a makeshift tent camp in Rafah on Jan. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that 26,422 people have been killed since the start of its war with Israel, and another 65,087 people have been wounded.

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 people killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.

For 5th day running, protesters head toward Kerem Shalom crossing to block Gaza aid

For the fifth day, a group of protesters is heading toward the Kerem Shalom crossing in an attempt to block the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The protesters reportedly include the families of some of the hostages held in Gaza.

It was not immediately clear what impact the previous days of protests have had on truck movements.

On Wednesday the demonstrators held up over 100 trucks, some of which were eventually diverted to an alternative entry point in Egypt.

The hostages have been held since Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists storm across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 people of all ages, mostly civilians.

Israel’s campaign in Gaza, aimed at destroying Hamas, has faced increasing international criticism amid a mounting Palestinian death toll and a broad humanitarian crisis in the war-torn Strip.

IDF says ‘high-intensity fighting’ ongoing in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 28, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 28, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

“High-intensity fighting” continues in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the Israel Defense Forces says, as its 98th Division battles Hamas operatives in the area.

In recent operations in Khan Younis, the Egoz commando unit spotted and eliminated a Hamas cell armed with RPGs and found weapons nearby; the Paratroopers Brigade killed several gunmen and located weapons; and the 7th Armored Brigade directed airstrikes on two Hamas operatives in the city, the IDF says.

Meanwhile in northern Gaza, the IDF says, reservists of the 5th Brigade located a tunnel network and destroyed it. The troops also killed several gunmen and located weapons in the area, it adds.

In central Gaza, the IDF says the Nahal Brigade directed a drone to strike a Hamas operative who was spotted nearby. The brigade killed several more gunmen in battles over the past day, the IDF adds.

Iran says it simultaneously launched 3 satellites for 1st time using carrier rocket

This photo released by the Iranian Defense Ministry on Jan. 28, 2024, claims to show a satellite carrier being launched at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran's rural Semnan province  (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)
This photo released by the Iranian Defense Ministry on Jan. 28, 2024, claims to show a satellite carrier being launched at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran's rural Semnan province (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Iran simultaneously launched three satellites for the first time using the Simorgh (Phoenix) satellite carrier rocket developed by the Defense Ministry, Iranian state media reports.

The launch is not immediately independently verified.

One satellite weighing 32 kg (70 pounds) and two nano-satellites of less than 10 kg each were sent to a minimum orbit of 450 km (280 miles), with the two smaller devices aimed at testing narrowband communication and geopositioning technology, the reports say.

The larger satellite, named “Mahda” and built by Iran’s Space Agency, is meant to test the accuracy of the Simorgh rocket in delivering multiple cargoes to space.

Iran launched its Sorayya satellite into orbit this month with a rocket built by the elite military Revolutionary Guards, raising concerns among European powers that the space launch vehicle’s technology could be used for the development of long-range ballistic missile systems.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles can be used to deliver nuclear weapons. Iran’s nuclear program now enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels after the collapse of its nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran on Saturday dismissed European countries’ condemnation of its launch of the Sorayya satellite, saying peaceful technological advancement in the aerospace field was the country’s legitimate right.

Australia’s New South Wales state premier condemns ‘appalling’ neo-Nazi rally in Sydney

The premier of Australia’s New South Wales state condemns a neo-Nazi rally in the state capital Sydney as “appalling,” a day after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said neo-Nazism was on the rise in the country.

Police say around 30 men gathered at a park in the city’s north and were issued with orders preventing them from entering other areas of Sydney, before they dispersed, with no arrests made.

“Police are meeting these obnoxious and appalling racists head-on in New South Wales streets,” Premier Chris Minns tells reporters in Sydney, describing the event as a “neo-Nazi demonstration.”

The far-right event comes a day after Albanese condemned domestic neo-Nazi activity following the arrests of six members of a black-clad group in Sydney on Friday, the country’s national day, amid rallies in support of its Indigenous people.

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 centre-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.

Saturday marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

80% of Hamas’s Gaza tunnel system could still be intact — report

This image released by the IDF on January 20, 2024, shows the inside of a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza's Khan Younis where hostages were held. (Israel Defense Forces)
This image released by the IDF on January 20, 2024, shows the inside of a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza's Khan Younis where hostages were held. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Wall Street Journal reports that after 114 days of fighting, as much as 80 percent of Hamas’s tunnel system beneath Gaza could still remain intact.

The report cites Israeli and US officials, and notes that it it difficult to assess how much of the subterranean labyrinth has been destroyed by Israeli troops so far.

Since launching a ground offensive in the wake of the October 7 massacre, in which Hamas-led terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took 253 hostages, Israeli forces have worked to destroy the tunnels, uncovering more and more of the Gaza-ruling terror organization’s underground network.

Some of the tunnels have been bombed, while others have been flooded. However, progress is slow as underground passages must be mapped and checked for booby traps and hostages before Israeli forces can destroy them.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and other terror commanders are believed to be hiding underground. The Journal cites Israeli officials who said that the Gaza terror chief is believed to be in a command center in a tunnel under Khan Younis, along with some of the hostages.

Earlier this month it was reported that senior Israeli defense officials now assess that Hamas’s Gaza tunnel network is between 350 and 450 miles long, far longer than previously believed.

The estimate reported by The New York Times is markedly higher than an Israel Defense Forces’ assessment last month that there are some 250 miles of Hamas tunnels under the Gaza Strip, and an astounding figure given the enclave is only some 140 square miles in total size.

Rocket sirens sound in Kissufim near Gaza border

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

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

UN chief urges donors to reconsider UNRWA funding, says will hold to account any employee involved in terror

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at United Nations Headquarters. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at United Nations Headquarters. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

United Nations Secretary Secretary-General Antonio Guterres vows to hold to account “any UN employee involved in acts of terror” after allegations that some Palestinian refugee agency staffers were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas onslaught on southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were murdered and 253 people were kidnapped and taken hostage.

But Guterres implores governments to continue supporting the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) after multiple countries paused funding.

“Any UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution,” the UN chief says in a statement. “The Secretariat is ready to cooperate with a competent authority able to prosecute the individuals in line with the Secretariat’s normal procedures for such cooperation.”

At the same time, he says, “The tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized. The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met.”

In his first direct comments on the issue, the UN chief gives details about the UNRWA staffers implicated in the “abhorrent alleged acts.”

Of the 12 implicated, he says, nine had been terminated, one was confirmed dead and the identities of the other two were being clarified.

Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland on Saturday joined the United States, Australia and Canada in pausing funding to the aid agency, a critical source of support for people in Gaza, after the allegations by Israel.

“While I understand their concerns – I was myself horrified by these accusations – I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations,” Guterres says.

AP confirms NYT report on phased hostage deal being drafted by US

The Associated Press confirms a New York Times report on a two-part plan for the release of hostages kidnapped from Israel and a pause in fighting of up to two months, citing two senior administration officials.

Like the New York Times, the AP report notes that CIA director Bill Burns is expected to discuss the contours of the emerging agreement when he meets on Sunday in France with David Barnea, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel for talks centered on the hostage negotiations.

Burns heads to France for the high-level talks after White House senior adviser Brett McGurk spent much of the last week in the Mideast for talks on the hostage situation.

If Burns sees progress in his talks in France, Biden is expected to dispatch McGurk back to the Mideast quickly to try to complete an agreement.

Alarm as black-clad neo-Nazis rally in Sydney for third day in row

Masked men dressed in all black have gathered in Sydney, Australia, for a neo-Nazi rally for the third day in a row, prompting a police operation and threats from the top politician in New South Wales to unmask those involved.

“In New South Wales the police have the right to unmask Nazis on our streets,” says NSW Premier Chris Minns, according to ABC.

He adds that he supports sharpening legislation outlawing Nazi gestures and symbols, which came into effect in Australia last month in response to more antisemitic incidents following Israel’s war on Hamas.

“We’ll make sure that the people of New South Wales are safe and we protect the tenants of our multicultural, harmonious community.”

Police said late on Friday, a holiday known as Australia Day, that they arrested six people and issued 55 others with infringement notices for offensive behavior at a train station in Sydney as they gathered for a neo-Nazi rally, clad in all black.

Another gathering was stopped by police Saturday night, according to ABC.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Saturday that the country had seen a rise in neo-Nazi activity, condemning it.

“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 said.

Saturday marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

 

US, French, Indian navies helped put out fire on tanker hit by Houthis — Pentagon

The US Central Command says the USS Carney, the French Navy Frigate FS Alsace and Indian Navy Frigate INS Visakhapatnam responded to a “major fire” aboard a tanker carrying a flammable chemical off Yemen earlier Saturday, helping the crew douse the dangerous blaze after they had “depleted their organic firefighting capability.”

The Marshall-Islands flagged Marlin Luanda burned for several hours after being hit by a missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. It was carrying Russian-produced naphtha.

“Thanks to this rapid response by the US, Indian and French navies, the fire is now extinguished,” CentCom says.

“There were no casualties in the attack, the ship remains seaworthy and has returned to its previous course,” it adds, confirming an earlier statement from Trafigura, a Singapore-based trading firm.

In its statement, the company said that “no further vessels operating on behalf of Trafigura are currently transiting the Gulf of Aden.”

The Indian Navy said the Marlin Luanda has 22 Indians and one Bangladeshi onboard.

It said a fire-fighting team of 10 Indian naval personnel battled the blaze for six hours along with the ship’s crew before bringing it under control.

According to CentCom, vessels from over 40 countries have been targeted by Houthi attacks, which have ostensibly been launched to show support for Gaza.

“These unlawful actions have nothing to do with the conflict in Gaza. Neither the vessel nor its crew have any affiliation to Israel,” it says.

US negotiators said to draft deal for phased release of hostages, two-month pause

Negotiators have drafted a tentative agreement bringing together Israeli and Hamas demands that would see the rest of the hostages released and fighting paused for up to two months, The New York Times reports.

According to the report:

“In the first phase, fighting would stop for about 30 days while women, elderly and wounded hostages were released by Hamas. During that period, the two sides would work out details of a second phase that would suspend military operations for roughly another 30 days in exchange for Israeli soldiers and male civilians being held. The ratio of Palestinians to be released from Israeli prisons is still to be negotiated but that is viewed as a solvable issue. The deal would also allow for more humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Hamas has demanded a full ceasefire, but the Times reports that “officials close to the talks believe that if Israel halts the war for two months, it would likely not resume it in the same way that it has waged it until now” opening a pathway for a more permanent ceasefire.

The report, citing US officials, says that the Washington-led draft will be presented at a summit in Paris Sunday bringing together Israel, Qatar, Egypt and the US to push moribund hostage negotiations forward.

Negotiators are “cautiously optimistic” about the sides reaching a deal, the report says, claiming one could be reached within two weeks.

 

MK, demonstrators show up at police station to demand release of arrested protesters

Protesters are rallying outside a police station in Herzliya demanding that protesters arrested at an anti-government rally in neighboring Tel Aviv hours earlier be released.

Among the protesters is Labor MK Gilad Kariv, who is seen in footage shared on social media presenting his ID card as a parliamentarian and requesting access to the station to lobby for their release.

Police said earlier they arrested five protesters for disturbing the peace and another person for attacking an officer as demonstrators moved from their rally site at Habima Square toward Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.

Outside the Glilot police station, demonstrators use air horns and chant into megaphones demanding the protesters’ release and criticizing police for expending resources on arresting people when there are hostages in Gaza and the country is at war.

“Protesting is not a crime,” they chant.

 

 

Foreign minister urges UNRWA chief to resign

Foreign Minister Israel Katz says UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini should step down, after the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees expresses alarm as countries pull funding over allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught in southern Israel.

“Mr. Lazzarini please resign,” reads a terse tweet from Katz.

Katz earlier said UNRWA should be replaced “with agencies dedicated to genuine peace and development,” once fighting dies down.

Also on X, government spokesman Eylon Levy accuses UNRWA of being a “front for Hamas” and covering up for the terror group after the agency reported that Hamas had commandeered fuel and medicine before backtracking shortly after the war broke out.

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Humza Youssef appears to back Lazarini, despite his government joining others in freezing funds to UNRWA.

“The people of Gaza are dying in the midst of a humanitarian catastrophe, they cannot be collectively punished,” tweets Youssef, whose wife is from Gaza.

 

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