ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Jan. 30: US urges ‘all possible efforts’ to push Hamas on hostage deal talks

PM: ‘Won’t free thousands of terrorists’ * Gallant: After war, Israel to operate in Gaza like in W Bank * Ben Gvir threatens gov’t over ‘reckless’ Hamas deal * UK mulls Palestinian state

  • Gunmen march with mourners carrying the bodies of Palestinian terror operatives who were killed when undercover Israeli agents raided a hospital in Jenin, during their funeral in the northern West Bank city on January 30, 2024. (Zain Jaafar/AFP)
    Gunmen march with mourners carrying the bodies of Palestinian terror operatives who were killed when undercover Israeli agents raided a hospital in Jenin, during their funeral in the northern West Bank city on January 30, 2024. (Zain Jaafar/AFP)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Bnei David military academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, January 30, 2023. (Screenshot/Prime Minister's Office)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Bnei David military academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, January 30, 2023. (Screenshot/Prime Minister's Office)
  • Undercover Israeli forces operate inside Ibn Sina hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin to kill terror operatives, January 30, 2024. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
    Undercover Israeli forces operate inside Ibn Sina hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin to kill terror operatives, January 30, 2024. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
  • Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein attend a briefing at Gallant's office in Tel Aviv, January 30, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
    Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein attend a briefing at Gallant's office in Tel Aviv, January 30, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
  • Israeli soldiers operate in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 30, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israeli soldiers operate in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 30, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • MK Ofer Cassif attends a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    MK Ofer Cassif attends a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

Netanyahu issues condolences to US troops killed in drone strike 2 days ago

Two days after they were killed in a drone strike blamed on Iran-backed militias, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement mourning the deaths of three American soldiers.

Netanyahu notes the three troops were taking part in operations against the Islamic State jihadist group, which he links to Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas.

“As Israel pursues total victory over Hamas-ISIS, we remember that we face a common enemy and that we are fighting a common battle of civilization against barbarism,” he writes on X, formerly Twitter. “May the memory of Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett be a blessing.”

Pentagon brushes off Iraqi militia’s claim it’ll stop attacking US troops: ‘Actions speak louder than words’

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon declines direct comment on a statement by Iran-aligned Kataib Hezbollah announcing the suspension of all its military operations against US troops in the region, saying only, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Pressed on the matter, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder says there have already been three attacks against US forces in the region since a January 28 drone attack on a base in Jordan that killed three soldiers and wounded more than 40 troops. He suggests a US response will follow.

“On the statement that’s out there, I don’t think we could be any more clear that we have called on the Iranian proxy groups to stop their attacks. They have not, and so, we will respond in a time and manner of our choosing,” Ryder tells a news briefing.

“When I say actions speak louder than words, you know, there [have] been three attacks, to my knowledge, since the 28th of January. And I’ll just leave it there.”

TV poll shows further drop in support for Netanyahu, with Gantz far out in front

Minister Benny Gantz, right, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Minister Benny Gantz, right, shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, on December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Public support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has further slipped in recent weeks amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, according to a television poll aired this evening.

If new elections were held today, Channel 12 news said Minister Benny Gantz’s National Unity party would be the largest with 37 seats, followed by Netanyahu’s Likud with 18. They are followed by Yesh Atid at 14 seats, Shas 10, Yisrael Beytenu eight, Otzma Yehudit eight, United Torah Judaism seven, Hadash-Ta’al five, Ra’am five, Religious Zionism four and Meretz four.

Neither Labor or Balad clear the minimum vote threshold in the poll.

Overall, the anti-Netanyahu bloc would have 68 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, and Likud and its allies would have 47. Hadash-Ta’al is not aligned with either bloc.

Pairing prime ministerial candidates head-to-head, the survey also asks who is better cut out to be premier. In a Gantz versus Netanyahu matchup, 41 percent back the former, while 23% back the latter. In a poll released by the network earlier this month, those figures were 42% and 29% respectively.

When faced off against National Unity MK Gadi Eisenkot, an observer in the war cabinet, 24% say Netanyahu is better suited to be prime minister and 36% say Eisenkot.

Though trailing Gantz and Eisenkot, Netanyahu continues to be a more popular choice for premier than Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, with 29% saying he is more fit for the job and 27% saying Lapid.

US says UN mission to assess conditions in northern Gaza delayed by renewed fighting

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller answers questions during a news briefing at the State Department on July 18, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller answers questions during a news briefing at the State Department on July 18, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

A UN mission aimed at assessing the conditions in northern Gaza in order to allow the return of its evacuated residents has been delayed due to renewed fighting in the area, US State Department spokesman Matt Miller says.

“We saw Hamas fighters pop up and start launching rocket attacks into Israel, start shooting at Israeli forces. That made the conditions on the ground not tenable or safe for conducting this humanitarian mission,” Miller says, revealing an apparent setback in the IDF’s military operations. Israel announced late last month that it had transitioned to low-intensity fighting in northern Gaza and was focusing more intensively on southern Gaza where Hamas’s leaders are believed to be hiding.

Miller stresses that the US still wants to see the UN assessment mission embark as soon as possible.

“We do expect some initial movements north to take place in the next few days to pave the groundwork for that assessment mission to move forward,” Miller adds without elaborating.

Meeting Qatari PM, Sullivan urges ‘all possible efforts be brought to bear on Hamas’

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan urged visiting Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani that “all possible efforts be brought to bear on Hamas to secure the release of hostages without delay,” according to a White House readout.

The message was relayed during their meeting at the White House earlier today and appears to be the closest the Biden administration has come to publicly urging Qatar to put pressure on Hamas.

Al-Thani reiterated yesterday that such calls are unhelpful because Doha doesn’t actually hold leverage over the terror group, whose political leaders it hosts in Doha.

“We don’t see that Qatar is a superpower that can impose something on this party or the other party to bring them to that place,” al-Thani said at an event in Washington.

“It doesn’t mean that… hosting them is a leverage that we have over them… We see [hosting them] as a channel of communication that we are using for good causes,” al-Thani says.

While critics of Qatar dispute this defense, analysts note that once the war began, Hamas’s primary decision-makers have been its leaders on the ground in Gaza — Yahya Sinwar, Muhammed Deif and Marwan Issa — not its politburo chiefs in Doha and elsewhere. Accordingly, Sinwar is seen as less beholden to Qatar than its Doha-based leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Netanyahu confidant Dermer to meet tomorrow with Jake Sullivan for talks on Gaza war

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer walks into the Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington, DC on December 26, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)
Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer walks into the Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington, DC on December 26, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP)

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer will meet US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House to discuss the ongoing war in Gaza and efforts to secure the release of the remaining 136 hostages, a source familiar with the matter tells The Times of Israel.

Dermer’s visit comes amid an intensified effort by international mediators to broker a new hostage deal between Israel and Hamas and ahead of another visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The strategic affairs minister — a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — last visited Washington a month ago.

After deadly drone strike, Iran-backed Iraqi militia claims its pausing attacks on US forces

BAGHDAD — A pro-Iran group in Iraq says that it will halt its attacks on US troops, after Washington pledged a “very consequential” response to a drone attack that killed three of its soldiers.

“We’re announcing the suspension of our military and security operations against the occupying forces to avoid any embarrassment for the Iraqi government,” Kataeb Hezbollah writes on its website.

The United States blamed “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq” for Sunday’s drone strike on a remote Jordan desert base near Syria and Iraq.

Rocket fired from Syria at Golan Heights; IDF responds with shelling

Rockets are fired from Syria at the southern Golan Heights, local authorities say.

The Golan Heights regional council in a statement to residents says three rockets hit open areas, with no reports of damage or injuries.

The IDF is responding with shelling against the source of the fire.

Amid the war in the Gaza Strip there have been several rocket attacks launched from Syria at northern Israel.

US says $300,000 for UNRWA frozen as part of pause in funding

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. (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. (AFP)

US State Department spokesman Matt Miller says that roughly $300,000 earmarked for UNRWA has been withheld following the Biden administration’s decision to suspend funding to the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees amid allegations that roughly a dozen of its members participated in Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught.

However, the US was on pace to donate about 1,000 times that amount by the end of the fiscal year in September.

Roughly $121 million in US funding was already transferred to UNRWA between October 1 and last Friday’s decision to suspend funding pending an investigation.

Typically, the US provides UNRWA with between $300 and $400 million annually, making it the world’s largest donor to the agency, Miller notes.

The next major payment was not slated to be made until the summer but will depend on the funds allocated by Congress in the supplemental funding package and continuing resolution, which both have not yet been passed.

Miller says the US will make a decision regarding the frozen $300,000, as well as all future funding to UNRWA, based on the UN’s investigation into the allegations against its staff members.

Highlighting how serious the allegations were, the State Department spokesman says UNRWA already made the decision to fire eight of its staffers and to suspend two others.

The US in its Friday announcement regarding the funding suspension said allegations were made against 12 UNRWA staffers. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Israeli intelligence links 1,200 UNRWA staffers to Hamas.

Despite the allegations, Miller reiterates that the US still supports UNRWA’s “critical” work providing humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

“There is no other humanitarian player in Gaza who can provide food and water and medicine to at the scale that UNRWA does,” he insists, adding this is why the US wants the UN to thoroughly and speedily conduct its investigation so that such conduct by agency employees can never happen again and it can continue carrying out its work in Gaza.

38% of Israelis back reestablishment of Gaza settlements — poll

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)

Half of Israelis are opposed to a hostage agreement with Hamas if the terms are as detailed in reports yesterday, according to a television poll.

In its question, Channel 12 news asked respondents if they would support or oppose a deal that includes the return of 35 hostages, a 45-day pause in the fighting and the freeing of thousands of Palestinian terrorists from prison. Fifty percent say they oppose such a deal, 35% back it and the remainder do not know.

The poll also asked respondents if they are in favor of reestablishing settlements in the Gaza Strip, after far-right coalition members attended a conference calling to do so this week. Just over half — 51% — say no, while 38% are in favor.

Other questions included whether Israel should halt the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza until all hostages are returned (72% yes versus 21% no), and if and when a state commission of inquiry into the Hamas-led October 7 attack is needed (61% say at the end of the war, 32% now and 3% argue it’s not needed).

Ben Gvir warns Hadash leader ‘next in line’ to be expelled from Knesset

Screen capture from video of an altercation between leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir (center left) and MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the predominantly Arab-Israeli Joint List party, at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, October 19, 2021. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of an altercation between leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir (center left) and MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the predominantly Arab-Israeli Joint List party, at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, October 19, 2021. (Twitter)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir appears to threaten Arab MK Ayman Odeh with impeachment, tweeting out a picture of him with the message “next in line.”

The photo shared by Ben Gvir shows Odeh holding the arm of Khalida Jarrar, a legislator and senior figure in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as she flashes a victory sign following her release from prison.

The far-right leader’s message comes hours after members of the Knesset House Committee overwhelmingly supported a motion to expel Hadash-Ta’al party lawmaker Ofer Cassif, voting 14-2 to advance his impeachment to the Knesset plenum following two days of contentious debate.

During today’s debate on Cassif’s impeachment, Hadash-Ta’al chairman Ahmad Tibi warned the far-left lawmaker’s ouster would “set a precedent” allowing for the possible impeachment of “all the Arab MKs in the Knesset.”

Rocket alert sounds in town along Lebanese border

An incoming rocket siren sounds in Arab al-Aramshe, a town along Israel’s border with Lebanon that has been frequently targeted in attacks by Hezbollah.

US envoy to UN calls for ‘fundamental changes’ to UNRWA before funding resumes

UNITED NATIONS — The US envoy to the United Nations says that Washington needs to see “fundamental changes” before its funding to UNRWA can resume following Israeli allegations that some agency staff were involved in the October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist terror group Hamas.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the UN, welcomes the UN’s decision to conduct an investigation and review of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

She says: “We need to look at the organization, how it operates in Gaza, how they manage their staff and to ensure that people who commit criminal acts, such as these 12 individuals, are held accountable immediately so that UNRWA can continue the essential work that it’s doing.”

PM’s office insists release of Palestinian security prisoners ‘not discussed’ in hostage deal talks

The Prime Minister’s Office releases another statement insisting that reports of major Israeli concessions in a potential hostage deal are incorrect.

“The prime minister’s position is consistent — the war will only end when all its goals are achieved, the IDF will not withdraw from the Strip and thousands of terrorists will not be released,” says the statement.

“The reports that a so-called agreement was reached on a solution for the release of security prisoners are not true,” continues Netanyahu’s office. “The issue was not discussed at all.”

UN Security Council says worried by ‘dire and rapidly deteriorating’ conditions in Gaza

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council expresses concern about the “dire and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation” in the Gaza Strip and urged all parties to work with senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag.

The statement by the 15-member council comes after Kaag briefed the body behind closed doors for the first time since she was appointed about a month ago.

After Jenin raid, Halevi vows IDF won’t let hospitals ‘become shelter for terror’

Undercover Israeli forces operate inside Ibn Sina hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin to kill terror operatives, January 30, 2024. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Undercover Israeli forces operate inside Ibn Sina hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin to kill terror operatives, January 30, 2024. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Following the raid last night on a hospital in Jenin, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi says Israel is not seeking to fight in medical centers, but will go after terrorists wherever they are hiding.

“We do not want to turn medical centers into battlefields… but we are much more determined not to allow hospitals in Gaza, Judea and Samaria [West Bank] or Lebanon — neither above ground or in shafts and tunnels under hospitals — to become a shelter for terror,” he tells a group of reserve soldiers, according to a statement from the military.

Halevi adds that Israeli forces will “also enter the most complex areas possible to eliminate terror.”

“We will continue to operate in Gaza, will continue to reach anywhere where Hamas is,” the military chief says.

White House says Biden weighing ‘multiple’ actions in response to deadly drone attack

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — US President Joe Biden is considering “multiple” actions going beyond one-off strikes in response to a drone attack that killed three US troops in Jordan, the White House says.

“It’s very possible that what you’ll see is a tiered approach here, not just a single action but potentially multiple actions,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tells reporters aboard Air Force One.

Top Biden aide meets with Qatari PM to discuss efforts to broker hostage deal

Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of the state of Qatar, attends the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of the state of Qatar, attends the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with visiting Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani in Washington earlier today to discuss ongoing efforts to secure a hostage agreement between Israel and Hamas, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says.

Sullivan will also be meeting with several family members of the hostages later today at the White House, Kirby says during a briefing with reporters aboard Air Force One.

IDF confirms planned early enlistment of some 1,300 recruits

Young Israeli men line up as they arrive at the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Young Israeli men line up as they arrive at the IDF recruitment center at Tel Hashomer on July 26, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The army will hold an early recruitment in March of some 1,300 Israelis currently enrolled in pre-army, yeshiva and community service programs, the IDF and Defense Ministry announce in a joint statement.

Most of the Israelis are slated to finish their programs at the end of the academic year in June and then enlist sometime after that, depending on their IDF track. The announcement confirms previous reports that discussions on the matter between IDF officials and the administrators of pre-army programs have taken place.

The purpose of the early recruitment “is to strengthen combat units in light of the needs of battle… against the backdrop of the war, the turnover of casualties and the necessity to fill the ranks and expand combat forces,” the statement says.

The recruitment will be done in conjunction with the various program organizations to minimize any harm to the programs and candidates, who potentially could miss out on certain military tracks because they enlist early.

About 850 trainees will be recruited from the pre-army and service year programs, and about 450 more from yeshivas, with an emphasis on those already slated to enlist this year, the statement says. Potential candidates who were evacuated from their homes due to the Israel-Hamas war will not be recruited early.

There are hundreds of pre-army academies in Israel, with over 4,000 students. Acceptance is highly competitive and can involve a lengthy application process. Many pre-army academy students go on to join elite commando units, undergo officer training, or fill other high-level roles in the army.

High school graduates who join service year programs engage in volunteer work of various kinds, in some cases with Jewish communities abroad.

IDF says fighter jets struck Hezbollah command center, observation posts

The IDF says fighter jets carried out strikes on a Hezbollah command center and an observation post belonging to the terror group in the southern Lebanon village of Khiam a short while ago.

Earlier, fighter jets hit another observation post and building used by Hezbollah in Ayta ash-Shab and Mhaibib, according to the IDF.

One rocket was also fired from Lebanon today at the Arab al-Aramshe area, which landed in an open area, the IDF says.

Hamas delegation to reportedly meet with Egyptian spy chief for ceasefire talks

An Egyptian official tells Qatar’s Al Araby news channel that a Hamas delegation will meet in Cairo tomorrow with Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. The official adds that they will focus on the length of lull in fighting in the first phase of a deal, and the number of prisoners to be released.

Hamas politburo official Muhammad Nazal tells the channel that the terror group’s aim is a final ceasefire and an exchange of prisoners.

He insists that talks will not work if Israel does not withdraw fully from the Gaza Strip.

Sweden pauses funding for UNRWA amid charges staff involved in Oct. 7 attack

STOCKHOLM — Sweden will pause funding for the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) as several other countries have done over allegations some of its staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Swedish news agency TT says.

“The money… will go instead to other humanitarian organizations,” TT quotes Johan Forssell, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, as saying.

Gallant says home front readying for potential war with Hezbollah

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) speaks during an assessment at the Kiryat Ata municipality, January 30, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) speaks during an assessment at the Kiryat Ata municipality, January 30, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, during an assessment regarding the home front in the greater Haifa area, says “the stage will come when our patience will run out, and a forceful action to enforce peace on the northern border will also affect the Haifa metropolis.”

“We are ready, but we continue to prepare, gaining more and more capabilities because not all things are solved, but things are done well. And we have to take into account the possibility of a wide escalation, this is something that can happen,” Gallant says during a meeting hosted in Kiryat Ata.

The remarks come amid daily Hezbollah rocket, missile and drone attacks from Lebanon on northern Israel, amid the war in the Gaza Strip

Gallant warns that the possibility of a potential agreement with Hezbollah is “exhausting itself.”

“Alongside the military preparedness that we are advancing, and alongside the process that we are trying to lead in the political-diplomatic efforts, we are also preparing in the civilian area and the Home Front Command has received clear instructions,” he says.

Gallant says if the situation deteriorates further, “the situation in Haifa will not be good, but in Beirut, the situation will be devastating.”

IDF officially confirms it has been flooding some Hamas tunnels with seawater

A pipe pumping water into a Hamas tunnel is seen near Palestine Square in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood, December 19, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
A pipe pumping water into a Hamas tunnel is seen near Palestine Square in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood, December 19, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

The IDF officially releases for publication that it has been flooding some tunnels in the Gaza Strip with seawater, in what has been an open secret for several weeks.

Several IDF units and officials at the Defense Ministry jointly developed “a number of tools for injecting high-flow water into Hamas tunnels in the Gaza Strip,” the military says, adding that it is “part of the variety of tools the IDF has for dealing with tunnels.”

Not all tunnels are flooded, with the IDF saying the process includes attaching pumps and pipes to the “suitable tunnel shafts for the task.”

The IDF says that before it floods tunnels, it carries out “professional and comprehensive” preemptive checks, including an analysis of the soil and water system in the area, to ensure groundwater is not contaminated.

The flooding of the tunnels is just one method of neutralizing Hamas’s underground capabilities, the IDF says. It says other methods include “aerial attacks, underground maneuvers, and special operations with technological means.”

In December, The Wall Street Journal reported that the IDF had started pumping seawater into Hamas’s underground tunnel system. A week later, The Times of Israel learned that a trial run had been successful.

Hamas leader: Hostage deal has 3 stages, number of Palestinian prisoners to be freed not yet specified

A proposal for a new ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza would involve three stages, including the release of hostages held by the Islamist terror group and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, a senior Hamas leader tells Reuters.

Women, children, the elderly and wounded would be released in the first stage, the Hamas leader says, followed by the release of all male and female recruits.

The Hamas leader says the third stage would see the releasing of bodies, adding that both sides would halt military operations throughout the three stages.

According to the senior Hamas figure, the number of Palestinian prisoners that Israel will have to release has not yet been specified and will be decided in the negotiations.

Biden says he decided on response to deadly drone attack, doesn’t want wider war in Mideast

US President Joe Biden speaks at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, on January 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
US President Joe Biden speaks at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, on January 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden says he’s decided how to respond to a drone attack that killed US service members in Jordan, but doesn’t elaborate.

Biden, speaking to reporters as he left the White House on a campaign trip to Florida, also says the United States does not need a wider war in the Middle East.

“I do hold them responsible, in the sense that they’re supplying the weapons to the people who did it,” he adds when asked if Iran is to blame for the attack.

Tehran summons UK envoy to protest British ‘accusations’ against Iran

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has summoned the British ambassador to Tehran to protest against London’s “accusations” against the Islamic Republic, state media reports.

“Following the continuation of the British regime’s accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Simon Shercliff, the British ambassador in Tehran, was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs… and was informed of our country’s strong protest,” IRNA state news agency says.

The statement does not elaborate on the accusations, but it comes after Britain accused Iran-aligned groups of being behind a deadly attack on US troops in Jordan and, along with the United States, imposed sanctions on a network that they allege targets Iranian dissidents.

After pausing funds for UNRWA, Canada announces C$40 million in new aid for Gaza

OTTAWA, Ontario — Canada announces C$40 million ($29.8 million) in new funding to provide food, water, and other humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

The funds will be allocated to international agencies including the World Food Program, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization, Global Affairs Canada says in a statement.

The announcement comes days after Canada and several other countries paused funding to the UN refugee agency for Palestinians UNRWA following allegations by Israel that some of its staff were involved in the October 7 Hamas attacks.

UK ‘alarmed’ by Jerusalem conference calling to resettle Gaza

Cabinet ministers and MKs dance during the 'Settlements Bring Security' conference to promote rebuilding Jewish settlements in Gaza at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Cabinet ministers and MKs dance during the 'Settlements Bring Security' conference to promote rebuilding Jewish settlements in Gaza at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, January 28, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The UK says it is “alarmed” by Sunday’s “Settlements Bring Security” conference in Jerusalem that called for Israel to reestablish settlements in Gaza.

“The UK’s position is clear: Gaza is occupied Palestinian territory and will be part of the future Palestinian state,” says the Foreign Office in statement.

“Settlements are illegal. No Palestinian should be threatened with forcible displacement or relocation.”

Knesset committee votes 14-2 to expel far-left MK for backing ICJ case against Israel

MK Ofer Cassif attends a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Ofer Cassif attends a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Knesset House Committee votes 14-2 to expel Hadash-Ta’al MK Ofer Cassif, referring the far-left lawmaker’s impeachment to the Knesset plenum, where the motion will require the support of 90 lawmakers to pass.

“This is a black day for the Knesset,” Hadash-Ta’al chairman Ahmad Tibi declares following the vote.

The committee’s decision comes after Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky told lawmakers that attempts to expel Cassif from the Knesset lack a legal basis.

Cassif, the only Jewish member of Knesset from the Arab-majority Hadash-Ta’al party, signed a petition of support earlier this month for South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice and has publicly accused Israeli leaders of advocating for crimes against humanity against the Palestinians.

In response to Cassif’s “treasonous” actions, Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer set out to invoke a previously unused legal mechanism contained in the 2016 Suspension Law, under which legislators may expel colleagues from their ranks if they are found to have committed one of a number of infractions, including expressing support “for an armed struggle” against Israel or inciting racism.

Houthi commander says group ready for ‘long-term confrontation’ with US and UK

Armed supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels attend a rally in solidarity with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group amid the war against Israel, in the capital Sanaa on January 29, 2024. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)
Armed supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels attend a rally in solidarity with the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group amid the war against Israel, in the capital Sanaa on January 29, 2024. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Yemen’s Houthis are ready for a “long-term confrontation” with the US and Britain, commander of the Houthi forces Mohamed al-Atifi says in a statement.

“We are prepared for a long-term confrontation with the forces of tyranny. The Americans, the British, and those who coordinated with them must realize the power of the sovereign Yemeni decision and that there is no debate or dispute over it,” he says.

Islamic Jihad chief says no hostage deal unless war ends, Israeli forces withdraw from Gaza

Ziad Nakhaleh, leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, speaks during a rally organized by Lebanon's Hezbollah terror group to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Ziad Nakhaleh, leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, speaks during a rally organized by Lebanon's Hezbollah terror group to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

DOHA — Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad will not engage in any understandings regarding Israeli hostages without ensuring a comprehensive ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, the group’s secretary general Ziad Nakhaleh says in a statement today.

Netanyahu vows Israel won’t free ‘thousands of terrorists,’ won’t pull IDF out of Gaza, amid hostage deal push

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Bnei David military academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, January 30, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Bnei David military academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, January 30, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

As reports emerge about a hostage framework deal with Hamas that includes an extended pause in the fighting and the freeing of a large number of security prisoners, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells students at a pre-military academy in the West Bank that Israel will not release “thousands of terrorists” and won’t withdraw the IDF from Gaza.

Israeli media reported yesterday that Israel had assented to a framework that would see hundreds of Palestinian prisoners released for each hostage. Netanyahu’s office did not deny reports of a potential framework deal, but said some of its reported elements were inaccurate.

In his speech Tuesday, Netanyahu says of the ongoing war against Hamas: “This is not another round, not another exchange of strikes, not another operation.” Rather, he says, Israel is insistent on “a complete victory.”

“Nothing less than that” will be acceptable, Netanyahu tells the Bnei David military academy in Eli. “I am committed to it, our fighters are committed to it, and the absolute majority of the people are committed to it. We will not settle for less than total victory.”

Turning to the reports of a potential hostage deal in the context of the war, Netanyahu says that Israel “will not end this war with less than the achievement of all its goals. This means the elimination of Hamas, the return of all our hostages, and the promise that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel.”

“We will not remove the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists,” he pledges. “None of this will happen. What will happen? Absolute victory!”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Bnei David military academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, January 30, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Protesters in the settlement and along the route from Jerusalem held signs decrying the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza and the potential release of terrorists.

Protesters, hostages’ relatives block one Gaza border crossing for hours

While protesters have been kept away today from the area of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza due to authorities declaring a closed military zone there, many have been blocking the Nitzana border crossing, preventing aid trucks from entering since this morning.

Activists and relatives of hostages have been blocking the crossings over the past week, aiming to prevent trucks with humanitarian aid from entering as long as the Hamas terror group continues to hold 136 hostages and deny them their basic rights.

Footage from the crossing shows the activists singing the national anthem, Hatikva, while waving Israeli flags.

Russia calls for investigation into allegations against UNRWA staff

Allegations that some staff from the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) were involved in the October 7 massacre in Israel should be investigated, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says.

A series of countries including the United States, Germany and Britain have paused their funding to the agency, following the allegations by Israel, which Washington has called “highly credible.”

The agency said on Friday it had opened an investigation into several employees and severed ties with those people.

Despite member’s stated opposition, Yesh Atid party says it backs expelling far-left MK

MK Ofer Cassif attends a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Ofer Cassif attends a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Ofer Cassif of the Hadash-Ta’al party does not belong in the Knesset, a spokesman for Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party tells The Times of Israel, as the far-left lawmaker faces expulsion for supporting South Africa’s accusations of Israeli genocide in Gaza.

“Yesh Atid believes that Ofer Cassif should not be an MK in the Knesset. Just like Ministers Amichai Eliyahu and [Itamar] Ben Gvir,” the spokesman says in a statement. “The members of the faction [provided] the necessary signatures for his impeachment and will vote for his impeachment in the House Committee. Yesh Atid is a democratic party with a variety of opinions and the members of the faction can express their opinions.”

Some in the party have expressed opposition to the impeachment, with MK Meirav Cohen declaring yesterday that while she dislikes Cassif’s positions, “it is not the role of Knesset members to depose other Knesset members.”

“The move to impeach [Cassif] is populist, and its whole purpose is to push the case to the High Court of Justice, so that it will reject the impeachment, and then they can accuse it of ‘leftism/treason/something related to George Soros,’” she has tweeted.

MK Meirav Cohen speaks during a Constitution, Law and Justice Committee meeting on the planned judicial reform, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on July 4, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Members of the Knesset House Committee are currently debating referring Cassif’s impeachment to the Knesset plenum, where the motion would require the support of 90 lawmakers to pass.

Both Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky and Knesset legal adviser Sagit Afik have expressed the opinion that Cassif’s actions have failed to meet the required legal threshold for impeachment.

Opposition Leader Lapid vows to give government ‘safety net’ for any hostage deal

Opposition Leader and Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on January 29, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition Leader and Yesh Atid MK Yair Lapid leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on January 29, 2024 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In an apparent attempt to counter Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s threat to bring down the government if a “reckless” deal is reached with Hamas over the hostages, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid announces that his Yesh Atid party will give its backing to “any deal that brings the hostages home.”

The promise to “give the government a safety net” comes as reports have been swirling around the possibility of the sides soon reaching an agreement that could see the release of thousands of Palestinian security prisoners and a long halt in the fighting in Gaza in return for the hostages being held in the Strip. Right-wing politicians have strongly criticized many of the reported details.

Lapid says returning the abductees is “our duty to them and their families,” or else “something fundamental will erode in our bond with one another, the bond between the nation and its land, and certainly the basic trust between citizens and the government.”

Some Hebrew media outlets assess that this means that Yesh Atid would join the government to help approve a deal, staying there for a set period of time.

1,000 Swedish musicians call for Israel to be banned from Eurovision

A group of more than 1,000 musicians in Sweden, which is hosting this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, have signed a petition calling on Israel to be banned from the upcoming competition due to its war against Hamas in Gaza.

The petition accuses Israel of “war crimes” and slams the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the show, for what it calls a “remarkable double standard” in allowing Israel to compete despite banning Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Similar calls have also echoed from some groups in Iceland and Finland — which have urged their countries not to take part if Israel is competing. Sweden is hosting the contest after its contestant, Loreen, won last year’s competition.

The Swedish public broadcaster issues a statement following the petition, noting that “it is the EBU that decides who participates in the competition, and as the host country, SVT adheres to what the EBU decides.”

The EBU has repeatedly rebuffed such calls, and said that Israel will be allowed to participate in the competition in Malmo this May. So far, no countries have dropped out over Israel’s inclusion.

Israel will select its 2024 representative for the song contest next week, and will announce its song in March.

Air raid sirens sound in Nahal Oz, near Gaza

Rocket alerts are sounding in Kibbutz Nahal Oz near Gaza.

There are no immediate further details. Some similar alarms have recently been triggered by mortar fire toward IDF troops inside the Strip.

Nahal Oz has been evacuated since being ravaged during Hamas’s October 7 onslaught in Israel.

Gallant: Israel to keep military control in Gaza after war, aiming to operate there like in West Bank

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein attend a briefing at Gallant's office in Tel Aviv, January 30, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee Chairman Yuli Edelstein attend a briefing at Gallant's office in Tel Aviv, January 30, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Israel will maintain military control of the Gaza Strip after the war is over, giving it freedom to operate similarly to the way it currently does in the West Bank, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tells the members of Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“After the war, when it’s over, I think it’s completely clear that Hamas won’t control Gaza. Israel will control [it] militarily but won’t control it in a civilian sense,” Gallant says at a briefing at his office in Tel Aviv.

“When we’re talking about military freedom of operation, look what happened tonight in Jenin,” Gallant adds, referring to the daring counterterror operation inside a hospital in the West Bank city, where forces killed three operatives allegedly planning a major attack inspired by Hamas’s October 7 onslaught.

“This is military freedom of operation at the highest level, and yet we don’t control the area in a civilian sense,” Gallant says. “This is achievable [in Gaza as well], and it will take time.”

He also says that the current work to expose and destroy Hamas’s existing military infrastructure “is finite” and is moving forward despite significant challenges.

Gallant contends that a condition for achieving Israel’s war goals — eliminating Hamas’s military and leadership abilities, and returning all the hostages — is “unity on the national level.”

IDF says it has pulled a reserve armored brigade from Gaza

Troops of the Kiryati Reserve Armored Brigade operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout image published January 30, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops of the Kiryati Reserve Armored Brigade operate in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout image published January 30, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF has withdrawn the Kiryati Brigade from the Gaza Strip and it has been replaced with other forces in the Khan Younis area, the military says.

Troops of the reserve armored brigade operated in the Khan Younis area in recent weeks, killing Hamas operatives and raiding the terror group’s sites, the IDF says.

The IDF says the brigade also made use of drones to collect intelligence amid their operations, noting one incident where the reservists spotted a Hamas cell approaching them.

The troops called in an airstrike on the cell, the IDF says, attaching footage of the strike.

Ben Gvir threatens to bring down government if ‘reckless’ deal reached with Hamas

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 22, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 22, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a succinct tweet, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir threatens to bring down the government if a “reckless” deal is reached with Hamas.

Reports have been swirling around the possibility of the sides soon reaching an agreement that could see the release of thousands of Palestinian security prisoners and a long halt in the fighting in Gaza in return for the hostages being held in the Strip. Right-wing politicians have strongly criticized many of the reported details.

“A reckless deal = the dismantlement of the government,” the far-right minister posts on X.

Party head of far-left MK up for expulsion is ejected from Knesset hearing

MK Ahmad Tibi speaks during a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Ahmad Tibi speaks during a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hadash-Ta’al chairman Ahmad Tibi is asked to leave a hearing on the impeachment of MK Ofer Cassif after repeatedly interrupting Likud MK Moshe Saada.

Tibi and fellow Hadash-Ta’al lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman object to Saada’s contention that Cassif’s support for South Africa’s “genocide” case against Israel at the International Court of Justice constitutes support for armed struggle against the state of Israel.

“He is calling for action,” Saada declares, prompting Tibi to shout back: “You called to destroy all of Gaza.”

During an interview earlier this month, Saada stated that he has repeatedly heard people he knows call to “destroy” the residents of the Gaza Strip.

Cassif, the only Jewish member of the Arab-majority Hadash-Ta’al party, signed a petition of support earlier this month for South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice and has publicly accused Israeli leaders of advocating for crimes against humanity against the Palestinians.

In response to Cassif’s “treasonous” actions, MK Oded Forer set out to invoke a previously unused legal mechanism contained in the 2016 Suspension Law, under which legislators may expel colleagues from their ranks if they are found to have committed one of a number of infractions, including expressing support “for an armed struggle” against Israel or inciting racism.

Hamas’s Haniyeh says terror group has received ceasefire proposal, will study it

Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh says the Palestinian terror group has received a ceasefire proposal put forward after talks in Paris and will study it, adding that he will visit Cairo for discussions on the plan.

Haniyeh says Hamas’s priority is to end Israel’s military offensive and ensure a full pullout of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Hamas-run health ministry says Israel handed over bodies of Palestinians killed in Gaza

Israel handed over to authorities in Gaza the bodies of dozens of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the Strip in recent weeks, Hamas health officials say.

The bodies, which had been held in Israel, have been handed over through the Kerem Shalom crossing and will be buried in mass graves in the city of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, the officials say.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza does not immediately say how many bodies have been handed over.

Israel does not immediately comment on the handover.

Ruckus at Knesset panel as deputy AG says expelling far-left MK lacks legal basis

MK Ofer Cassif attends a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Ofer Cassif attends a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Attempts to expel MK Ofer Cassif of Hadash-Ta’al from the Knesset lack a legal basis, Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky tells lawmakers during the second day of impeachment hearings against the far-left lawmaker.

Members of the Knesset House Committee are slated to vote on referring Cassif’s impeachment to the Knesset plenum, where the motion will require the support of 90 lawmakers to pass.

Sompolinsky’s comments are repeatedly interrupted by the objections of lawmakers.

“Shame and disgrace,” yells Likud MK Hanoch Milwidsky.

“You can’t say that Cassif only wanted to stop the war, he’s accusing Israel of genocide,” screams Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer, to the vocal objections of Cassif’s defenders.

Cassif, the only Jewish member of the Arab-majority Hadash-Ta’al party, signed a petition of support earlier this month for South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice and has publicly accused Israeli leaders of advocating for crimes against humanity against the Palestinians.

In response to Cassif’s “treasonous” actions, Forer set out to invoke a previously unused legal mechanism contained in the 2016 Suspension Law, under which legislators may expel colleagues from their ranks if they are found to have committed one of a number of infractions, including expressing support “for an armed struggle” against Israel or inciting racism.

Sompolinsky’s comments come a day after Knesset legal adviser Sagit Afik told the committee that Cassif’s actions fell short of “crossing the criminal threshold” necessary for his removal.

Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky speaks at a Knesset House Committee meeting in Jerusalem on January 30, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Blinken to visit Israel for 6th time since war began ToI told

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meet during Blinken's week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East, Tel Aviv, January 9, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meet during Blinken's week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East, Tel Aviv, January 9, 2024. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in Israel from February 3 until February 5, The Times of Israel has learned

He was in the country earlier this month for a series of tense meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s wartime leadership.

It will be Blinken’s sixth visit to the country since the war began in October.

UK looking at possibility of recognizing Palestinian state, says top diplomat Cameron

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron leaves from 10 Downing Street in central London on January 23, 2024, after attending a weekly Cabinet meeting. (Daniel Leal/AFP)
Britain's Foreign Secretary David Cameron leaves from 10 Downing Street in central London on January 23, 2024, after attending a weekly Cabinet meeting. (Daniel Leal/AFP)

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron says that the UK would consider recognizing a Palestinian state in order to bring about an “irreversible” peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Speaking at a reception for Arab ambassadors at the House of Commons last night, Cameron calls for “a political horizon so that [the Palestinians] can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution and, crucially, the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

“We have a responsibility there because we should be starting to set out what a Palestinian state would look like; what it would comprise; how it would work,” Cameron says. “As that happens, we, with allies, will look at the issue of recognizing a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations. This could be one of the things that helps to make this process irreversible.”

The UK is pushing a five-point plan that would see an end to the fighting, a “political horizon” for a two-state solution, and a technocratic Palestinian government to run both Gaza and the West Bank. Hamas’s leaders would be expelled to another country.

IDF says it destroyed rockets launchers used yesterday to target Tel Aviv

The IDF says it last night struck the rocket launchers used by Hamas in an attack on the Tel Aviv area yesterday.

The barrage of at least 11 projectiles was fired from southern Gaza, in the first attack on Tel Aviv in nearly two months.

The IDF says several mortars were also being stored at the rocket launch site that was hit.

In another nearby strike, the IDF says it hit a site used by Hamas’s anti-tank missile unit.

The strikes come as the 98th Division is continuing its offensive in west Khan Younis in Gaza.

The IDF says the Paratroopers Brigade killed several gunmen and seized weapons, and the 7th Armored Brigade directed several airstrikes on Hamas operatives.

Meanwhile, the 162nd Division is operating in northern and central Gaza.

The division’s 401st Armored Brigade killed “many terrorists” and seized weapons in the Shati camp, and reservists of the 5th Brigade battled several Hamas operatives in another area of northern Gaza, the IDF says.

Man convicted of murder over parking spot dispute 4 years ago

Viktor Katan appears at the Central District Court in Lod on August 14, 2019, where he is indicted for the murder of Ofir Hasdai. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Viktor Katan appears at the Central District Court in Lod on August 14, 2019, where he is indicted for the murder of Ofir Hasdai. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Viktor Katan, 78, is convicted of shooting a man to death four years ago over a parking spot dispute.

Ofir Hasdai, 40, had been trying to use a disabled spot on behalf of his wife, who has muscular dystrophy, when the fight broke out.

Hasdai was gunned down in front of his wife Dikla and two of their three daughters, who were in their car in the parking lot of the Azrieli shopping mall in the central city of Ramle.

Judges convict Katan of murder and reject his self-defense claim, saying he had been aware of his actions and of their gravity.

Knesset speaker to head to US with 9-year-old released hostage, relatives of captives

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana holds a press conference at the Knesset, September 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana holds a press conference at the Knesset, September 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana will take off for the United States early next week at the invitation of GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson, in order to firm up Congressional support for Israel’s war on Hamas.

He will be joined by Emily Hand, the 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped by Hamas and released in November, and her father Thomas; the parents of Eitan Mor, a security guard at the Supernova rave who is still in Hamas captivity; and Ali Ziyadne, whose brother Youssef and nephew Hamza are also being held in Gaza.

Likud lawmaker Yuli Edelstein will join Ohana, as will Efrat Raiten of Labor and Yesh Atid’s Idan Roll.

Ohana will meet Johnson next Tuesday, and will speak at the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting at the UN in New York. He will also meet with other members of Congress, AIPAC leaders and Jewish organizations.

Protesters arrive at Gaza border crossings to block aid trucks for 7th straight day

Israeli protesters, including relatives of hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attack by Hamas, wave national flags and hold placards during a demonstration aimed at blocking aid trucks from entering the Palestinian territory, on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the southern Gaza Strip on January 29, 2024. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)
Israeli protesters, including relatives of hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attack by Hamas, wave national flags and hold placards during a demonstration aimed at blocking aid trucks from entering the Palestinian territory, on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the southern Gaza Strip on January 29, 2024. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

Activists and relatives of hostages have arrived again near the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the Gaza Strip, aiming to block trucks with humanitarian aid from entering as long as the Hamas terror group continues to hold 136 hostages and deny them their basic rights.

Dozens of others head to the Nitzana border crossing in Gaza’s north.

The protest, organized by the Tzav 9 organization of reservists, is taking place for the seventh straight day.

“There is no logic in having the trucks enter directly into the hands of Hamas terrorists,” Tzav 9 says in a statement. “We are prepared for this trying time together with thousands of supporters who demand that the supplies to Hamas be halted.

“No aid should pass until the last of the hostages returns.”

Yesh Atid party reschedules its first-ever leadership primary for March

Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid speaking during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 17, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90); MK Ram Ben Barak leading a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Internal security Committees, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yesh Atid head MK Yair Lapid speaking during a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 17, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90); MK Ram Ben Barak leading a joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Internal security Committees, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party will hold its first-ever primary election for the party leadership in March, after it was postponed due to the war against Hamas.

The party, founded by Lapid in 2012, has never yet held a primary election. Days before the October 7 Hamas onslaught, it scheduled a leadership contest for December, but later pushed it off.

Members of the party’s committee have been informed of the new timing, Hebrew media reports.

Yesh Atid MK Ram Ben Barak is expected to run against Lapid, who has previously served as interim prime minister, foreign minister and finance minister, and is currently the opposition leader.

Yesh Atid MK Moshe Tur-Paz tells The Times of Israel that “a contest for the party leadership is a healthy and correct thing,” while defending the decision to continue avoiding an open primary vote for the party’s electoral slate.

Yesh Atid intended to hold a leadership primary in 2022, but canceled when Lapid ended up being the only candidate running.

Sam Sokol contributed to this report.

United Hatzalah employee arrested for major embezzlement of org’s funds

A concert for United Hatzalah at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem in August 2019.
Illustrative: A concert for United Hatzalah at the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem in August 2019.

Police have arrested an employee of the United Hatzalah first aid organization on suspicion of embezzling hundreds of thousands of shekels of its funds, and she will be kept in custody at least until Sunday.

In a statement, Israel Police say the suspect, a resident of the town of Shoham in her 30s, had worked at United Hatzalah as part of a prisoner rehabilitation program after completing a term behind bars for a previous offense.

She was in charge of dealing with garages regarding damages from traffic accidents involving the organization’s vehicles.

She is suspected of presenting fictitious invoices from multiple garages around the country regarding “damage” to citizens’ vehicles from accidents involving United Hatzalah vehicles that in fact never took place.

The money subsequently transferred from the organization was then handed to the suspect and to her relatives, as well as to businesses around the country, “all for her personal benefit,” police say.

Her sister has also been arrested on suspicion of receiving large sums of money as part of the scheme.

The investigation was initiated following a complaint from United Hatzalah’s management.

WATCH: CCTV footage shows undercover Israeli forces during Jenin hospital op

Extraordinary footage shows Israeli forces operating inside Jenin’s Ibn Sina hospital in the West Bank early this morning, where they killed three alleged terror operatives planning major attacks who were reportedly shot dead while in bed.

The CCTV footage, apparently originating on Palestinian media, shows many undercover forces, some appearing to sport fake beards and others dressed as Muslim women, scouring the hospital corridors while carrying guns or, in one case, a wheelchair.

In and out in 10 minutes: Reports offer more detail on Israel’s Jenin hospital op

Muhammad Jalamneh and brothers Muhammad and Basel Ghazawi, alleged terror operatives killed by Israeli forces at Ibn Sina hospital in the city of Jenin in the West Bank, January 30, 2024. (Courtesy; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Muhammad Jalamneh and brothers Muhammad and Basel Ghazawi, alleged terror operatives killed by Israeli forces at Ibn Sina hospital in the city of Jenin in the West Bank, January 30, 2024. (Courtesy; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hebrew media outlets, citing Palestinian media, report that the Israeli operation to take out three terror operatives at Ibn Sina hospital in the West Bank’s Jenin took just 10 minutes to carry out.

The Israeli forces reportedly entered the medical center at 5:30 a.m. dressed as doctors, nurses and Palestinian women, headed to a room on the third floor, and shot the surprised trio dead with guns equipped with silencers before escaping the building unscathed.

The operation was reportedly made possible thanks to accurate intelligence received beforehand.

Israeli troops kill 3 terrorists in West Bank hospital who planned major attacks

Israeli troops have killed three members of an armed Hamas cell hiding inside Ibn Sina hospital in the city of Jenin in the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces says.

The cell is said to have been planning imminent terror attacks, including one resembling the October 7 Hamas onslaught in Gaza-adjacent Israeli communities, with the Israeli operation carried out jointly by the IDF, Shin Bet and Yamam special police unit.

One of the cell members is named as Muhammad Jalamneh, 27, who was allegedly in contact with Hamas headquarters abroad, armed other operatives for a shooting attack, and was previously injured while advancing a car bomb attack.

Some Hebrew media reports say Jalamneh was also a spokesperson for Hamas’s military wing in the Jenin camp.

The IDF names the other two as brothers Muhammad and Basel Ghazawi. Muhammad is said to have been involved in attacks including shooting at Israeli troops, while Basel is said to be a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

Many wanted Palestinians have long been staying in the hospital to plan and carry out terror attacks, hoping the medical center will provide protection from Israeli counterterror operations, the military says, in “another example of the cynical use by terror groups of civilian spaces and hospitals as cover and as human shields.”

A pistol found on the body of a terror operative killed by Israeli forces at Ibn Sina hospital in the city of Jenin in the West Bank, January 30, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel’s Shin Bet director was in Cairo to address tensions with Egypt over Gaza war — report

Israel’s Shin Bet director Ronen Bar was in Cairo yesterday to meet with Egyptian intel chief Abbas Kamel amid reported tensions between Jerusalem and Cairo over the war against Hamas in Gaza, according to an Axios report.

The report cites two Israeli sources who say Bar traveled to Cairo on Monday to discuss non-hostages related issues after participating together with Kamel in the hostage talks in Paris on Sunday. The issues included military operations near the Egypt border and plans for after the war, according to the report.

Israel’s Kan public broadcaster also reported on Bar’s visit to Cairo Monday afternoon, and said the “security delegation” arrived back in Israel Monday night.

The tensions with Egypt are said to be over Israeli operations in Rafah, on the border with Egypt and the question of who will control the Philadelphi corridor Egypt-Gaza border after the ongoing war is over, with Israel reportedly seeking to control the key border.

Hebrew language media reported last week that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s office has has refused a request to speak on the phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the matter.

Egypt also warned last week that any attempt to reinstitute security control of the strip of land that separates the Gaza Strip and Egypt will result in a “serious threat” to relations between the neighboring countries.

The so-called Philadelphi Route is a 14 kilometer (nine-mile) corridor that runs all along the Egypt-Gaza border. Israeli leaders have recently talked about retaking control of the corridor — from which the IDF withdrew when Israel left Gaza in 2005 — to prevent arms from being smuggled to Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza overland and via tunnels. Egypt fears that a military operation on the border could push large numbers of Palestinians into its territory.

New Zealand suspends funding to embattled UN agency in Gaza

New Zealand is joining the list of countries that have suspended funding to the embattled UN Palestinian refugee agency following Israeli allegations that some staff participated in the October 7 Hamas attack.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said New Zealand had paused funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) until the allegations are investigated.

The agency has fired several staff members over Israel’s accusations and promised a thorough investigation into the claims.

Israel has vowed to stop the agency’s work in Gaza after the war.

“The allegations are incredibly serious. It’s important they are properly understood and investigated,” Luxon told reporters.

New Zealand will not “be making any further contributions” to UNRWA until foreign minister Winston Peters “says it’s good to do so,” Luxon added.

The United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan and Germany are among the other countries to have already suspended funding to UNRWA, which has been at the heart of humanitarian efforts in Gaza.

Luxon said New Zealand had been providing UNRWA with about NZ$1 million (US$613,260) in yearly funding.

The European Union on Monday demanded an “urgent” audit of the UN Palestinian refugee agency and is also reviewing funding.

US vows to take ‘all necessary actions’ to defend American forces after deadly drone attack

The United States vowed to take “all necessary actions” to defend American forces after a drone attack killed three US troops in Jordan, while Qatar said it hoped US retaliation would not damage regional security or undercut progress toward a new Gaza hostage-release deal.

Sunday’s attack by Iran-backed militants was the first deadly strike against US troops since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October and marks a major escalation in tensions that have engulfed the Middle East.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby said on Monday the United States did not want a wider war with Iran or in the region, “but we got to do what we have to do.”

Iran has denied any role. Biden has previously ordered retaliatory attacks on Iran-backed groups but has so far stopped short of hitting Iran directly.

“Have no doubt – we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing,” Biden said on Sunday.

Earlier, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al Thani told a Washington think tank he hoped US retaliation would not undercut progress toward a new hostage release deal in talks.

He said potential US retaliation “will definitely have an impact on regional security and we hope things get contained.”

CIA Director William Burns met with the Qatari PM as well as the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and the head of Egyptian intelligence, on Sunday in Paris for talks described as constructive by Israel, Qatar and the US, albeit with significant gaps remaining.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Paris talks raised hope that a Qatar-mediated negotiating process could resume. Before collapsing, the mechanism led to a week-long ceasefire agreement in November when Hamas freed around 100 hostages.

A framework for a possible second deal developed in Paris “is a strong one and a compelling one that … offers hope that we can get back into this process,” Blinken said at a news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“Hamas will have to make its own decisions,” said Blinken, who declined to reveal details of the proposal.

US weighs strong response to deadly drone attack on forces in Jordan

Washington is weighing a “powerful” response to the deadly drone strike in Jordan this weekend that killed three US service members and wounded many, CNN reports, citing US officials.

They were the first US fatalities in months of strikes against American forces across the Middle East by Iranian-backed militias amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, increasing the risk of escalation.

US officials were still working to conclusively identify the precise group responsible for the attack, but have assessed that one of several Iranian-backed groups are responsible.

President Joe Biden attributed the attack Sunday to “radical Iran-backed militia groups.”

US troops long have used Jordan as a basing point, and the attack took place in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border. US Central Command said 25 service members were injured in the attack in addition to the three killed.

At least 34 personnel were being evaluated for possible traumatic brain injury, a US official told Reuters. Some 3,000 American troops typically are stationed in Jordan.

US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria have been targeted in more than 150 attacks since mid-October, according to the Pentagon, and Washington has carried out retaliatory strikes in both countries.

Israeli troops to ‘go into action’ soon at Lebanon border, says defense minister

Israeli troops will “very soon go into action” near the country’s northern border with Lebanon, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said tonight, as tensions surge amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Gallant told troops near the border with the Gaza Strip that others were being deployed to Israel’s north.

“They will very soon go into action… so the forces in the north are reinforced,” Gallant said.

“The forces close to you… are leaving the field and moving towards the north, and preparing for what comes next,” he said.

He added that reservists would be gradually released “to prepare and come ready” for future operations.

Pro-Palestinian students file complaint alleging Harvard failed to protect them

Over a dozen students are alleging that Harvard University failed to protect them from harassment and threats “based solely” on their pro-Palestinian identity, the group representing them said.

The Muslim Legal Fund of America says its legal division filed a civil rights complaint on Monday with the US Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of those students. The complaint urged a probe into Harvard.

Rights advocates have noted a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US since the eruption of war in the Middle East.

Among anti-Palestinian incidents that raised alarm were a November shooting in Vermont of three students of Palestinian descent and the fatal stabbing of a six-year-old Palestinian American child in Illinois in October.

The Harvard students alleged “harassment, intimidation, threats and more based solely on them being Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and supporters of Palestinian rights,” the group said. It added the students also underwent racist attacks, doxxing, stalking, and assault, including for wearing keffiyehs, or Palestinian scarves.

A Harvard spokesperson said the university had no comment on the complaint on Monday, but added that Harvard had resources in place to support students including a task force announced on Friday to combat Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias.

Harvard and other US colleges have simmered with tension over responses to the October 7 shock Hamas attack on Israel, and Israel’s subsequent offensive in Gaza.

Earlier this month, Claudine Gay resigned as president of Harvard following backlash over her congressional testimony on antisemitism and allegations of plagiarism.

During a Congressional hearing, she and two other university presidents declined to give a definitive “yes” or “no” answer to a question on whether calling for the genocide of Jews would violate their schools’ codes of conduct regarding bullying and harassment, saying it would have to be balanced against free-speech protections.

Some students alleged that Harvard had threatened “to limit or retract the students’ future academic opportunities,” the Muslim Legal Fund of America said on Monday.

Erdan to head delegation of UN ambassadors on trip to Israel, meetings with freed hostages, families

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, will be leading a delegation of ambassadors to the UN on a trip to Israel this week, Ynet reports.

The delegation of nine ambassadors to the UN are set to arrive on Tuesday for a tour, hosted by Erdan, of southern Israel, which was ravaged by the events of October 7, according to the report. The envoys will also meet with freed hostages, as well as with the families of those still held captive in Gaza, and survivors of the brutal, surprise killing spree of October 7 by thousands of Hamas-led terrorists.

During their trip, the ambassadors — including from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Liberia, Sierra Lione, Malta, and Slovenia — will also be briefed on the latest Israeli findings regarding allegations that 12 UNRWA employees participated in the October 7 massacre, some 10% have ties to terror, and that at least 190 UNRWA workers are themselves Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives.

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